The third time is definitely the charm for the Transformers series. Dark of the Moon is not only the best of the three Michael Bay Transformers movies, but it’s a grand apology for the disastrous second movie, and a great way to spend $12 in the middle of the summer. As you expect from a Michael Bay movie, that $12 won’t get you strong characters or world-class acting, but it’ll give you one of the best rides of the summer.
I really hated and despised Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. I understood the circumstances surrounding its creation, but there were so many flat out stupid things going on in that one; an awesome Bumblebee fight scene and Optimus Prime with a jetpack just couldn’t save it. With Dark of the Moon, the movie actually has a story and an awesome Bumblebee fight scene and Optimus Prime with a jetpack are minor compared to what else Bay throws at the audience.
The story is basically the Apollo program tossed into Michael Bay’s Armageddon with the Transformers. The movie puts forth a story that says the entire space race of the 60s was in response to Earth detecting a Cybertronian ship crash landing on the moon. This ship was the Ark (a nice nod to the original series) carrying Sentinel Prime and an Autobot weapon that could have ended the war on Cybertron. It’s been sitting up there on the moon since the 60s, and kept secret to everyone outside of a few people in the US Government.
True, in some ways the same themes are repeated in each Transformer movie. But as a space buff who loves the Apollo program, the story here really appealed to me more. And I know I’m not alone in that. Just framing the movie around the Apollo 11 landing is one thing, but having Buzz Aldrin talking to Optimus Prime is almost a short circuit of awesome for your geek brain.
As expected the human element is the worst part of the movie, but this one has the benefit of John Malkovich being beyond awesome and Ken Jeong stealing every second of his short screen time. But the real reason you see a Transformers movie is for the Transformers themselves, and there’s a whole lot more of them in the third movie.
The first ninety minutes of the movie is basically stupid human crap with a few pretty cool Transformers parts thrown in to keep you awake (there’s a Bumblebee transformation that will cause you to jump out of your chair), while the final hour is a sensory shattering assault on Chicago that makes even a $20 IMAX 3D ticket worth every penny. Give me a Blu-Ray of that final hour that I can run on a loop and I’d be very happy.
That final hour just doesn’t stop and before it gets close to ending you’ll literally be exhausted by Bay’s unbelievable action scenes, but you won’t want to it to end. And when it does end, it goes with such a bang that you’ll walk out of the theater with a huge grin on your face while worshiping the ultimate summer bad ass of 2011; Optimus Prime. If you’re old enough to remember seeing the original animated Transformers movie in theaters and can remember seeing that Optimus/Megatron fight for the first time; the stuff Optimus does at the end of this movie is even more awesome than that was.
Of all of the big summer movies this year, Transformers is really the only one where paying the IMAX 3D premium feels worth it. No movie since Avatar has done that.