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Old 2014-08-12, 03:34 PM   #1
Blackjack
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Default Movie Review: Dark of the Moon [uploaded]

Review:
”We will kill them all.”

Dark of the Moon is basically a sequel done right. It’s got nothing special that elevates it above any of the other movies in the series. Well, except Revenge of the Fallen… by not being Revenge of the Fallen. But at the same time, it’s an extremely perfunctory movie. It’s got great visuals, fights and music, it’s got a cohesive plot, it has the right balance between jokes and action. It’s nothing particularly special, nothing that will blow you away – it’s just the first two movies, only on a bigger scale. It doesn’t do anything particularly wrong like Revenge of the Fallen, but neither does it do anything particularly right like the first movie.

The basic plot is relatively similar to the first two movies – ancient alien artifacts on Earth responsible for a key point in human civilization which the Transformers are after. Somewhere in the middle of that the Decepticons try to destroy humanity with an army, there’s some kind of historical mystery Sam has to solve, Sam has to deal with a particular aspect of life and Optimus Prime tears people’s faces off. We’ve got some variants, of course, with the twist of Sentinel Prime being a traitor and the main villain, and the introduction of a human villain to shake things up, but otherwise there’s the distinct feeling of this movie reusing a fair chunk of plot points not only from its predecessors but also from the original cartoon. Come on, did anyone buy the fact that the Autobots died in that shuttle crash?

Basically the Decepticons have struck a deal with Sentinel Prime before he left Earth somewhere during the centuries-old war, a deal which they plan to put into motion now. It’s an interesting concept, about an old Autobot leader who’s became so disenchanted with the cause and wanting it to end that he would go to such extremes to ally with the enemy. Apparently the Decepticons have been stockpiling troops on the Moon for the past however many years (apparently just ignoring finding the Allspark, Megatron or the Solar Harvester all the while) to protect Sentinel Prime from being discovered. All throughout the movie there’s a distinct mystery about the origins of the Moon missions (spoiler alert: it’s because alien robots are there) that both Sam and Optimus Prime has to solve. It’s evidently the pet project of someone working on the movie scripts, because practically everything in the first half of the movie has a connection in some way to the moon mission. There’s a shadow conspiracy keeping the Moon missions from going on, and Decepticons killing anyone involved with it… it’s all great and good stuff. The prior Decepticon presence doesn’t jive at all with the previously established continuity, but not such an impossibility that it’s a continuity problem.

After all the Moon mission stuff (which drags on way too long for my tastes) we get a splendid highway battle, which is a dynamic scene I enjoyed very much. It’s not quite as spectacular as the Forest Fight, but it’s an extremely fast-paced battle with Autobots beating up Decepticons while charging through the street and kudos to them making it look so good. Sentinel Prime betrays the Autobots, summons a massive army to Earth and somehow gets the human leaders to exile the Autobots… whoops, it’s a trap, the Autobots are gone and the Decepticons launch a massive invasion on Chicago.

And what a wonderfully harrowing scene as the Decepticon ships open fire unobstructed on Chicago’s buildings, as random things on the street just transform and turn out to be Decepticons, the shot of dead bodies burning in the train, the morose, funeral-esque music playing all throughout that scene… we’re also treated to some pretty shocking images of humans being shot by Decepticon weapons and burnt so badly that charred skeletons are all that remain. And, of course, after Sam angsts around a while he tries to get into Chicago to save his girlfriend, and the Autobots show up as a liberating army. They engage in a long, extended battle and murder all the Decepticons and free Earth, and that’s the end.

Again, the plot is pretty basic, and nothing particularly new or fresh, but it’s functional for the story it’s telling and the scenes it is showing. Thankfully Michael Bay had taken a lot of the criticisms from Revenge of the Fallen to heart. Skids and Mudflap are gone – a shame, since I actually enjoyed their antics – and so is Leo, a fact that doesn’t resonate with me until a long while after I watched the third movie. A lot of the cursing and potty humour are basically gone as well, with any that remain concentrated in Jerry Wang (who doesn’t stay for long) and the duo of Wheelie and Brains – who are a lot more tame than certain scenes in Revenge of the Fallen. Both the secondary Autobots and humans all get to do a lot more than just show up in the beginning and do nothing other than be background filler until the end. The Decepticons also take a fairly more active role, and other than Shockwave all the villains get a decent showing.

Again, our main lead is still Sam. His main motivation this time around is a bit of an inversion of Revenge of the Fallen – here our hero, thoroughly disenchanted with the boredom of real life and how hard it is for him to find a job (another thing most of us can relate to) despite his role in saving the world, now tries to thrust himself back into having a part in the Autobots or NEST, and instead finds himself denied. He then borders on obsession as he tries to crack a perceived conspiracy, this time taking an active part plunging into the alien madness as opposed to the first two where it was less of a personal choice. I do like how his digging around ended up forcing him to sort-of betray the Autobots, and he ends up charging into the city to save his girlfriend, captured by the bad guys. While he’s still an entertaining, more mature lead, we don’t get any particularly satisfying conclusion between his ‘I want to be useful again’ character arc beyond, you know, saving the day and stuff.

