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Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011)

Paramount Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 9/30/2011

All Ratings out of
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Extras: No Extras

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 10/3/2011

There's no such thing as a perfect movie. I can admit that even my favorite movies have flaws. Now, on the contrary, there are movies which get everything wrong. But, most movies live somewhere in the middle, where they are a combination of good elements and bad elements. We typically take these elements and make what we will of the film. However, sometimes a movie comes along where the satisfying and unsatisfying parts clash into a kind of yin-yang concoction which simply confounds the viewer. This is the case with Transformers: Dark of the Moon.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon picks up not long after the events of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) has finished college and he's now living in Washington, DC with his new girlfriend, Carly (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley) (Apparently, Megan Fox dumped him.) Sam is unemployed and looking for a job. Meanwhile, the Autobots are working for the government, traveling the world and keeping the peace. Through a series of random events, Sam learns that an Autobot spaceship landed on the moon back in the early 1960s and the government has kept it a secret. A group of Autobots travel to the moon and find Sentinel Prime (voiced by Leonard Nimoy) in the ship. The giant robot is barely alive, so Opitmus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen) uses his power to revive Sentinel, who explains that the ship once held hundreds of "pillars" which can be used to create a "space-bridge" between Earth and Cybertron. Decepticon leader Megatron (voiced by Hugo Weaving) plans to use the pillars to bring the robot's home planet into Earth's orbit and enslave humanity. Sam, Optimus, and their old pal, Lennox (Josh Duhamel), must work together to stop this evil Decepticon plot.

Although the whole "pillar" and "space bridge" thing is a bit vague, that synopsis is pretty straight-forward. But, this brings us to the first problem with Transformers: Dark of the Moon. The story described above only scratches the surface of what is going on in this movie. Sam is jealous of Carly's rich, playboy employer, Dylan (Patrick Dempsey). Sam's parents (Kevin Dunn & Julie White) come to town and harass Sam for not having a job. Government agent Mearing (Frances McDormand) oversees the Autobots with an iron fist and hates outside interference. Sam contacts disgraced agent Simmons (John Turturro) for help, and he insists on bringing along technical wiz, Dutch (Alan Tudyk). So, we get a 2 1/2 hour movie which feels that it has to squeeze in every bit of this mess of a story by Ehren Kruger. And I didn't even mention John Malkovich's weird character. The movie jumps from scene-to-scene doing its best to juggle all of these storylines.

And I can't help but wonder why it felt that it had to do this, because I don't know about you, but I cam here to see robots. The robot action (which we'll discuss further in a moment) is further hampered by the odd changes in tone in the movie. While watching Transformers: Dark of the Moon, I kept asking myself, "At whom is this movie aimed?" We get elementary school potty humor combined with sexual innuendos followed by all kinds of violence. Obviously there was action in the first two films (although, I just admit, I blocked out most of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen), but I don't remember humans being vaporized and robots blowing each other's heads off. The oddest element comes from Wheelie (voiced by Tom Kenny) and Brains (voiced by Reno Wilson), two smart-mouthed Autobots who live with Sam. Their comedy act feels as if it's coming from a completely different movie (and not a very good one). Director Michael Bay's early films always had elements of comedy, but Transformers: Dark of the Moon is simply silly at times and these scenes feels incredibly awkward.

The sickening part of all of this is that Transformers: Dark of the Moon offers some of the most convincing and seamless visual effects that I've ever seen. The robot battles look incredible and it's amazing how the CG creations interact with humans and real-life backgrounds. Bay may not be able to tell a story, but he certainly knows how to shoot an action scene. But, this movie proves that you can have too much of a good thing. The action scenes simply go on and on, and as all of the Decepticons look like, they all blur together after a while. This all goes far beyond mind (and butt) numbing.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon offers an interesting central plot (the whole moon thing holds promise) and fantastic specials effects. But, it also redefines overkill. This could have been a great 105 minute movie if all of the subplots were lost and the action scenes were trimmed down to a sane running-time. Instead, we're left with a bloated, redundant action film where Optimus Prime is never around when you need him. Seriously, this guy's name should be Optimus "What did I miss?" Prime.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon is clearly jealous of what Chris Nolan did with locales in Chicago on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Paramount Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 28 Mbps. The image is incredibly sharp and clear, showing no grain or defects from the source material. I have to assume that the lack of extras mean that the movie wasn't squeezed onto the disc. The colors look very good and the image is never overly dark or bright. The image is very detailed and we can see every scratch on Optimus Prime. The depth is very good as well, and this non-3D version does a fine job of separating foreground from background. The Disc contains a Dolby TrueHD 7.1 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.8 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. This is a fantastic, demo-quality track. The surround sound effects are nearly constant and some of the most detailed effects that I've ever heard. This goes for the stereo effects as well, which accurately depict sounds off-screen. The movie is filled with meticulously designed sound effects, especially those of the robots, and we can pick out every single one of them. The subwoofer is wall-rattling and plunges us into the action.

