July 1, 2011 -- Michael Bay's mission, and he chose to accept it, was to make a Transformers movie sequel that was not as bad as the last one. The last Transformers sequel, Transformers 2, was one of the worst blockbuster movies I've ever seen. It made Bay's much-scorned “Pearl Harbor” look like “Gone With the Wind.” The bar was set very low for the success of this mission and Bay cleared the bar with ease. This sequel is better than the last one. Not a good film, but a little above average for a Hollywood film.
This film reminds me a bit of “2012” in that it is a big over-the-top, effects-driven movie about epic destruction and improbable escapes by the heroes. In this case the whole world is in peril as a mad scientist plans to sacrifice the earth and its people to rebuild a lost empire. It all starts with a conspiracy theory about the Apollo moon program (not the one about how the landings were faked). In this case the moon landing program was a front for an expedition to find an alien space craft that had crashed on the moon. This alien craft had a powerful weapon on board. Naturally, this weapon is found and brought to earth, where it is used to threaten the earth and all its people. The film includes a glitzy recreation of the Apollo moon landings.
It is interesting to note that even with the advanced technology of the 21st century, the recreated Apollo footage showing the moon looks fake (but slick) and the original Apollo footage still looks authentic by comparison. The tell-tale detail is the acceleration of gravity on the moon is versus earth's faster gravity acceleration. On the moon, the real astronauts were seen moving at full speed horizontally, but they, and the moon dust they kicked up, rose higher and fell at a slower rate than they would have if the sequence been filmed on earth. In other words, their horizontal speed was relatively faster than their vertical falling speed. Scenes filmed on earth and slowed down to simulate low-gravity, as they are in this film, show the same horizontal to vertical speed ratios we see on earth. Filmmakers, even with modern trickery, still haven't managed to fake moon conditions, let alone faking it more than 40 years ago with primitive video equipment.
The government gets the whole alien conspiracy wrong, and it is up to Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf, reprising his role from the previous films), Simmons (John Turturro, reprising his role) and a small band of brothers, to save the world. One of the more interesting people in this band of heroes is Dutch (Alan Tudyk of “3:10 to Yuma”). Dutch is a mysterious guy with all kinds of odd talents. He also has more of a personality than many characters in this film. One of the main characters missing from the previous two Transformer films is Megan Fox. Replacing her as sex symbol is Carly (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley). The camera spends a lot of time on her curvaceous body.
There is some high-level acting talent in this film, including multi-award-winner John Malkovich and Academy Award-winning Best Actress (in “Fargo”) Frances McDormand. Playing themselves in the film are former astronaut Buzz Aldrin and talk show host Bill O'Reilly. This being an effects-driven film there really isn't much room for acting subtleties, but Tudyk and Turturro stand out for their subversive sense of fun in their performances. This film would have benefitted from a lot more humor. The main attractions of this film are the special effects and non-stop action. The story is good enough to keep from stalling the film. The effects are truly amazing, including the 3D effects. At nearly two hours and 40 minutes, this is a long film, but I didn't check my watch or fight to stay awake as I did in “Transformers 2.” Michael Bay has completed his possible mission. This film rates a C+.
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