Michael Bay isn’t subtle. Michael Bay isn’t concise, and he certainly isn’t concerned with changing who he is or how he does what he does simply because some don’t care for it. It’s easy to lament a Michael Bay film – but he is gifted technically and a near certainty when it comes to making money. Transformers: Dark of the Moon is the most interesting of the three wildly successful films and greatly entertaining – even if it isn't a great film! For that reason alone, this film is worth watching.
Transformers: Dark of the Moon 3D
Studio: Paramount Pictures
US Rating: Rated PG-13 for intense prolonged sequences of sci-fi action violence, mayhem and destruction, and for language, some sexuality and innuendo.
Film Length: 154 Minutes
Video: AVC MPEG-4 1080P High Definition 16X9
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Audio: English Dolby TrueHD 7.1, English 5.1 Dolby Digital, English Dolby Digital 2.0, French, Spanish and Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1
DTS-HD Master Audio, French Mono Dolby Digital, Spanish Stereo Dolby Digital, Portuguese Mono Dolby Digital
Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish and Portuguese
Release Date: January 31, 2012
Review Date: May 13, 2012
“We were once a peaceful race of intelligent mechanical beings. But then came the war, between the Autobots that fought for freedom and the Decepticons that dreamt of tyranny. Over matched and outnumbered, our defeat was all but certain. But in the war's final days one Autobot ship escaped the battle, it was carrying a secret cargo which would have changed our planets fate. A desperate mission, our final hope. A hope that vanished.”
The film begins in the 1960’s and an extraordinary event that presents itself as the real reason Kennedy made his famous speech about the US getting to the moon within the decade. The greatest achievement of the Space Program several decades, Man’s first step on our moon is explored swiftly and we witness the discovery made there before we jump to present day and find Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) is in his post-college days. Sam is looking for work, dating an gorgeous lady, Carley Spencer (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley), and back to a relatively normal life following his life-threatening adventures with the Autobots as they fought to protect earth from the nasty decepticons. But the secret buried on the dark side of the moon promises to place Sam and the rest of humanity in the greatest danger yet. That secret, a crashed Cybertronian spacecraft carrying what is believed to be the key to resolving the now ages long conflict between the two Cybertron races, could be the savior of the Autobots – or their downfall.
Transformers: Dark of the Moon is massive entertainment. Improving its caliber –in terms of story, structure, and characters – from the much derided Revenge of the Fallen, it provides visual and visceral spectacle that is the gold of the summer popcorn-movie going experiences. Everything gets a nudge in the right direction here – though it is still saddled with a few shortcomings.
But let’s start with the good.
Shia LeBeaf is still likeable; still capable, and still able to project the underdog charm that is a characteristic of many of his roles (from the small roles in Constantine and I, Robot, to leading man stuff in Disturbia). He’s the guy we relate to – amongst the gargantuan transforming robots and city-wide destruction and carnage. We experience much of the events through his eyes and it matters that he’s good at reacting to such extraordinary events with the manic and mesmerizing expressions that he does.
Megan Fox’s Mikaela replacement, Carley is a much better character. It also matters that she isn’t over sexualized as Fox unfortunately was. It matters that she’s as strong and intelligent, and though the ‘love-triangle’ element of her plot-line (with Patrick Dempsey who plays her boss) is among the weakest, she pulls it off very nicely.
The action spectacle is enormous. Complaints from the second installment (echoed in comments by director Michael Bay himself) were- and I am paraphrasing here - the locations of the major action were too inconsequential – too abstract for audiences to get into. That is remedied perfectly by setting the trilogy’s largest and longest action set-pieces in the beautiful windy city of Chicago; landmarks we recognize, genuine opportunities for the peril of humanity and the perfect staging area for humanity to work out a little payback. The final act is an onslaught of superb action – of both practical and visual effects kind – and exceedingly crowd pleasing.