Rosie Huntington-Whiteley plays Carly Spencer, replacing Megan Fox’s Mikaela as the love interest. While the transition from Mikaela to Carly was handled pretty well in my opinion – they broke up, it was brought up a couple of times by some characters, it felt natural. Carly herself doesn’t feel as lively a character as Mikaela, though. She’s a bit needier and doesn’t want Sam to die and leave her thanks to already losing a brother to war, which is, fair enough, a nice enough contrast to Mikaela. She doesn’t feel entirely wooden at first, but she does spend half of the movie being captured and held hostage by Dylan – with no attempt made to escape or particularly fight back. She doesn’t contribute anything major to the movie other than to link Sam with the main human conspirator Dylan via jealousy, breaking up with Sam when the going gets tough, and serve as something for Sam to strive to rescue. Unlike Mikaela, who never has to be rescued in any of the first two movies, or Tessa in the fourth, who while needing to be rescued in the fourth still manages to make some headway on her own, Carly is basically just a thing to be rescued. Her big contribution at the end just amounts to her giving Megatron a dressing-down, which seems like a hand-down from Mikaela’s old role in the script and absolutely makes no sense since the two have never met before. She’s not entirely unlikable, but she just feels so two-dimensional and shallow in a way that Mikaela never was, which makes her extremely gynecological (as Nick Roche puts it) fanservice moments even more degrading. I don’t hate her, but I definitely don’t like her.

Simmons puts in better work here, showing up early on being his kooky self, and feels a lot more useful throughout the movie by constantly using his ex-agent capabilities to help out whenever he could, while still being a lot of fun. It doesn’t feel as forced as ROTF either, where he basically just hangs along until he puts in some work by climbing up after Devastator and basically disappears again. Here, in addition to helping out in the moon landing investigation, Simmons and the hypercompetent Dutch would later be relevant in tracking down where Carly is, as well as helping out in the mission control near the end. He’s fun, and forms a nice little comedic duo with the equally awesome Dutch – who may be my favourite human character in the movies. Simmons just being this overbearing superior to the far more shy but competent Dutch is brilliant. The two are pretty fun, and make watching the first half where not much happens pretty bearable. I also do like how Simmons seems to get crippled halfway through, giving a rather realistic view to how none of the humans seem to get hurt.

Optimus Prime ends up being the main Autobot here, with Bumblebee slowly but progressively getting less and less scerentime. Bumblebee still does get more scenes than any other Autobot, and gets some rather tear-inducing scenes during his first farewell with Sam and later when he looks as if he’s about to cry when Que gets executed. Oh, and he still gets some action scenes in fighting the Dreads, Sentinel and Soundwave. For what little he shows up in, Bumblebee is pretty good. This is mostly Optimus Prime’s show, though. Peter Cullen, again, delivers some mighty powerful lines that exemplifies Optimus’ irritation with the humans for keeping a major part of their culture hidden, and that scene with Sentinel in the grassfield as he meets his old friend and mentor for the first time again is pretty touching. Sadly we don’t get a really satisfying conclusion for the Sentinel/Optimus arc, though. They get to exchange some great fighting one-liners, and the battle between the two is certainly more visually satisfying than the quick one with the Fallen, but from a character standpoint it isn’t quite as good as it could be. I also have a problem with how little Optimus Prime reacts about Ironhide’s death. He does look downcast as he slowly transforms after Sentinel gets away, and that is an extremely powerful expression from the CG model, but other than that one look he doesn’t really say anything about it later on… I thought it’s a shame, because a ‘FOR IRONHIDE’ shout as he charges at Sentinel or into Chicago would’ve been brilliant.

Speaking of the charge to Chicago, the speech Optimus delivers before they charge in, coupled with the triumphant music as he does so, is an amazingly inspiring and awesome one. He promises that ‘we will kill them all’, and that spine-chilling line is proven true as both Optimus and the moviemakers wipe their state clean – the battle of Chicago is basically them working through the Decepticon ranks and cleaning it out with the subtlety of dynamite, working with the assumption that Dark of the Moon is the last movie of the series. It’s not unentertaining, for sure, but when you jump from scene to scene and it’s just named Decepticons dying after named Decepticons dying it gets a bit exhausting. Optimus Prime is also taken out of the battle for a fair bit by embarrassingly getting caught in the cables, but manages to redeem himself by that brilliant block-long charge as he murders the hell out of the Decepticons, killing around two dozen plus a wounded Shockwave in the same breath before challenging Sentinel. Shame that it’s been spoiled so much by practically every trailer – the few I watched have spoiled this majestic scene when it finally shows up, and I do feel that watching several trailers before this movie has definitely ruined the majesty of several of the shots. The movies I’ve went in without looking up a trailer end up impressing me more than the ones whose trailers I’ve watched… but that’s a discussion for another time. Oh, of course, and there’s the thing about his trailer – his trailer is awesome! Not because it’s G1 accurate or anything (though that helps) but the sight of the trailer just transforming into this massive weapon rack, and then Optimus Prime just pulling stuff out of it to fight the Driller... and of course that’s not taking into account Optimus Prime flying with his butterfly jetpack and blowing Decepticons up.

