Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 opens today, and will inevitably end the two-week reign of Transformers: The Dark of the Moon at the box office. As of July 10, 2011, Transformers 3 had made $261,078,700 in the United States alone. If you were to look at the money made by Transformers 3, you may be inclined to think that this movie would be good despite the previous two outings. Unfortunately, you would be wrong.
To be clear, I am not one of the many moviegoers that hated Transformers 1 and 2. In fact, I kind of liked them. Kind of. They certainly were not great cinematic gems, but they could be fun at times. Perhaps I have higher expectations for movies now than I did when the first two were released, but Transformers 3 just didn’t do it for me. It was still high in action, but all character development was conspicuous by its absence.
I don’t remember hating Shia LaBeouf’s character, Sam Witwicky, in the previous two movies, but he was incredibly hard to support as a protagonist in this one. I found him to be completely unlikable, and was actually hoping for his “heroic” death. I’ve come to believe that Sam is nothing more than a cocky, self-centered jerk. Even when saving the world from the evil Decepticons, I believe he had selfish motivations. Sam needed to save humanity for his own sake, so that he could feel important. He may display acts of fearlessness, but his courage is not rooted in fighting for the greater good, but rather in his own sense of value.
One of my favorite things about Transformers 3 was the addition of the great Leonard Nimoy to the cast as the Autobot, Sentinel Prime. I liked Sentinel Prime’s design, other than the strange pirate beard. Seriously, why does a robot have a beaded beard?
Nimoy’s presence led to a well-placed callback to Star Trek, when Sentinel Prime quoted Spock’s famous line from the Wrath of Khan: “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.” There were also other Star Trek references, including a building being likened to the Enterprise, and an actual episode of Star Trek: The Original Series playing on a TV in Sam’s home, giving movie watchers a chance to see Spock on screen.
As a director, Bay failed in keeping me immersed in the movie because of his resolve to put visually appealing scenes above the importance of story (or even plain logic). He took multiple opportunities to keep long shots in the film in which the main characters were standing still in the midst of a war, essentially posing as explosions went off around them. One particular scene comes to mind in which three of the main characters stand together during an Autobot/Decepticon smackdown, and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, while standing on top of a car, squats down for no apparent reason. Bay then holds this shot and we are left with pointless seconds of screen time going to the trio staring off towards the battle. This is especially noticeable, because her position doesn’t even look natural. Is squatting down just more comfortable when standing on top of a car while gazing at the apocalypse?
Bay also failed at knowing how to properly use the human element of his cast, underutilizing the film’s best actors (John Turturro, Frances McDormand, and John Malkovich), and over utilizing its worst.
While there were some mildly-surprising twists in characters’ loyalties, the few interesting plot points were not enough to compensate for the overall emptiness that made up the rest of this movie. Final grade: 2 out of 5 Stars.
Good review, Matt. I doubt I will see this one.
Matt, I’m convince Michael Bay is just a machine that self-generates movies. He is much like Watson, the Jeopardy! robot, but with less understanding of character development.
I’m with Max. I think I will skip this one unless I get really bored and it’s on Netflix Instant someday.