Watch & Dish: Transformers 2

Transformers 3: Directed by Michael Bay, Produced by Steven Spielberg: Paramount Pictures

A Geeky Chic insider’s look in to the movie awaits you: while an expanded version of the basic synopsis is used with no spoilers of main plot arc, those who wish to be completely suprised should steer away! Discussions of story, style, and breakout performance are underway!

Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon was released in time for the Independence Day Weekend (June 29) and has become the highest grossing films to be released across both 3-day and 4-day holiday weekend with $97 million (Friday-Sunday), and as of July 4th was sitting pretty at $161 million since opening on a late Tuesday night 3D engagement. While some may be crying lackluster given Revenge of the Fallen $62 million in its first day alone, let me be the first to say this is my kind of failure. Sign me up for the next bout of it!  The final installment of  Autobots, Decepticons, and the Earth they now share (battle) on with Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) goes a little something like this.

Story:   The space race between the US and the USS, JFK’s ambition to put a man on the moon within the decade as well as Sputnik’s purpose are all tied to what the heads of nations know, and the general populace does not: We are not alone.  The years go by from the 60’s to the present day, and as it is well known by the start of the film the Autobots now participate in human affairs while still looking for their Decepticon enemies. Cities are equipped with energon sensors.  Speculation on extra terrestrial intelligence has been proven quite real, and the young man who saved the world twice in the present modern era is….a victim of the recession. Let it be said that just because one graduates from an Ivy League university on the government dollar and saves the world , their future is not secure.  Unemployment will cause you to choke on self-worth issues as you move from interview to interview while your alien friends continue to work for the United States government. As a consolation however you can anticipate: living in a pretty swanky apartment on the evident dime of your so-hot-it-should-be-illegal girlfriend Carly Spencer (Rosie Huntington Whiteley) and having her to discuss societal woes while she has a resume that includes working for the British embassy and a rich business man.  Sam is a victim of the millennial generation of graduates with a whole lot of education and not enough willingness to hire to go around. When at last he finally does land the entry level, career enhancing yet potentially soul killing job  the world around him begins to disintegrate in to ego-laden hatred against his girlfriend’s boss (Patrick Dempsey), acceptance of his company’s policies with the help of an eecentric boss, (John Malkovich) and the ensuing of spy-style mayhem with a healthy dose of alien robot action that involves Bay’s staple style of panning slow motion shots and explosions all over. A race against time is now in effect as the Autobots discover Decepticon plans that could literally change the face of the world as we know it.

Without ruining the entire joyride, it can be said that what was once thought loss is still around, that double crossing is alive within the alien and human ranks, the bad guys are really cranking it up ten notches on what they intend to do with this planet they’re on, and blending science fiction with historical fact as the world stands in peril is not a bad idea at all.

This movie will move tow to tow with X Men: First Class by way of making the historic in to the fantastic. Where X Men utilized the Cuban Missile Crisis, The Space Race is an inspired idea when it comes to utilizing a reason to go to the moon, and that the current president at the beginning of the decade down to the one that ends it know of it casts an interesting parallel with our “giant step for man kind”.  The explanation given for the use of Chernobyl also earned extra points. Relevance equated to quick reasons of acceptance due to the use of these scenarios just enough to provide a background without becoming too heavy.

One of the stand out aspects of the writing came to be that the best dialogue was not given to the human actors, but the robot members of the cast. It was high time the franchise dug down in to the effect of the civilization’s rise, fall, and powerful players had on those that remained behind. Optimus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen) exhibits emotions as large as himself: awe, respect, anger, fear, and determination to his final purpose. The other team members are developed in personality even if their script time is minimal.  From the decrepit fall of Megatron (Hugo Weaving) from physical grace, the perpetual diligence of Shockwave to his master, and the gems from the rest of either team a viewer will not be disappointed. I feel this is the first time in the franchise that the development of the entire Cybertronian race came to the fore as a matter of importance instead of a mere afterthought.  Films 1 and 2 did not go as in depth as film 3.  I was delighted to enjoy the mythos of Cyberton on the big screen.

On the downside, some of the human actors needed a little more in their saddle bags. Witwicky became far too predictable due to the flat note of the lines. Huntington-Whitley like Megan Fox before her got shafted in this department entirely. All of her lines were either 1) relationship related or empowering to the jobless male in her life 2) victim creating or 3) useful to driving the plot for a short while or giving her a moment’s appearance of strength before settling her back to eye candy in heels.  The reprisal of Epps (Tyrese Gibson) was good, but it was not  given more highlight prior to the turning point where he took center stage.  John Tuturro’s Simmons provided my comic relief than genuine plot device beyond obvious necessity due in part to the character he was given to play. It seemed that to put focus in one place let areas of necessity go to the wayside. If you are going to have any sort of human interest invested in the picture to last the length of two and a half hours, go the whole distance.