Sentinel Prime, voiced by Leonard Nimoy, take the center stage as the main villain. I thankfully wasn’t spoiled by the fact that Sentinel was the villain, unlike a huge portion of the fandom who obsessively point out the fact that the Autobot insignia on his toy is scratched out or some leaked novel shows him on the side of the Decepticons or whatever. He’s a pretty interesting villain, and at the beginning does seem like a genuinely good guy – his betrayal did take me by surprise. He is criminally underdeveloped, though, because we don’t find his motivations between ‘we are gods’ and general insane hubris. He does act like a massive prick throughout the movie, though, unnecessarily being a jerk to Megatron (who was just trying to make nice!) which would later lead to his undoing. He’s just standing on top of the building waving his swords and spouting lines in that sexy Nimoy voice, and not particularly contributing anything to the Decepticons’ rule. And while the Autobots won’t be down to enslaving mankind and all that, Sentinel never really shows a particularly sympathetic side which makes him incredibly one-dimensional. He does serve as a visually distinct and colourful looking main villain as compared to Megatron, the Fallen and later Lockdown, though, and that fact combined with his pretty impressive-looking blades make him a visually awesome sight when he battles Optimus Prime. Hearing Nimoy’s Spock voice arguing about ethics with Cullen’s Optimus while battling is certainly brilliant.

Megatron, meanwhile, gets reduced to what I keep calling a space hobo. He shows up in this half-decayed state, being reduced to living in the desert with what is left of his old army, wearing a sack over his head, no less! While initially pissed off at reducing a favourite villain into this, I do like this rather refreshing take of Megatron as this villain who has fallen so much from grace and tries desperately to cling to some semblance by dignity. It’s telling how he tries so desperately to talk up like he’s something by sitting on a throne and trying to stand around Sentinel – but doesn’t really try to do anything himself. Hell, for all his admonishment Starscream contributed more to the partial Decepticon victory here than Megatron did. In a way his situation seems to be a parallel to Sam’s, with the difference being Megatron seems to have subconsciously accepted his lot, while externally still tries to bluster. The scene of him just sitting in an alley surrounded by that burlap while Doctors crawl around the hole in his head like cockroaches is certainly a powerful one. Hugo Weaving also does a great job of making Megatron’s growls sound threatening but defeated at the same time, it’s such a shame he doesn’t give two shits about the job. Megatron finally getting reinvigorated by Carly, and the look of realization in his face that, yes, he had become Sentinel’s bitch while still deluding himself… it’s a powerful look indeed. It’s such a shame that it wasn’t Mikaela… or, hell, even Sam! Sam would’ve been more appropriate in this situation, having directly interacted with Megatron in ROTF.

My favourite villain in the movie, however, is not Megatron or Sentinel, but rather Laserbeak. His hissing, slimy voice is perfect, and plays out the role of a small Decepticon that interacts with humans pretty well. The series of scenes as he shows up and plays tea with a little girl before it’s implied that he murders the rest of the family (we don’t exactly see what happens to them) is pretty chilling. And he’s the only one so far who’s actually adapted different modes in quick succession instead of just sticking to one, and how he keeps hounding the humans responsible while making it look like a suicide… Laserbeak truly brings the first half of the movie onwards by feeling like a truly legitimate threat, and despite his pretty unconventional design (based on a vulture instead of a more traditional condor or eagle) Laserbeak does look pretty threatening every time he shows up on scene, and he isn’t afraid to make some black comedy jokes during his scene with Wang.

Dylan is another one that they did well. While initially seeming to be just introduced to be an unintentionally-kinda-douchey rich guy that threatens to steal Carly away from Sam, Dylan does feel like a rather nice human and the twist that he’s been playing them all along under Decepticon orders is certainly a twist that makes sense and in my opinion a great one. It’s rather marred by happening a short while after Sentinel’s own ‘I’m a bad guy’ moment, but it’s no less effective. He’s a rather fun side villain and I do like how, while both he and Megatron pretty evidently dislike each other, he’s still happy to do the Decepticons’ work so long as he’s not double-crossed, and the Decepticons seem to trust him – Soundwave listens to his suggestions, and Megatron doesn’t doubt him when he says the Autobots are around. I do like how unlike most clichéd action movies the bad guys working together will randomly betray each other. Dylan and Megatron don’t, and Megatron only betrays Sentinel because of the blatant abuse and disrespect that Sentinel lobs his way. Overall I do like Dylan as a villain.

One of the biggest complaints about the movie from fans is how Shockwave is reduced into a goon without dialogue, but I think part of it is IDW’s fault, by building up Shockwave as this IDW-esque super intelligent master planner, and in a sense I do like how Michael Bay has subverted all expectations by parading Shockwave in most of the trailers and early synopses, making Sentinel’s appearance as an actual villain more surprising. Generally, I could go on a rant on how trailers and subverting trailers have turned into this stupid, silly game but I’ll save that for later. Shockwave isn’t much of an entity beyond this really powerful Decepticon and a red herring when he shows up in the beginning riding that giant worm of his. He does make a pretty distinctive design and seems to be head most of the dirty work. I do like how, while he keeps getting pieces blown off him by the Wreckers and the humans, he refuses to go down until Optimus Prime shows up. I don’t particularly like how he ends up blowing up so much, though – at one point when Epps’ team are laying fire on him and the other NEST troops are focusing their firepower on him it looks like he’s going to go down and I generally prefer my evil giant robots to be taken down by my good giant robots. It’s all right, though.

