Director Michael Bay’s 3D battle is finally upon us this week, as Autobots and Decepticons clash once more in one almighty final confrontation on Earth – well, Chicago, actually. After being rather impressed by Paramount’s recent preview of an assortment of 15 minutes worth of 3D footage from the film and its trailer, there was some intrepidation and a lot of cynicism about how the rest of the film would fair. Rest assured though, as this reviewer stands by her previous comment: Bay has tamed the 3D beast to his advantage, and used it to distinguish the bots in the visual eyeball assault that his previous efforts were guilty of. Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon 3D also has a credible plot this time, too – which is more than can be said for Victoria’s Secret’s model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley’s acting abilities.
In this episode, the Autobots learn of a Cybertronian spacecraft hidden on the Moon that holds the key to rebuilding their planet. However, it’s a space race against sworn enemies, the Decepticons to reach it first. But the problems really begin once Optimus Prime unlocks the secret on Earth, and must rely on human friend Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) to help save his Autobots and the human race from destruction.
The film’s 3D works for two main reasons. First, Bay slows the pace down enough for the audience to decipher a scene’s action moments – although Transformers 3D still suffers from the occasional carnage overkill at times. Second, Bay uses a lot of depth of field in his shots, and the technology emphasises this well, producing a detailed composition of foreground, middle-ground and background detail, right into the horizon in some cases. In fact, it’s the first film this reviewer would recommend seeing in 3D, just to draw the bots out of the scenery as the fights commence.
Gone are the whip-pans of Bay’s past films as he concerns himself with immersing us fully into the frame, and hence setting up the situation before imposing the action on us in the impatient fashion of past. That said his jumpy editing style is still evident, and parts of the film don’t quite marry together, with others seemingly pointless – such as his parents’ daft arrival in a Winnebago (like something out if Meet the Fockers), purely to tell Sam to hold onto his girl and make the usual inappropriate and embarrassing parental comments about his love life.
The long-awaited ‘squirrel-suited’ skydiving marines chase scene in full doesn’t disappoint as they plunge headfirst into the city below. But it’s the soaring chase set pieces as the flying mechanical enemy fire at the marines that are truly spectacular on the 3D big screen, and can only be watched for full effect in this way. The crumbling building moments that are reminiscent of Roland Emmerich’s apocalyptic 2012, but also benefit from a 3D injection of enveloping dimension to relay the full vertigo effect.
As for the characters, no Transformers film would be complete without LaBeouf as Sam defying all sharp flying objects and incredible odds to save the day – along with lean, ever-ready fighting machines Josh Duhamel and Tyrese Gibson. LaBeouf has grown into the hero role and brings a more compelling and mature Sam to the table in this, without losing any of his cheeky side.
Nevertheless, there are a whole bunch of completely zany and quite eccentric new characters this time, including The Hangover’s Mr Chow, Ken Jeong as Jerry, a scientist of sorts who is woefully underused, John Turturro returning as a wealthier Simmons, totally deranged and with German superstar sidekick, Dutch, played by Alan Tudyk, and Frances McDormand as the slightly unhinged Secret Service head, Mearing, who all gleefully play their roles with a sizable portion of hammy theatrics and lunacy. It feels like a blend of superhero comic caricatures at times, before you return to events concerning the metal alien friends, who humbly share the screen with these larger-than-life humans. However, the biggest head-scratcher is the use of John Malkovich as Sam’s yellow-loving boss, Bruce Brazos, a Zen freak with pearly-white nashers who mysteriously disappears from the picture without any explanation at all.
The annoyance factor this time comes not in the form of headache-inducing special effects, but Huntington-Whiteley. Admittedly, you can appreciate a very attractive female set against a throbbing motor in a film. But Bay squeezes out every last drop of his Brit acting protégé to the point of insanity, as Huntington-Whiteley as Carly, Sam’s new girlfriend, pouts for England, like one long commercial, silhouetted against the glowing haze for all to see – yet again, and again, and again. Megan Fox was also hired for eye candy purposes, but at least the opinionated former Transformers’ starlet could ‘act’ (in the loosest sense, of course). Huntington-Whiteley is appalling – far worse than expected for such an easy-on-the-eye role in an action film, like she’s in constant catwalk mode. Once you’ve seen Bay’s lingering shots up and down her figure a few times, there’s very little else going on behind those glazed doe eyes for film purposes. In fact, there isn’t the same spark with LaBeouf as with the Foxy One, up to the point that we really don’t care if Carly survives or not, any more than we do about ‘throwaway character’ Dylan, played by Patrick Dempsey, her suave boss who sides with the Decepticons.
For big-screen entertainment value, you can’t go wrong with the third in the series. Dark Side of the Moon is designed to be cooed at in 3D and give you a thrilling alien battle on Earth, with one momentous face-off at the end. With lots of nods to other legendary sci-fi films – listen out for a classic Dr. Spock line, TR3 is still an overly-lengthy feature, but is by far the best Transformers film to date, and the first 3D film to get excited about.
By Lisa Giles-Keddie
WATCH THE TRAILER HERE