The visual effects are of such increased complexity and vivid detail here that one wonders just how many artists and technicians it took to create them (and how many hours it took farms of computers to render). Fans of visual and special effects (who don’t mind serviceable stories) will be enamored by what is presented here; the writhing snake-like Shockwave tearing up the earth and buildings, the building cut in half as our protagonists race through (down and across) the falling section to escape, or the arrival above our planet of something massive and extraordinary (I won’t say what) are a treat for the eyes (and with the superb sound mix on this Blu-ray, the ears as well). Even the brief sequence that opens the film – an expanded look at the conflict on Cybertron that echoes the final ‘into the death star’ sequence from Return of the Jedi, is very entertaining.
Finally – Leonard Nimoy’s presence in this film (voicing a major character) is a real treat. There is even a nod to his Spock role that will please Star Trek fans. The twist involving his character may not be surprise but it is a good one.
Here, however, is not-so good.
The Transformers films form a trilogy of sorts, but each film posited the origins of the Autobots and Decepticons as it relates to Earth slightly differently, giving audiences a combination reinvention/upping of the backstory. It has become incongruous and, as such, we can only take the present day characters and the latest version of the backstory as canon for each film as we watch it. Perhaps it was easier to make up twists to that part of the story regardless of how it conflicts with what was told before, but it is unsatisfying to say the least that more thought was not placed on weaving together the surprises with the accepted backstories that have come before.
The film is also very long (a trait of Michael Bay films), but the story and the fun we have watching it could easily have been safe (if not improved) by some generous cuts. I believe Bay has a hard time letting anything go – I can understand that as I have made short films before and struggled to cut out something that time and energy was put into making – but Bay more than any other filmmaker today would do well to learn some discipline in telling his stories.
The familiar faces from the previous films all return, including Tyrese Gibson as Epps, John Turturro as the frantic Simmons, Josh Duhamel as Lennox, and Kevin Dunn and Julie White as Sam’s parents. Added to the mix is some impressive talent; John Malkovich chews the scenery as the peculiar Bruce Bazos, Frances McDormand as Secretary of Defense Mearing is a stone cold meanie, Patrick Dempsey as Dylan, Alan Tudyk as an unlikely bodyguard, and the ubiquitous Ken Jeong as Jerry Wang (in a role that had the theater in guffaws).
Structurally, the story upon which the set pieces are strung is more sound than in part two. It all makes more sense – it is less mystical, more practical, and though there are story offshoots and flourishes that aren’t entirely necessary, it is overall much more straightforward.
Transformers: Dark of the Moon arrives in a featureless edition in pristine 1080p high definition and optimized for showing off the goods. Released in theaters in 2D, 3D and 3D IMAX, this 3D limited release is a reasonable recreation of the cinematic 3D experience. Michael Bay’s films have a distinct feel – from the way he sweeps the camera around the action to how he bleeds pierces of light into and out of scenes as he moves the camera. He likes to use somewhat more traditional means for filming and that gives his movies the ‘look’ of film. Everything from the high quality CGI creations to the establishing and close-up shots of landscapes and people, to those flashes of bright light in the frame look gorgeous. The level of fine detail pops and though clean and utterly issue free, it hasn’t been unnaturally tweaked or enhanced.
Bay also enjoys brightness and color in his films (The Rock perhaps being the odd one out), and though the flesh tones all veer toward the tanned (that could be natural, however), the colors are stunning. Computer generated imagery is so crisp that there are many sequences that are of reference quality.
This 3D blu-ray is very good but not quite the spectacular 3-dimensional home movie experience some may expect. That’s not to say that this is a disappointment – far from it – but this film should easily have received a 5 star rating (given how effective the 3D was in the IMAX experience). But what we have is a delightful sense of depth in open scenes, particularly the sweeping Chicago set-piece and the first appearance of Shockwave in the ruins of Chernobyl. The opening shots of war on Megatron are also superb. The clarity of the computer generated imagery (of which there is an enormous share) is a delight to behold and the use of light sources further afield in the dimension of the frame help cement the depth of image. Where the 3D falters ever so slightly are in close-quarter scenes with lower light, the fast moving action sequences (mostly on the ground) where the camera is moving somewhat frenetically. There isn’t reliance upon object thrusting toward the screen though there are elements that hover or swim closer to the camera in-frame.