The Transformers: Dark of the Moon Blu-ray Disc contains no extra features. (Paramount has already pretty much confirmed that a special edition will be available fairly soon.)

UPDATE:

As we knew that they would, on January 31, 2012, Paramount Home Entertainment released a special edition of Transformers: Dark of the Moon. This set contains four discs; a Blu-ray Disc identical to the previous release, a Blu-ray Disc containing a 3-D version of the film (compatible with 3-D TVs), a DVD containing only the film, and a Blu-ray Disc of special features. It's this last Disc which will be exploring, as it's loaded with extras. (Although, if you haven't already figured this out, there is no audio commentary with this movie.) "Above and Beyond: Exploring Dark of the Moon" is a five-part featurette which runs about 110 minutes. The most interesting thing here is the admission by several involved that Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen wasn't a very good movie. (This doesn't explain how they let Transformers: Dark of the Moon be a disappointing movie as well, but it's still interesting.) The piece explores the development of Dark of the Moon, especially in the aftermath of Revenge of the Fallen. It takes a long look at the inspiration and design/re-design of the new and familiar robots in the movie. In another surprising move, the departure of Megan Fox is discussed -- not in a gossipy way, but it is addressed. From there, we get an in-depth look at the shooting of several key scenes, most notably those which take place on location in places like Washington, D.C., Florida, and Chicago. The unique aerial stunts in the film are explored and discussed, and then we see the post-production process, including editing, the visual effects and the inclusion of 3D. I certainly appreciate how detailed this featurette is, but this isn't one of those movies where we watch it and think "How'd they do that?" Because we know that it was computer magic and rarely something on-set which is fun to watch.

"Uncharted Territory: NASA's Future Then and Now" (26 minutes) is a mini-documentary which explores many of the accomplishments of the U.S. space program. Several NASA employees share their memories of the major events in space exploration and discuss the next steps which the agency can take.

"Deconstructing Chicago: Multi-Angle Sequences" is split into two sections, both of which take advantage of the Blu-ray's ability to switch viewing angles. "Previsualizations" (17 minutes) (CG mockups of a scene) consists of twelve scenes in which the viewer can choose between watching the previsualizations or a comparison between the previsualization and the final shot. These can also be viewed with audio commentary from Director Michael Bay and Previsualization Supervisor Steve Yamamoto. "Visual Effects" also offers twelve selections in which we can watch the VFX breakdowns, which show how CG effects and live-action shots are layered or the VFX breakdowns and a comparison to the final shot. These can be viewed with an optional commentary from Visual Effects Supervisors Scott Farrar and Matthew Butler.

"The Art of Cybertron" is a multi-part still gallery which offers very detailed and glossy concept art for Autobots, Decepticons, Environments, and Weapons and Gear.

"The Dark of the Moon Archive" offers five brief featurettes. "3D: A Transforming Visual Art" (3 minutes) shows Michael Bay and James Cameron discussing the use of 3D in film. "Moscow World Premiere" (3 minutes) offers coverage of the film's debut in Red Square. "Birdmen Featurette" (2 minutes) briefly explains how the winged skydiving suits made it into the film. In "Cody's iPad" (2 minutes), Bay introduces us to Cody, a unique fan of Bay's films. "The Sound of Transformers: Dark of the Moon (9 minutes) has comments from the sound design team who discuss the work which goes into making and mixing the interesting sounds which fill the movie.

"The Matrix of Marketing" offers the TEASER and the THEATRICAL TRAILER for the film. We also get a still gallery which contains posters, promotional items and concession stand items.

Review Copyright 2011/2012 by Mike Long