Seguing into NEST, both Lennox and Epps get a lot more good showing after being reduced to ‘those two military dudes’ in Revenge of the Fallen. Epps in particular gets a major, distinct role as being the cavalry able to get Sam into Chicago, and is basically the most important human other than Sam in the climax. I do like how he comes to his own, organizing his little group of NEST dropouts as they organize how to blow up the Space Bridge and later attack Shockwave. Lennox gets a slightly poorer showing as he doesn’t really do much, but he shows up a lot. His starring scene seems to be the really long and tedious scene of wingsuiting into Chicago – I do appreciate how they used real people being thrown out of airplanes for this, and it is pretty awesome… but you can’t see Lennox’s face throughout that scene and it ends up really dragging on for a while. Lennox ends up not really doing much beyond organizing NEST forces. I do like how his speech about being the last line of mankind and heading into certain death is juxtaposed with Optimus Prime’s, though.

NEST is shown to be more effective here than just ‘trading fire with the Decepticons until an air strike comes’ from Revenge of the Fallen, actually hurting and killing a lot of the Decepticon troopers. We do see them practice killshots against Bumblebee in the NEST base, and generally if you like soldiers taking down robots, NEST will not disappoint you in this movie. I don’t really like how overpowered the soldiers are, basically just blowing the robots’ legs up and shooting them dead… it makes the Autobots look rather useless in comparison. And while they don’t kill anyone but Barricade and the Protoform generics it still feels rather odd… I suppose they’re using Q’s inventions so it’s not that drastic of a change.

Charlotte Mearing, replacing Galloway as the obstructive government agent, actually manages to feel a lot more professional than him. Her attempt at jokes do fall a bit flat but I suppose that was partly intentional. She ends up being strict enough which is part of her job, and manages to remain professional enough not to let her annoyance with Sam (which is fair enough, considering the rather rude comments Sam made to her during their first meeting) get in the way of believing his lead. She is strict but not unreasonable, and while I do find the Simmons romance thing a bit random I do like Mearing.

All the other Autobots get more screentime this time around, being a constant throughout the movie. Sideswipe and Dino end up being those two sleek sport car guys that accompany Bumblebee, which is fine – Sideswipe and Ironhide also get a pretty cool scene as they take down the Dreads, both being cool all around. Ironhide’s death really hits home, though, and I do think Bay intentionally killed off the easily most likable Autobot from the first two movie. It was brutal, Ironhide was a fun dude and that shot of him just disintegrating into rust and his head falls off… man. Ratchet, as usual, doesn’t get to do much, but he gets a lot more showing this time around with his spiffy new paintjob, and accompanying Optimus to the moon. He does get a few nice lines, and between him and Sideswipe they seem to be alternatingly leading the Autobot portion of the charge. It’s understandable, though – Ratchet is a medic and they generally don’t really do much fighting, so he’s kind of forced to be staying in group shots because of that.

The two new Autobots introduced in the beginning are Dino and Que. Dino’s just this Italian-sounding dude that doesn’t really do much but deliver some lines and swing his swords and whips around. I do like Dino a lot despite of that, though… Ferrari might be assholes and not allow Hasbro to make a Dino toy or show him properly transform on screen, but I do like him. Que ends up being, well, Q from James Bond. He sounds vaguely British, he gives these gimmicks that allow Sam and NEST troops to fight, and he dies… he’s nothing particularly special, and the ‘we surrender’ scene does make him feel like a bit of a coward.

Wheelie and Brains form a rather fun jerk duo that just hangs around Sam. They’re basically Skids and Mudflap, except not as offensive. I do like the scene where they end up getting left behind by the Wrecker jerks, and they manage to have some contribution near the end by blowing up a Decepticon warship. They’re fun! There’s not much to say about them beyond that. I like them. The Wreckers are a nice little callback to G1 fans, and they are visually distinct and while they don’t have any particular spotlight scenes seeing these rally cars decked up in all these crazy guns rolling into battle is pretty great, and Roadbuster’s Scottish accent is pretty fun to hear. The trio as this group of violent, joke-happy guys is a pretty fun one, and it’s a shame we don’t really get to see a lot of them.

That covers all the Autobots, so let’s move on to the Decepticons. Starscream and Soundwave share a position as Megatron’s second-in-command, and while they are a constant presence throughout the movie (in so much that they show up whenever the other Decepticons do), especially Starscream, the movie suffers a bit from a villain overload – Shockwave shows up a lot of times in the final battle and it takes away from any scene that Starscream or Soundwave might star in. Starscream in general ends up being more fun, still this greasy sycophant and a target for Megatron’s anger. He does get a bit of an action scene in slicing up the Osprey, and I do find it hilarious how he gets killed by Sam… but all in all I’d still prefer Starscream to fall to one of the Autobots. Soundwave… casual moviegoers will basically never realize that this is the satellite from the second movie. Soundwave shows up in the beginning and only shows up again after the big twist that he’s Dylan’s car. I didn’t see that coming, not keeping up to date with all the spoiler-heavy speculations and leaks, and the fact that the Mercedes isn’t just random product placement (and it was a painfully bad product placement with Sam googling the advertisement right there) and an actual plot point. Soundwave doesn’t really do much, though… he does lead the execution of the captured Autobots (who don’t fight back for whatever reason) but for whatever reason has to be reminded by Dylan that they, y’know, kill. Soundwave’s a bit crap in this movie honestly even if his design is pretty awesome.