Transformers: Dark of the Moon was mixed using Dolby Surround 7.1 for its theatrical release (and in IMAX, it was incredible). For this Blu-ray release Greg Russell (re-recording mixer) sought to bring that same sonic experience into home theaters with a thunderous and highly detailed 7.1 Dolby TrueHD mix. The results are top-notch. Low Frequency Effects are taken to a new level – everything in the room was shaking and for just the second time since I installed my new audio system and speakers, I seriously considered adjusting the subwoofer to calm it down. The bass is exceptionally deep but it doesn’t swamp the rest of the sound design. Audio is clean and clear coming mainly from the center channel, and the level of activity in the surrounds (and side backs if you have them) is superbly enveloping.
This is a disc you can pop in your player to show people just what Blu-ray can do!
When Paramount released Transformers: Dark of the Moon on blu-ray, they did so with a bare-bones edition promising to make good later down the line with a 3D version overflowing with extras. Well, Paramount made good on that promise and have delivered a release with an almost exhaustive set of special features. Most notable among them is the nearly two-hour Above and Beyond documentary, broken into five parts and covering everything from development to the finished product. It’s well worth the time.
What’s missing here is a full and solid audio commentary. Director Bay contributes commentary in the multi-angle section of the special features, a scene-by-scene commentary would have proved particularly interesting on this massive production. As it stands however, this release delivers a number of goodies well-worth your time.
Blu-ray Feature film in high definition
Above and Beyond: Exploring Dark of the Moon
- Rising from the Fallen: Development and Design
- Ready for Prime Time: Filming Across America
- Battle in the Heartland: Shooting in Chicago
- Attack of the Birdmen: Aerial Stunts
- Shadow of the Sentinel: Post-Production and Release
Uncharted Territory: NASA’s Future Then and Now
Deconstructing Chicago: Multi-Angle Sequences
- Previsualizations with optional commentary by director Michael Bay and previsualization supervisor Steve Yamamoto
- Previsualizations/Final Shot Comparison with optional commentary by director Michael Bay and previsualization supervisor Steve Yamamoto
- Visual Effects with optional commentary by visual effects supervisors Scott Farrar and Matthew Butler
- Visual Effects/Final Shot Comparison with optional commentary by visual effects supervisors Scott Farrar and Matthew Butler
The Art of CYBERTRON
- Weapons and Gear
The Dark of the Moon Archive
- 3D: A Transforming Visual Art
- Moscow World Premiere
- Birdmen Featurette
- Cody’s iPad
- The Sound of Transformers: Dark of the Moon
The Matrix of Marketing
- Marketing Gallery
Blu-ray Feature film in high definition 3D
Feature film in standard definition
Digital Copy—Compatible with iTunes® and Windows Media
I enjoy Michael Bay movies. There, I said it. I know he doesn’t connect his visuals to the development of characters. I know he doesn’t have the nuance and subtlety of filmmakers that I treasure (Coppola, Nolan, Spielberg, Cameron, Welles, Hitchcock, Leone, Eastwood, etc.) but he can entertain and I love to check out and watch giant robots smash each other and ravage the earth. And while the planet is populated with a large amount of teenage boys, there aren’t that many to drive over one billion dollars in global theatrical ticket sales – so there has to be a lot of people out there just like me.
It’s good not to be alone.
Transformers: Dark of the Moon improves upon the listless second installment and tries hard to weave fictional history into factual history. It’s fun stuff and while director Bay still asks his audiences for a lot of passes, he earns the right to ask for such forgiveness by solidly delivering the action goods. Watching this again in 3D I’ll admit to being exhausted by the time the credits rolled, but the film was perfect escapism after a long work-week.
Overall (Not an average)