Jul 272011

More Tufnel troubles

By Kevin Martinez

I have to admit to being a closet fan of Transformers. I was probably too old to be into the toys when they first arrived back in the 1980s, but I do own a few of them. Most notably I have Megatron, who I bought on clearance at Hills since it had been opened and had some shelf damage. They were just so innovative as toys, and Marvel Comics had released a mini-series to tie into the toy line, much in the same way they had with G.I. Joe. I remember the comics not really grabbing me that much, although the subsequent animated TV show was entertaining enough to where I had a familiarity with the concepts behind the line.

When the first movie debuted, I was excited about the prospect of seeing this made into a big summer blockbuster. I had no pretense of it being an Oscar winning film with great performances. I just wanted to see giant robots turn into cars and beat the crap outta each other. In other words: a 21st century Godzilla film with a big budget and actors whose mouths sync up to the dialogue.

But three films into this series, it’s getting old. Although Transformers: Dark of the Moon is an improvement over part 2, it’s still suffering from the things that bugged me about the second film. Granted, we don’t have dogs humping each other, and the parental characters take a smaller role in this one, but it’s still centered around the human characters too much. In Godzilla movies, the title character has no capacity to speak, or express itself with anything more than destructive tantrums. In Transformers, they’ve gone to the trouble of establishing that the Autobots and Decepticons are intelligent and have personalities. Yet they are consistently secondary to Shia LaBouf’s Sam Witwicky character.

Much has been made about Megan Fox not returning to this series after she publicly criticized director Michael Bay and called him a Nazi. According to speculation, this caused executive producer Steven Spielberg to have her let go. Honestly, she’s not missed. Sure she makes great eye candy, but so does Rose Huntington-Whitely. This is the problem with these movies: the people really aren’t that interesting. When your lead “actress” is interchangeable with a Victoria’s Secret model with no acting experience, then you aren’t really convincing anyone that they should care about the characters.

Leonard Nimoy doing the voice of Sentinel Prime is probably the most standout performance in this movie. It’s really odd, though, because there are some quality actors in this film. Frances McDormand and John Malkovich, who I really respect, are phoning it in for that big paycheck and it’s obvious.

I’ve been told that this Patrick Dempsey guy is someone of note, too. But he’s on some TV show about doctors, which means I couldn’t tell you anything about him.

I can tell you that I’m a fan of Alan Tudyk of Firefly/Serenity fame. He has a small but amusing part as John Turturro’s sidekick, so I was glad to see him in this film.

If they make a Part 4, which they will, it needs to take place on the Transformer’s homeworld of Cybertron and not have any people in it. Explore the title characters and their personalities. Give us a reason to care about these machines. And give us a plot that requires some thought behind it. Just because they cause more destruction to Chicago in this film than the Blues Brothers did, it doesn’t make it a better movie.

The plot in this film revolves around the hidden fact that there had been a group of Autobots who had escaped the tyranny of the Decepticons and crash landed on the moon back in the 1960s. The space race is sparked by this, as explained in a pre-title sequence where John F. Kennedy is informed of a massive U.F.O. that has crashed on the moon.

You see the Apollo landing and, when the news is blacked out from the moon, Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong explore the wreckage. The real Buzz Aldrin makes a cameo to verify that these events actually happened. Also, Chernobyl was an accident caused by the Soviet Union tampering with an Autobot power source. Yeah, this is revisionist history. But, in fairness, it’s no worse than the ending of Inglourious Basterds.

The Autobots recover the body of the leader of this doomed ship, Sentinel Prime. Sentinel Prime ends up being the focal point of the plot, in which the Decepticons have been working with human traitors. These traitors are helping the Decepticons bring the remaining Transformers to Earth through a teleportation device created by Sentinel Prime. If this were to happen, the Decepticons would take over Earth, make the humans their slaves, and steal all of our resources.

In all fairness, this plot sounds interesting when I describe it, but it’s not executed very well. For a movie based on a line of toys, there seems to be a very large amount of vulgar language. If I had a kid, I wouldn’t take them to these movies. I’m no prude (obvious if you know me) but, dammit, tone down the bad language. Kids need to learn these words from their friends on the school bus, not from dopey Michael Bay movies based on Hasbro toys!

The special effects in this one are top notch and do seem to be better realized than in the previous films. The 3-D is actually the best thing it.

In these movies, there are too many scenes of people running through stuff being blown up while they try to reach some sort of goal. Yeah, it’s amazing visually. But, after about 10 minutes, it’s just dull. If you are a fan of the first two films, you will probably enjoy this movie. If you hated the first two, well, stay away. It’s nothing new. In comparison to the other summer blockbusters, it’s better than Green Lantern. But it’s not as good as any of the other films I’ve seen. As always with my reviews, I give the obligatory, “save your money and spend it on the next R.O.C.K. bout” which, by the way, is on July 30th at the Lexington Convention Center.

On the Nigel Tufnel scale of 1to 11, this one gets a 4, but mostly for the special effects.

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