Driller! Driller basically takes over from Devastator as the big spectacle, except done right – a lot of the things in this movie seems to be just stuff from ROTF done right. He gets foreshadowed early on and I do absolutely love this giant worm just tearing through buildings and stuff, and Shockwave is just riding inside him… the Driller is just this spectacular little distraction and padding, but a pretty impressive one, and far more relevant than Devastator in that Driller actually menaces our main heroes instead of Devastator, who randomly shows up to threaten the side group and then wanders off without finishing the job. The other significant Decepticons, the Dreads, are also pretty great looking designs for ones that died so early – from Crankcase’s more athletic running to Hatchet just bounding along like the big monster dog he is to Crowbar’s medusa hairs just whiplashing everywhere… they’re equivalent to Bonecrusher, actually, as is the entire scene – cool looking dudes with unique designs to be dispatched by our heroes.

Barricade shows up only to pad out crowd scenes in Chicago and then die! I found it pretty fun, and a nice little nod to the fans bitching about Barricade being missing in Revenge of the Fallen. It would actually make more sense for Barricade to be the one killed by Sam, because the two have actually fought before, but it’s no big loss. The protoforms and generic Decepticon army ends up looking pretty good. We get some nice little model reusals as some hairless Dreads and kibble-less Long Hauls show up among the army, and I do like the little montage of Decepticons all around the world releasing Space Bridges. A lot of people don’t like the idea of Decepticons riding little gunner ships… and I do agree that it would’ve been more effective to see these generic Decepticons transform into those ships, with the only real thing they’re good for is allowing Bumblebee to get into the sky and shoot stuff up. They are often accompanied by these ominous church-bell sound which, thanks to how the sound effects are laid out, ends up being synonymous with the shots of the Decepticons disintegrating the humans. There’s also Devcon the Cloverfield Decepticon who keeps showing up for a second or two, and he’s a pretty cool variation. I do like him. (Also there’s Igor, who shows up for two short scenes. Eh. I literally forgot the little bastard exists until I was about to post this review. So, eh, whatever. )

While I’ve spoken about the main humans, there are a couple more guest stars, if you will: we get John Malkovich playing Sam’s boss, Bruce Brazos, and Ken Jeong playing Jerry Wang. Wang is just another of Bay’s crazy-funny characters, and I don’t like him. I do like that he gets killed off, though, which gives a sense of tension that not even the humans are safe from the Decepticons, something which certainly will put a lot of moviegoers at tense. Malkovich’s Bruce is… satisfactory, I guess? He’s sorta funny, and he doesn’t overstay his welcome. I do find that a lot of their scene ends up being kind of a distraction and could be cut out. Morshower returns for a very short scene, which is a shame – I liked Morshower! Sam’s parents show up, but thankfully while they’re still embarrassing they’re back in small doses, making them return to their first movie default of embarrassingly funny parents instead of the second movie’s insufferable annoyances. I do like Ron’s indifference as Sam tries to go through a slew of job interviews, and Judy going all ‘oh my god what happened to Bumblebee?’ We get the obligatory sex joke from Judy, which is still a bit too much, but the two end up being a lot more charming and not annoying.

The visuals are still ace in here, and I do like a lot of the smaller details which show up upon rewatching. Sam patting Ironhide and Ratchet as he arrives in NEST base, with Ratchet going wee-woo-wee-woo is probably a scene that flies over a lot of people’s head because it passes so quickly, but it makes it feel a lot more human. We get Sentinel shoving his fingers into Megatron’s head during their argument, we get Starscream constantly bowing down and rubbing his hands together… we get Shockwave’s little bug-teeth thing rattling as he reacts to stuff, we get the little Doctos crawling around Megatron’s head... I do like the little details! Topspin’s dreadlock hairs whishing around, Crowbar’s medusa hair whiplashing everywhere, Soundwave’s little sonic-boom gun effects, Sideswipe just rolling around everywhere on his wheel-feet while other Autobots make distinct movements as they take actual steps… yeah, as usual, the visual department doesn’t fail to impress. There’s the distinct change in keeping a majority of the weapons to be separate sidearms instead of things that grow organically from their hands or arms, as well as the usage of the Decepticon ships instead of them coming in by protoforms. It’s not a particularly jarring change in my opinion, and though I obviously would’ve preferred using the stuff they originally used, I do admit that the variety does help make the movie feel different and not just rehashing the same old scenes.

I do absolutely love the long shots of the Autobot cars – a truck, a bunch of sports cars and rally cars and a Hummer – just lined up and revving to charge into Chicago. Autobot victory indeed.

It’s a pretty solid movie, but while Revenge of the Fallen suffers from being messy and having too many things going on at once, I’d argue that Dark of the Moon suffers from the complete opposite. It’s got too little going on at once especially at first, and that makes the first half-hour pretty boring upon rewatching, especially with the extremely bloated runtime. A lot of the scenes earlier on could simply be cut or reduced, especially the ones where Sam just fumbles around clues and all that. The movie, as I said before, suffers from an overload of Decepticons and them just not really knowing what to do with them. A few better matchups would make sense as well… you could exorcise Shockwave and give Soundwave and Starscream his roles to make them feel more relevant. Or generally just pace the movie better so it isn't just 'rawr rawr Decepticons scary' followed by several scenes of Decepticons dying. The final battle extends as long as it is and despite them doing more stuff the other Autobots generally feel like they’re still just filling background space – Dino and the Wreckers in particular, though the Wreckers did have a role in bringing down Devcon the Cloverfield Decepticon. The surrender scene felt awkward and randomly inserted just to explain where the Autobots are, as is the Optimus-gets-tangled-in-wires. It would’ve made more sense for the random Autobots to fight the random Decepticons instead of being held up like this. The military, while not ending stuff with an airstrike or sending Reaper Drones to look at stuff, also still play a major role in helping to turn the tide with the Tomahawk missiles – with NEST already hogging a fair portion of the action I felt this made the film too human-centric.

