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The Independent Critic

STARRING
Shia LaBeouf, Tyrese Gibson, Frances McDormand, John Malkovich, John Turturro, Ken Jeong, Hugo Weaving and Patrick Dempsey
DIRECTED BY
Michael Bay
SCREENPLAY
Ehren Kruger
MPAA RATING
Rated PG-13
RUNNING TIME
157 Mins.
DISTRIBUTED BY
Paramount Pictures
DVD EXTRAS
Let's face it. There's a lot.
 "Transformers 3" Review 
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I enjoyed it. I really did.

Okay, so Transformers: Dark of the Moon isn't brilliant cinema and Michael Bay will never, and I mean never, be recognized as one of Hollywood's greatest directors. Transformers: Dark of the Moon isn't aiming for brilliant cinema, instead preferring to shoot for becoming one of contemporary cinema's finest examples of live-action 3-D cinema.

Mission accomplished.

Rumored to be the final film (We've heard that before, eh?) in the Transformers series, Michael Bay pulls out all the stops in what leading man Shia LaBeouf promised would be the best 3-D film ever made. While I'm not quite willing to go that far, there's no question that while Bay couldn't write a decent character if his life depending upon it he does know how to kick major Decepticon ass with his techno toys.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon lacks the charm and easygoing wit of the first film, but in most ways is a vastly superior film to the other two films with an actual understandable plot, aesthetic enhancements to the Transformers that helps make them more easily identifiable and more easy to identify with, frequently amazing utilization of 3-D technology with several "Oh wow" shots and, for the first time, some genuinely moving scenes intertwined with the nearly relentless action.

In Dark of the Moon, a huge secret from America's first mission to the Moon is revealed that jeopardizes the peaceful co-existence between humans and Autobots. As it turns out, both the U.S. and Russia were chasing after a mysterious crash landing on the moon and what is brought back may very well determine the fate of Earth, Autobots, Decepticons and Cybertron.

If you didn't understand anything that was written in that last sentence, then Transformers: Dark of the Moon may not be the film for you.

Shia LaBeouf is back in the leading role as Sam Witwicky but, as has been well publicized, Megan Fox is gone this time around after being just a tad too vocal with her criticisms of producer Michael Bay and film production in general. Of course, both sides disagree on exactly what went down but the general consensus is that Ms. Fox was dismissed from the production...and, let's be honest, it wasn't exactly like replacing Meryl Streep. In a Michael Bay film, if you can breathe and have breasts there's a good chance you can get the female lead.

LaBeouf, who openly acknowledged the last Transformers film as disappointing, appears to be energized here and his performance benefits from it. While there's no Oscar nomination in his future for his work here, neither should his name be muttered for a Razzie nomination this year. LaBeouf has really grown into the action genre here, displaying an aura of confidence that really suits his character quite nicely while not losing that sort of "everyman" sensibility that makes Sam Witwicky a likable character.

Megan Fox has been replaced by Victoria's Secret model (and Jason Statham's girlfriend) Rosie Huntington-Whitley, a leggy and pouty-lipped beauty rumored to be far more comfortable with Bay's objectification of women and more willing to subject herself to Bay's obligatory slo-mo shots that have no purpose other than showing off her, um, assets. Huntington-Whitley is required to be nothing more than an eye candy who can enunciate, and my gut tells me that's about as far as her acting career could possibly go.

Having a supporting role in a Michael Bay film is akin to having a single purpose within the film. For example, funnyman Ken Jeong is here briefly in order for Sam to learn of the big secret, Tyrese Gibson is here so that Sam has his buddy with which to fight alongside and the list goes on and on. Frances McDormand and John Turturro rise above the mediocrity of their characters, McDormand as the head of National Defense and Turturro back once again as a former government agent best described now as a conspiracy theorist who just so happens to be right most of the time.  Patrick Dempsey also plays against his usual good guy type as a human who chooses sides, in his words "the winning side." It also bears mentioning that both Josh Duhamel and underrated actor Alan Tudyk are terrific despite being saddled with what amounts to one-note characters.

It's always fascinating to watch how some of the supporting players in a Michael Bay film come and go so easily, whether we're talking about Sam's parents (Kevin Dunn and Julie White), his offbeat new boss (John Malkovich)  and others who seem to have a few scenes serving mostly as a transition only to disappear into 3-D oblivion.

Working from a stronger than expected script by Ehren Kruger, Bay actually has a bit of a plot here along with cohesive fight scenes and a sense of purpose for the film that makes everything that goes on infinitely more interesting. There are multiple terrific one-liners in the film, but quite a few other potentially funny lines are either poorly edited, washed over by too much noise or they simply fall victim to Bay's continued problems with pacing.

D.P. Amir M. Mokri lenses the film rather amazingly, including a few "How did they do that?" shots that must be seen to be believed. That said, on more than one occasion the transition from action sequence to close-up was a touch blurry and given the film's budget well north of $100 million it seems reasonable that this distraction could have been addressed.

The fight sequences in Transformers: Dark of the Moon are breathtaking, though the awesomeness is tempered a bit by climactic battles involving Shockwave and Sentinel Prime that move a bit too quickly and are a touch anti-climactic. That said, Bay frames these sequences amazingly and utilizes the 3-D technology wondrously (You should see this film, M.Night, to learn how to shoot 3-D in the dark!). Additionally, major kudos to the effects team for figuring out subtle ways to make these Transformers more easily identifiable and, quite surprisingly, way more emotional in their presentation.

Far from a brilliant film, yet a terrific popcorn flick that will most assuredly be enjoyed by anyone who has enjoyed the Transformers films, Transformers: Dark of the Moon is quite likely the film that Michael Bay has been trying to put together all along with an entertaining mixture of action, heroism, humor and a touch of heart.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic

    The Official Rating Guideline
    • A+ to A: 4 Stars                
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    • C: 2 Stars
    • C- to D+: 1.5 Stars
    • D: 1 Star
    • D-: .5 Star
    • F: Zero Stars

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