I recorded this one the evening after watching Transformers: Dark of the Moon in 3D; those are the 3D specs you see me pulling off in the opening seconds. Most people appear to like this one better than Michael Bay’s previous outing with the sons (and occasional daughters) of Cybertron, though I imagine due to the feeling of getting burned by 2009’s Revenge of the Fallen this isn’t going to do quite as well as that film in the box office, even with ticket price inflation and the premium price of the 3D experience. No matter, as it’s probably still going to crush everything in its path short of, say, the final Harry Potter film. Not a great movie, and I still like the old 1986 animated flick better, but certainly a neat experience if you can catch it in three dimensions, and I contend that it’s a much better Transformers movie than the previous two, even if not a better movie, full stop. There’s something very tacked on about the elements of the mythology of the old toys, cartoons, and comics that appeared in the previous film, while the use of such artifacts as the Matrix of Leadership and Space Bridge technology here felt like logical extensions of their use in the 1980s vintage material. Call me a giant Transformers nerd — and easy to please — but I liked that.
My three big complaints (and Here There Be Spoilers):
First, several set pieces go on way too long. There’s a sequence in a skyscraper being crushed by Shockwave’s pet robot sandworm that seems to go on for about a half hour that was kinda cool in 3D and will be utterly intolerable on DVD & Blu-Ray (sans several-thousand-dollar 3D TV).
Second, as in the last two, the editing is sloppy and disjointed and things happen off-camera that threaten to take the viewer out of the movie. The worst offender: during the hour-or-so-long final act, about halfway through the Autobots are captured by the Decepticons with no explanation. It’s just, suddenly we see them having been rounded up and someone says, “Oh no, the Autobots have been captured,” or words to that effect. I guess it was more important to offer up another fifteen minutes to the humans rattling around in that skyscraper being crushed.
Third, and finally, Peter Cullen once again is brought in to portray a largely unsympathetic, psychotic, murderous, rage-filled Optimus Prime who is shown to tear an opponent’s head off Mortal Kombat Fatality-style and, with barely a word, shoot a sniveling, wounded old man in the head repeatedly to make sure he’s dead. I still came out of the movie fairly pleased with it overall, but I have to admit the final moments of “battle,” if you can even call it that, left me feeling a little troubled. Maybe I read too much into his body language and actions, but I want to say he appeared resigned and disgusted with himself as he tossed aside Megatron’s shotgun. Then again, maybe that’s just what I wanted to see, a glimmer of a possibility of redemption for a character who had so wildly flown off the mark. As I understand it the novelization and comic adaptation end differently and more hopefully. Given that they’re both spun from the same source, the script as it stood before Bay started filming it, I’m guessing that this is Michael Bay’s idea of what a hero should be. That’s kind of a disquieting worldview.]
Still, I had an overall positive experience. We had one brief, shining moment of the classic Decepticon triumvirate — Megatron, Starscream, and Soundwave — plotting a new scheme together, and Soundwave’s avian “pet” Laserbeak had several great scenes acting as a real “robot in disguise” and assassin. Patrick Dempsey made a great love-to-hate villain as a smug, “looking out for number one” Decepticon collaborator, though he seemed to have Soundwave on a short leash, which was disappointing. And most of the named Transformers got at least one good scene where they got to be characters rather than special effects props. If this was the second Transformers movie and we had a third to look forward to after THIS one, I honestly think the next one would have a chance to be a really great Transformers movie, and perhaps even a good movie; as it stands, with Bay unlikely to make a fourth Transformers flick, maybe we still have that chance. However, Bay’s done a good job of scorching the Earth here; with Cybertron destroyed and all the villains dead, what could be next for the Robots In Disguise? Galvatron? Unicron? Rodimus forced to arrive on a ruined Earth to wrest leadership of the Autobots from a psychotic Optimus Prime? A funny thought, but not too far off the mark given the Autobot leader’s characterization in these movies …
Now I just wonder what I’ll think in several months time when I get this on DVD. Did my exhaustion and the 3D experience dull my critical faculties, or was I just happy to have a Transformers movie that seemed to be largely about Transformers? My guess is the latter, but we’ll find out for sure this winter. After all, I bought the others and didn’t like them anywhere near as much as this one.