Still, for all its faults Dark of the Moon is leaps and bounds better than Revenge of the Fallen. It’s not a particularly difficult achievement, admittedly, and nowhere as amazing as the first, but it’s still a pretty entertaining and solid movie nonetheless.

(8.5 out of 10)



Notes:
Bumblebee again changes his alternate mode to a more updated Chevrolet Camaro, and his robot mode is slightly different to accommodate it. Unlike previous movies, both robot and vehicle modes now have the same license plate of ‘900STRA’. Sideswipe also transforms into an updated Chevrolet Stingray without a roof. Megatron and Soundwave both obtain brand-new bodies, though Megatron retains his head injury. Optimus Prime’s robot mode is altered, most notably his arms and his abs, though his vehicle mode remain the same. Ratchet has updated his paintjob with some white highlights, though he still remains primarily lime green. Ironhide, while mostly the same, has lost his arm-mounted cannons in favour for hand-held guns. Starscream is the only one who remains identical to his previous appearance.

Also, unlike the previous movies’ visual look of having arms that transform into weapons, many Transformers noticeably uses separate hand-held guns. Ironhide, Megatron and Optimus Prime are the most noticeable, using hand-held weapons unlike previous movies – though Optimus does use the arm-sword briefly against Sentinel Prime, he noticeably uses separate weapons from his trailer or strapped to his back. It’s not a total change, though, since several transformers – Bumblebee, Starscream and Sideswipe – still retain their transformable arms.

Sentinel Prime is voiced by Lenoard Nimoy, who voiced G1 Galvatron in the 1986 Movie. Nimoy, most famous for playing Spock from the original Star Trek, is related to Michael Bay by marrying his sister, and was briefly considered for Fallen’s voice in the second movie before Bay chickened out from asking him. Sentinel Prime at one point copies Spock’s famous line from ‘Star Trek II: the Wrath of Khan’, “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.”

When he says goodbye to Sam before boarding the Xantium, Bumblebee uses an audio clip from the Wrath of Khan of Spock saying ‘I will always be your friend.’ Wheelie also watches an episode from the original Star Trek, and comments that it’s the episode ‘where Spock goes nuts’, foreshadowing Sentinel’s betrayal in the movie.

Que’s name is a reference to Q from the James Bond novels and films, and shares his namesake’s role of giving wacky sci-fi gadgets to our heroes.

The Matrix of Leadership makes a brief reappearance from the last movie.

After being absent from the last movie, Barricade makes a reappearance… though he speaks with Soundwave’s voice instead of his original Jess Harnell voice (which is odd, since Harnell, also responsible for Ironhide’s voice, would be available for recording). Skids, Mudflap and Jolt are completely absent, though it seems this was a conscious choice considering the former two are considered controversial and the latter is minor.

While Soundwave has all the Mercedes Benz kibble, he doesn’t have the insignia on the center of his chest in all scenes prior to the reveal that he is Carly’s car.

While the first two movies have shown Transformer ‘blood’ to be either blue or green, here several Transformers (notably the Dreads in slow-motion scenes) spill red, blood-coloured fluid.

When the worker is playing around with photocopier-mode Laserbeak, Laserbeak beeps out the ‘more than meets the eye’ portion as a musical tone from the original cartoon’s theme song.

The final transformation of the movie, Bumblebee turning into robot mode, uses the original transformation noise.

The plane Mearing and Sam rides is Michael Bay’s real-life private Gulfstream jet (which provided Blackout’s 4500X number in the first movie).

While ROTF reused Bonecrusher’s model for one scene Dark of the Moon reused many prior character models as generic Decepticons. Numerous Doctors are seen working on Megatron in the African scene and later when he meets Carly in the alley (Megatron kills one of them). Scrapper, a tan Brawl, Long Haul and Sideways are seen during Optimus Prime’s epic charge. Another Decepticon based on Long Haul’s robot mode, stripped of all kibble, is shown scanning a garbage truck in Washington.

Bonecrusher’s roar from the first movie was reused for Crowbar’s roar when he flips over the overhead signs.

When the military fires the Tomahawk missile, the mission control room reuses scenes from the USS Kidd from Revenge of the Fallen. Thanks to a real-life accident, part of the car chase between the Dreads and Bumblebee’s group reuses scenes edited from Michael Bay’s film the Island, although with giant robots flipping over cars and stuff.

Two accidents happened during filming of Dark of the Moon. While shooting the car chase scene mentioned above, a female extra was severely injured during a stunt scene, leaving her with permanent brain damage and paralysis of her left side of the body. Paramount was sued and was eventually granted a monetary settlement. A second, more light-hearted accident happened when one of the Bumblebee prop cars was involved in a car crash with a Metropolitan Police SUV.

