Friday, September 28, 2012

Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011) - They Successfully Blow Stuff Up

OK, But It's A Let-Down That There's No Megan Fox 

Transformers Dark of the Moon film poster
"Transformers: Dark of the Moon" (2011).

The first two Transformers movies, which starred Shia LaBeouf as Sam and Megan Fox and Megan Fox as Mikaela, made a ton of money. "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" (2011), directed by Michael Bay for Paramount, is the third in the series, but it is missing a key part of the formula from the first two films, which we'll get to below. Of course, "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" made a ton of money just like the previous two films. In fact, "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" was the second-highest grossing film of 2011 and one of the highest-grossing films of all time. Obviously, someone knew what they were doing. Congratulations to everyone involved.

transformers dark of the Moon
"Transformers: Dark of the Moon."

Either you are a fan of Transformers-style action film or you aren't. Basically, the story involves two different alien races fighting for dominion. Earth happens to be their battleground. One robot army is "good," the other isn't. The good guys are led by Optimus Prime, the bad guys by Megatron. The aliens are giant robots that can change shape ("transform," thus "Transformers") and have a lot of power to blow things up. Some humans get in the way, and they get blown up or go running.

transformers dark of the Moon Shia LaBeouf
Shia LaBeouf in "Transformers: Dark of the Moon."

A whole lot of things get blown up in these films. That is why people go to see films like   The makers of these films are very good at blowing things up. They know that is what people want to see, and that it will bring in a ton of money. There is little downside to the explosions because generally the victims aren't people, they are robots, which removes any vestige of human sympathy or empathy.

transformers dark of the Moon Shia LaBeouf Rosie Huntington-Whiteley
Michael Bay knows his craft: he blows things up and gets people thrown all about. Shia LaBeouf knows his craft: he is making it look here as though he is being thrown all about. Rosie Huntington-Whiteley? She knows her stuff, which is modelling. She is stone-cold gorgeous. But as for acting, well, just check out the expression on her face in this "terrifying scene" from "Transformers: Dark of the Moon."

Given the extraordinary excellence of the pyrotechnics, which is the sole point of the film, one could say this is an outstanding film, in fact, it is the high art of the 21st Century.

transformers dark of the Moon Rosie Huntington-Whiteley
Rosie Huntington-Whiteley in "Transformers: Dark of the Moon."

On the downside, there are actors involved. Megan Fox made a comment early in production that was deemed not politically correct, so she was unceremoniously dumped by the film's director, Michael Bay, and producer Steven Spielberg (Bay later hired Fox for his "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" films, so they made up). Let's just say there are certain things you don't speak of lightly in certain company. The fact that Megan was missing, as noted, did not affect the film's box office because actors are not the thing that draws people to films in the "Transformers" series. That's a simple reality of life, and everybody knew that - which is why the felt comfortable firing Megan Fox.

transformers dark of the Moon Rosie Huntington-Whiteley
Rosie Huntington-Whiteley in "Transformers: Dark of the Moon."

Anyway, the people in charge knew that the film's audience came to see robots, destruction and explosions, not actors, so they couldn't have cared less what bodies walked around in between the fireworks. A simple slur was enough for them to deprive Megan and her fans of her presence in this film. The Borgias of medieval Italy exercised power off-handedly in a similar fashion. You know, "she offends me, so off with her head," that sort of thing.

transformers dark of the Moon Shia LaBeouf Rosie Huntington-Whiteley
Shia LaBeouf and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley in "Transformers: Dark of the Moon."

Bay found a British model with almost no acting experience, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, and stuck her in the Megan Fox slot under the character name of "Carly." Beautiful girls are interchangeable, right? Look, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley is strikingly beautiful. She is everyone's dreamgirl, if they have a dreamgirl. Rosie also is fantastically good in promo shots, such as the ones that accompany this article, so she is useful for marketing purposes. However, let's be real: Rosie Huntington-Whiteley also is amazingly inept as an actress. She is as adept at grabbing Shia as they wander through the fake smoking ruins as anyone else and at striking poses, but that's about it. On the positive side of the ledger, the quality of the explosions did not suffer due to Rosie's presence, and she was almost as pleasant for the mostly teenage-boy audience to look at as Megan, in fact maybe more so for some. Thus, the substitution made little difference on the overall quality of the film, or at least on its attraction to its intended audience. However, this is comic book stuff, and that is where the acting lies, at the comic book level.

transformers dark of the Moon Shia LaBeouf Rosie Huntington-Whiteley
Shia LaBeouf and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley in "Transformers: Dark of the Moon."

I could go on and on about how silly the script is, how much of it makes no sense, how trashy the whole concept seems when placed in the same category of works that examine the human condition, and how the acting (especially of Rosie) is atrocious. That's kind of like saying that water is wet. It is what it is, and what it is should be obvious from the promotional campaign, the stars and the entire concept. The point of the film is not the acting, or the dialog, or the witty insights - it is creating infernos of burning combustibles. The people are there to look pretty. They do that. Problem solved.

transformers dark of the Moon Rosie Huntington-Whiteley
Rosie Huntington-Whiteley in "Transformers: Dark of the Moon."

I don't want to sound condescending or anything like that, so I will let a true authority sum this up. Orson Welles played a version of Unicron in one of his final films, "Transformers: The Movie (1986)." He is quoted as famously saying:
I play a planet. I menace somebody called something-or-other. Then I'm destroyed. My plan to destroy Whoever-it-is is thwarted and I tear myself apart on the screen.
He added that Transformers in general is a show where "two groups of toys do awful things to each other." And, let's leave it at that.

Transformers Dark of the Moon


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