Breakout Performances:  One man who benefited from good characterization and lines was Dylan, played by Patrick Dempsey. There was no question of his purpose or objective.  He plays the part of privileged assistant well. Furthermore, as the film progresses we see an unraveling in some of that privelege to find the core of him as man having inherited a legacy that no one would pick for themselves in their right minds. Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen) has always been one of the most souled of the bio-mech species other than Bumblebee. Watching him struggle with the fate of the old world as he knew it and his place on the present one is a joy.   Yet the largest performance of the film goes to one of the Autobots: Sentinel Prime (voiced by Leonard Nimoy)

Sentinel Prime inspires reverent awe from Optimus Prime the same way Luke learns to respect Yoda. That, and let’s face it. It’s Leonard Nimoy. This man is a sci-fi god.  Not to mention what more bad ass credits could you have for the job than being in the original 80’s animated movie alongside the voice of Orson Welles?  He makes the metal plates covering his character seem the armor on a larger than life man instead. Nimoy came out of retirement to fill the roll, and thank  the Allspark he did!  Moviegoers will be awed, shocked, and thrilled with Nimoy as a Transformer.

Sentinel Prime, Former Leader of the Autobots: Paramount Pictures

Style: After seeing the film in 2-D and being no less than amazed by the action sequences and hearing the film was done with actual 3-D cameras, I feel a second run to the theater to see it in this manner will be worth it. Having decried the 3-D camera before as Bay said it was too cumbersome for his quick, sporadic style, I have to wonder how scenes filmed in the actual technology will look versus converted material.  In either medium one sees it, they can expect explosions, fast chases, and mind blowing special effects.  Action is an area where Bay hardly disappoints as with a resume including Armageddon and Pearl Harbor, its a staple.  The rest of the package comes wrapped up in a neat visual bow matching characters to appropriate costume colors against scenes making use of open light to accentuate their expression or highlight assets.

The largest dissapointment in the style section comes with the overall way the female lead is portrayed. Rosie Huntington-Whiteley came on board as Carly Spencer following the removal of Fox from the cast, taking with her character Mikaela Banes.  Carly Spencer is a character from the original U.S. series, and eventually becomes Carly Witwicky. (To see more on the Witwicky’s and other Transformer’s characters, follow the link here to a character list).  Huntington-Whiteley takes on for her first major acting role a character who’s potential is limited by screenwriting that victimizes her after showing flickers of intelligence too sooon cut off! One would almost say it’s standard issue for any pretty face in the industry to cut their chops on something light, where the main focus is looks.  I say the shame comes in the fact Bay had on his hands an actress with evident places he could help to mold with real craft and instead chose to give us an opening shot featuring a camera so far up her backside it was a practical hand reaching out to touch it.

Moments such as these were peppered in the other movies as well, and the character of Carly Spencer suffers the same limited scope as Mikaela Banes: intelligent young women with evident skills to offer, only doing so in the background of the past or in limited onscreen moments to accentuate some brains-over-beauty point, which is completely lost the moment Bay zooms in on their breasts and backsides.  The script writers, too, are also at fault, given it is from their writing these images are coming to life.  The most active participant in this entire franchise was the character of Mearing (Francis McDormand) who had to be hard-as-nails blacksuit to fit in with over-the-top masculine charicatures.  The only female Transformers bit the dust far too early in Revenge of the Fallen. What gives with theme here, Bay?

Many reviewers will by now have written that women in the audience are the sorts to like gears, guns, and action. Count me down for all three.  Who says face paced action epics are for boys?  With that being in mind? If I wanted to see shots of Rosie Huntington-Whiteley’s ass or exaggerated looks at her legs, Google has me covered, thanks. She’s a Victoria Secret model. That shot was ten times worse than Fox’s moments leaning in to a motorcycle. This one felt almost like the camera was about to take her down.

On film she was supposed to have worked in British foreign relations. I see her in the Oval Office, in a suit, for a hot minute where the rest of the film she is in tight little numbers. Even in designer short mini skirts a woman can show her intelligence more than for two minutes at a time.  Given the role she had in the Transformers Universe pre-Bay, this would have been a great time to give the girls a role model that stands on par with the boys. But again, we are subject to a female lead managing to stay relatively clean while sliding down glass buildings, running in debris, most often times behind Shia LaBeouf. Prior to this she is being carted around by Patrick Dempsey against her will.

A word to the wise, Mr. Bay, and all you men in the business: Puting us women in mini skirts or jeans at the end of the day is a costuming choice that  will be forgotten if you start giving us more women that sink their teeth in the main plots alongside their significant other without having to be bait for the man to do right!  If we have to watch our sisters run around battle grounds in daisy dukes and heels, give her a gun instead of having her scream when her man leaves the safety of their hiding place behind?  Even Mearing, for all of the no-nonsense she brought to the character, could have used far more argumentative moments with the males in her company before admitting she was wrong.  Beauty shots of a woman looking baffled with slow motion behind her head is also not always the way to go, either.

Carly Spencer did have  a shining moment of glory in a one on one with one of the Decepticons.  I cleave to that, as well as her having paid attention to a few precious plot arcs.  In all earnest, I hope to see more of this actress. Just with less cameras from Hollywood going up her ass, literally.
Final Grade: The summer is dominated by films based on popular comic books, animations, and favorite novels.  Whatever flaws it may have, Transformers 3 stands as the best addition to the franchise. It is action packed, full of twists, and just good robot-in-disguise fun.  The Geeky Chic sends this message out in to the galaxy by giving the overall effort an A-.

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