Homages from Previous Transformers Series:
Shockwave and Laserbeak are relatively heavily based on their G1 counterparts. Sentinel Prime is also loosely based on the mostly-offscreen predecessor of Optimus Prime in various G1 continuities. The Wreckers being an Autobot crack team with Roadbuster and Topspin being members of it, are based on a team of the same name from the G1 comics. Leadfoot, Crankcase and Devcon, while not bearing any similarities to any former counterparts, are also name reuses. Que, whose early working name was Wheeljack, is an inventor like Wheeljack’s G1 namesake. (Dino, Brains, Hatchet, Crowbar, Driller and Igor are all original names to the Transformers franchise.)

Carly being a blonde girlfriend of the main Witwicky character is based on Carly from the original cartoon.

Optimus Prime uses an orange-coloured axe several times throughout the movie, a reference to the weapon he used against Megatron in the first cartoon episode.

Megatron quotes ‘all hail Megatron’ from the first movie, though back then it was spoken in subtitled Cybertronian by Blackout.

The Autobot ship Ark is based on the recurring Autobot ship throughout various G1 universes, whereas the Xantium is the name of the Wreckers’ ship in IDW’s comic Stormbringer.

Optimus Prime’s trailer in this movie is heavily based on the original trailer in G1. Various non-G1 Optimus Primes can also combine with parts of their trailer to form a jetpack or a ‘super mode’ of sorts.

Optimus carries the Matrix of Leadership in his chest, and attempts to pass it to Sentinel Prime as a gesture to make him the new leader. The Matrix being inside Optimus’ chest cavity as a symbol of Autobot leadership is a concept similar to the Generation 1 continuity.

The plot of bringing Cybertron near Earth with numerous Space Bridges and enslaving the humans is from the G1 episode ‘the Ultimate Doom’, whereas the idea of a rich human joining forces with the Decepticons after getting persuaded by Laserbeak, as well as the Autobots going on exile in a spacecraft that is sabotaged by the Decepticons, are all based on the G1 cartoon episode ‘Megatron’s Master Plan’.

Megatron shooting Abraham Lincoln’s statue and sitting on his chair is based on a similar scene done by his G1 counterpart in the G1 cartoon episode ‘Atlantis, Arise’.

While not explicitly named in the movie itself, Sentinel Prime’s gun that causes Ironhide to die via rusting seems to be based on Cosmic Rust from the G1 cartoon, and concept art has explicitly called it the ‘Cosmic Rust Gun’.

Goofs:
When Sam was supposed to be struggling with Wheelie in the apartment, at one point Wheelie isn’t edited in so it looks like Sam is interacting with thin air.

Earth can’t really be as close to the horizon as shown in the movie.

The Service Module is seen flying to the Moon without the Lunar Module, though it is present in later shots. The Ascent Module which the astronauts flies back in is somehow present when Optimus and Ratchet arrives on the Moon.

The Chernobyl power plant seems to be shown to be inside the abandoned city Pripyat, when in real life the power plant is a fair distance outside the city. Voskhod even says that they have to enter through an abandoned school.

As Megatron transforms in Africa, the scene briefly changes from a grass field to a barren desert for a shot.

Ironhide still has a license plate in robot mode (4PC1382) but none in his vehicle mode, an error repeated from ROTF.

Wheelie still has the Decepticon insignia embossed on his back, most noticeable when he and Brains are sneaking around the Decepticon ship.

Despite being exorcised from the movie, Skids and Mudflap’s updated prop cars can be briefly seen in the background of a shot as the Autobots roll into the NEST base.

Probably thanks to the accident, the chase scene is rather poorly edited: Sentinel Prime basically disappears for the bulk of the scene, and Bumblebee changes from deploying just his wheels to the side to avoid Hatchet directly into his fully transformed Stealth Force mode between shots. During Hatchet’s death Dino is in robot mode (the whips are connected to his arms, after all) but in the very next shot he is somehow back in his vehicle mode.

After dropping their guns, Ironhide’s guns are briefly seen on his back when he is attacked with the Crankcase’s spear.

As he grabs Crankcase, a car nearby them is completely pristine. However, when ironhide slams Crankcase down on said car immediately afterward, it already has a Crankcase-shaped dent on its hood.

Despite being captured and held captive, Carly is somehow able to change clothes at least twice. Unless she’s not as faithful as the movie implies, it’s unlikely for Gould to have clothes and earrings in her size ready to wear.

Simmons mentions that nine Autobots are leaving Earth, when there should be eleven, possibly not counting Wheelie and Brains.

Leadfoot claims they were hiding inside the booster rocket, though the booster wasn’t detached from the ship before Starscream destroys it. Granted, they might just be talking up a good fight – certainly wouldn’t be good for morale if they said ‘we barely survived that thing!’ It’s odd for the Decepticons not to make sure of their kills, though.

Oddly there are a lot of people seemingly still having dinner in the building that the Driller attacks, even though the Decepticons have pretty much gone full-on alien invasion.

For a brief shot, the windows of the buildings Team Sam are sliding down off are shown to be intact.

As the building is tilting, Stone is shown to fall off alongside a bunch of furniture, but is present in all subsequent shots.

In Chicago, the NEST mission control says that four Autobots were captured, when there are five of them there.

During the Que’s execution, the head-on-a-stick prop for Dino which is used in place of the robots during shooting can be briefly seen in the background.

In the shot of Driller rising from the ground right after Optimus Prime’s trailer is knocked off, said trailer is missing.

