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Blu-ray Review: Transformers – Dark of the Moon

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I cannot claim to be any big fan of Michael Bay, but I would be lying if I said that his loud, brash, nonsensical movies do not entertain me in some small way. There is always room on my movie shelf for his brand of overblown action. It is just like he said in that commercial: “I make things awesome.” Indeed he does. Seriously, there is nobody around that blows stuff up in such an artistically beautiful fashion as he does. With the Transformers franchise, you would think it would be the perfect match of subject and sensibility, but it has never quite come to fruition. Transformers: Dark of the Moon is far from perfect, but it certainly offers some interesting Bay-styled chaos (and is better than its predecessors).

I remember watching this in theaters and thinking this was by far his best take yet on giant robots. Sure, it was still a load of loud hooey, but it has a certain hypnotic factor, sort of like a car crash, you just can’t look away. Yes, the movie is a touch to long side and yes, there are some scenes that gone on for an eternity, but at least it was a bit easier to follow the action. The film was presented in 3D and it was well executed at that, and I think it was at least partially due to this presentation that the action was as comparatively easy to follow as it was. I suspect that it had to be slowed down a bit and more clearly defined to allow the dimensional effect to have any impact. Of course, I could be wrong and it was pure dumb luck.

As the movie opens, we are given some voice over by Optimus Prime (the awesome voice of Peter Cullen) telling of the war with the Decepticons and how the Autobots are now working with a special military task force to seek out ongoing Decepticon threat as well as more human related issues. It is during one of these missions that a piece of a long thought lost Autobot ship is found with Decepticons hot on its trail. This leads to renewed robot violence. This also brings us to the need to bring Sam Witwicky (Shia Lebeouf) back into the fold.

Sam, complete with a medal awarded to him by the President, is on the job hunt. He is no longer dating Megan Fox (bonus points to the movie just for her absence), now he is living with Carly (model Rosie Huntington-Whitely), along with a couple of small robots. He is without work and more than a little sensitive before landing a job with John Malkovich, alongside conspiracy theorist Ken Jeong. Yes, they do use other names, but I don’t think it really matters what their characters names are (you can put them alongside the unnamed Transformers and the named ones I couldn’t keep straight). Well, Decepticons show up and thrust him back into the action.

The plot has Sam, the Autobots, and Josh Duhamel facing off with the Decepticons and a CIA agent played by Frances McDormand. The Decepticons plan is to use these newly found rod things to transport their home planet of Cybertron into Earth’s orbit, it also involves the reason we went to the Moon (there was a crashed spaceship to explore) and the subsequent conspiracy to keep it all hush hush.

Silly stuff to be certain, but the shaky story and half-baked characters are mere window dressing for the real star, the robot on robot action. It is almost like Michael Bay used the first two movies as warm ups for this one. Dark of the Moon brings the robot action to a new level. Instead of having the fights covered up, they are right out in the open in full view of humanity with no chance of a cover up. In other words, prepare to see Chicago get turned into a complete war zone. Watch Autobot on Decepticon violence. Listen to metal screech, bend, and break. I won’t lie, there may be no soul, but it still makes the kid inside me smile.

Now, I can deal with weak story, terrible dialogue, and silly characters, but there some really annoying things about this movie. First off, the Sam’s parents keep getting worse and worse, the writing for them makes them out to be complete jokes and I do not care for it. While that is bad, I think the worst thing about his movie is Sam Witwicky. I do not know if it is Shia Labeouf or just the writing, but the character is just a jerk. He yells and cries and moans about everything and treats everybody like crap. You could completely cut him out of the movie without hurting a thing. It would probably help.

Audio/Video. The film is presented in its original ratio of 2.35:1 and looks gorgeous. Say what you will about the actual content, there is nothing to complain about with how it looks. There are no artifacts or any type of issue that I saw. Colors are bright and sharp, details are exactly what they should be. I would like to point you towards the best scenes, but they all look good. I could say to watch the battle in Chicago, or the robots standing around discussing strategy and they would look equally great. I guess I could just point you to the highway chase and see if you can spot the insert shot that was reused from The Island.

As for the sound? Equally fantastic. It has a lossless 7.1 Dolby TrueHD that is great. It uses the full sound field to its advantage, plunging you into the often chaotic (always chaotic?) world of Michael Bay. Explosions wrap around you, music is perfectly recreated, dialogue is always nice and clear.

In all seriousness, this is a great Blu-ray on a technical level. It looks and sounds great, probably the best I have experienced. There is no way around it. The only problem I can see is wrapping yourself around the content of the movie.

Extras. The extra material is given its own Blu-ray disk and is rather exhaustive in its comprehensiveness.

  • Above and Beyond: Exploring the Dark of the Moon. This is a collection of five featurettes and runs a combined 1:50. This near two-hour documentary covers the entire production and is more honest at times than I would have expected. It is an interesting look at the development of the film and is well worth checking out.
  • Uncharted Territory: NASA’s Future Then and Now. This runs for nearly half an hour and gives an overview of the space program and where it may be going. Not really movie related, but still pretty interesting.
  • Deconstructing Chicago: Multi-Angle Sequences. This is pretty interesting, it allows you to see how some f the planning went down and how they compare to the final product. You can watch them individually or alongside the final shots.
  • The Art of Cybertron. This is a collection of stills showing design work for many of the Transformers and gear in the movie.
  • The Dark of the Moon Archive. This is a collection of smaller featurettes that include an interview with Bay and James Cameron on 3D, some premiere footage, sound design, and more.
  • The Matrix of Marketing. Trailers and stills of posters and promo items.
  • The Includes  a 3D Blu-ray, standard Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital Copy.
Bottom Line. Again, I would be lying if I said this movie did not entertain me, it did and is likely my favorite of the three. On a technical level it is an absolute marvel with some great effects and is just great to look at. So far as content goes, it is a bit more questionable and your mileage may vary. I am sure this will get watched from time to time, but it is by no means a classic.
Mildly Recommended. 

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About Draven99

  • Damien

    Great article!! I’ve seen the first episode and found it great at first, then the enthusiasm quickly faded. The second one was catastrophic so I didn’t even dare take a look at the third one. Your review kind of pushes me in that direction though! I guess my main gripe with the whole franchise is with the robots being too weird and not resembling the original cartoon/toys… I know, nerdy territories we are venturing in :)

  • http://www.xicanista.net xicanista

    Great action scenes!