Cybertron is transported relatively close to Earth by the Space Bridge. Cybertron’s gravitational field would have torn Earth apart, or at least caused earthquakes and the like (which, ironically, the G1 cartoon actually showed happening). We don’t fully know how Space Bridge technology works, though, so maybe it’s compensating? Some characters also talk of how Cybertron is brought into Earth’s ‘atmosphere’, though Cybertron is shown a fair distance away.

During the battle against Optimus, Bumblebee and Sideswipe at the end, Sentinel Prime’s cape kibble disappears for a short scene.

Deleted Concepts & Scenes:
Ramon Rodriguez and more notably Megan Fox were intended to reprise their roles as Leo Spitz and Mikaela Banes respectively. Megan Fox was still around Dark of the Moon set even as far as 2010, and while Rosie Huntington’s character was written in relatively well as a replacement, there are several scenes that seem to be written for Mikaela’s character – Carly working to oversee a car collection seems to be a development of Mikaela’s car-savviness, Carly’s scene with Megatron not really making sense since the two never met before, as well as both Wheelie and Bonecrusher the dog being around when the former is attached to Mikaela and the latter is outright owned by her.

As far as late 2010, actor James Avery confirms that he was going to play a character named ‘Silverbolt’ in the movie. Bill Fagerbakke, voice of Transformers Animated’s Bulkhead, is also reported to be voicing a ‘Chevy Impala stock car’, presumably one of the Wreckers (Topspin?) though this ultimately doesn’t happen.

Shia LaBeouf and John Malkovich spoke of scenes cut from the movie which included a scene of Malkovich’s character trying to get Carly’s phone number.

In earlier drafts of the script and both the novel and comic adaptations, Megatron offers Optimus Prime a truce before leaving Earth to rebuild Cybertron.

Skids and Mudflap were originally supposed to return, with GM going so far as to supply new prop cars (which were among the first toys to be released) for them. However, they were completely edited out of the movie, though the cars can be seen in the background for a split-second shot of the Autobots rolling into the NEST base. In all other adaptations they would have been killed alongside Ironhide during Sentinel Prime’s betrayal. Prior to its release, Michael Bay had stated he would offer a $25,000 reward to anyone who sees the Twins ‘perform’ in the movie.

Another plot point dropped was anti-Autobot anger amongst the humans, with numerous props with graffiti decrying Autobots and telling them to ‘go home’ seen in the filming set. While ultimately unused, a population that has a negative outlook on Autobots and those posters are used for Age of Extinction.

Brains was supposed to impress the Russian Cosmonauts by speaking them in Russian.

Igor was supposed to be explicitly a bouncing head of Long Haul, but the final model seen in the movie doesn’t resemble Long Haul all that much.

In both the movie and comic adaptations, when Optimus and Ratchet leaves the Moon with Sentinel Prime’s body, the Dreads would have sneaked up and stowed away on the side of the ship.

In the junior novelization and the comic adaptation, the Autobot executed by Soundwave’s group is Dino (or rather, ‘Mirage’) instead of Que. In the official novelization, Dino is decapitated by Soundwave, whereas Que (or ‘Wheeljack’) is killed by underwater Decepticons in the river.

Roadbuster’s original alternate mode in concept arts was Jeff Gordon’s #24 DuPont-sponsored Chevrolet Impala, instead of the Dale Earnhardt Jr’s #88 AMP-sponsored Impala.

In earlier concept arts, Que’s head was based on Doc Brown to the Back from the Future movies instead of Albert Einstein.

The Wreckers were intended to have a pet dog, which got a toy from Hasbro named ‘Steeljaw’.

Early working names found in concept artwork and call sheets which may or may not be misinformation include ‘Ultra Magnus’ for Sentinel Prime, ‘Enzo’, Rush’ and ‘Mirage’ for Dino, ‘Warpath’ for Roadbuster, Topspin and the Steeljaw dog cut from the movie, ‘Tempest’ for Topspin, ‘Flash’ for Leadfoot, ‘Dreadwind’ for Crankcase, ‘Hooligan’ for Crowbar, ‘Dirtbag’ for Hatchet, ‘Steeljaw’ and ‘Wheeljack’ for Que, ‘Undermine’ for Igor and ‘Colossus’ for the Driller. Among these, Driller being called Colossus was used in several early press releases, and practically everything – comics, games, toys – uses the names ‘Mirage’ and ‘Wheeljack’ instead of Dino and Que. (Those that are pretty obviously misinformation are ‘Blitzwing’ for Shockwave, ‘Breakdown’ for Soundwave, ‘Buzzard’ for Laserbeak and ‘Cyclonus’ for Megatron.)
 

Last edited by Blackjack; 2014-08-13 at 04:24 AM.
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Old 2014-08-12, 04:45 PM   #2
Auntie Slag
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Back from the future?

Back TO the Future I think you mean.

It might be handy to further alter the text there to 'Doc' Brown. I don't think I've ever heard a single instance of him being referred to as 'Doctor' Brown in any media!

Great review!
 
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Old 2014-08-12, 10:46 PM   #3
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(I've never watched Back to the Future, as you can tell. )

(I really should, sometime soon)

Thanks for the correction, though!

EDIT: Okay, I'm testing out the screenshot size and stuff. Looks like I too can do it! Expect a lot of pictures to pepper the sited reviews in the near future, probably accompanying a character page if/when I ever get to making one.
 

Last edited by Blackjack; 2014-08-13 at 04:26 AM.
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