“What was that!?” a disorientated Lennox shouts. “That was Shockwave.” At that point; I can only imagine that any G1 fan with even a hint of knowledge about this motherf**ker, would have felt the same spine-tingling sensation that I did during an early sequence featuring NEST operations in Chernobyl. But, to my dismay, Shockwave’s title as the ‘new villain’ seemed to be brushed aside for a large part of the film. The one eyed Decepticon returned to churn up mayhem in Chicago around 90 minutes after his initial introduction, leaving anticipated fans like me wary of why he didn’t play such a pivotal role? That’s because, he didn’t - and in honesty (without giving too much away) he went out like a bitch. His character and many others of his allies around him all felt the steely blow of a ‘one hit kill’ quartet. With a huge build up and a hint of character development (Bay introducing character development!?), it seemed that each of the Decepticons should have had a bigger role to play in what the viewers ultimately paid to see - robot fighting.
That being said; the visual effects and set pieces throughout the film were nothing short of ground breaking. If a short film had been contained specifically around the final hour of the film, I’d have struggled not to give it 5 stars for the effects alone. But… There’s another 90 minutes to deal with before we get to that part the narrative. For most of the opening hour and a half, the storyline was credible in comparison to its predecessors and it seemed that Bay had actually managed to produce a plot which stuck. The opening sequence in which the war for Cybertron brings the Ark crashing down on the Moon was probably one of my most favourite scenes in the whole experience, intertwining phenomenal CGI and 3D with an intelligent storyline following the 1969 Apollo 11 mission. It felt believable in parts, hooking the viewer from the off.
I admit, even as a fan who wanted this film to be action packed throughout, the action needed a break to establish a story. But, it failed to keep me interested in parts during the first hour, most notably through Ken Jeong’s waste of a character. I won’t go into it. Bruce - Sam’s new boss (played my John Malkovich) seemed wasted also, only present to add short and mediocre elements of humour. Sam’s parents also reprise their roles in this one, taking a back seat, but still there pulling below belt and childish jokes. In truth though, there was nothing in the film that I despised or even took a major dislike to. Yes, the scenes in which Sam progresses in the workplace seemed far too fleshed out, and some of it could have been removed or replaced with more of what we came to see. But only the most critical nit-pickers would choose to let unnecessary extended scenes cloud their vision through a largely entertaining first two acts. Carly - Sam’s new girlfriend isn’t on for an Oscar nomination with her performance, but her glamorous looks and decent composure kept her from completely failing. An improvement on Fox, I’d say. Patrick Dempsey’s character of Carly’s new boss is in contrast to some other characters in the film, a welcome addition to the cast though.
Here’s what I liked besides the scenes in Chicago then. Sentinel Prime’s character was a stroke of genius on the part of the writers, voiced brilliantly by Leonard Nimoy (Spock from the original Star Trek). His appearances feature less than I would have hoped, but the character’s pivotal significance to the narrative made for gripped seat viewing. Although the final hour proved to provide a bonanza of fun, the chase sequence featuring: the Decepticon Dreads (as Chevrolet Suburbans), Bumblebee, Sideswipe and Dino (yes, that is his confirmed name), is a true spectacle. Ironhide also comes to join the party soon after, adding to the excitement ten fold through a pistol stand-off of sorts. Brilliant! The climax to this particular scene is also one that will hit the viewer hard with a sense of “what the f**k!?” I shall say no more. Optimus Prime once again proves to deliver in the former half of the film, leading the Autobots through darker times honourably.
New editions to the allies cast include: Ferrari 458 Italia - Dino, Inventor – Q, The Wreckers and Wheelie’s friend Brains. Wheelie and Brains seem to add light humour to proceedings, harmless fun which can’t be criticised, only sniggered at. They didn’t do the plot any harm, without adding a great deal either. Dino has a few decent lines early on, although the Italian accented character took his place in background fighting for the most part of the film. Q seemed to be Irish of sorts, having two or three lines I believe, whilst The Wreckers made for a group of NASCAR promotional material. They gave a handful of decent performances throughout the final sequences, though only being introduced over half way through the storyline.
Unlike in previous instalments of the franchise, character deaths brought emotion, making even the most hardened viewers at least well up inside… If not physically. Be prepared for utter carnage in Chicago, because pivotal deaths are on the cards from the off - and they do happen. Decepticon deaths, as I said are numerous, plus the final word on a forgotten bad guy from the first film is played out. Guess who? Tyrese Gibson reprises his role as Epps in this one, giving a solid performance and the best of his three so far. Captain Lennox is there once again also. Josh Duhamel’s character gives what you would expect, although Epps’ role in the film just pips his. The wingsuit soldiers scene is phenomenal and dizzying, where as the toppling skyscraper spectacle (which turns out to be longer than you may expect) will blow you away. The Chicago aspect to this film is brilliant… Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant… Until a point. It seems that all of the build up serves to provide a rushed anti-climax to proceedings, giving the viewer a sense of satisfaction yet a feeling of “was that it?” Don’t get me wrong, the whole film is an action packed blitzkrieg, but the ending just seems to come a little too fast. After 154 minutes, nobody can deny that the film is long enough. But maybe, Michael Bay could have transferred some of the largely useless scenes from the opening parts of the movie into making the ultimatum a more detailed one.
The Verdict: As I said and will always say, you don’t go into Transformers films looking for answers to niggling questions or for a ground breaking plot. You go into them to see good robots fight bad robots. You go into them to have a taste of visual heaven. You go into them to feel like you’re 12 years old again. Okay, there are some flaws to Dark of the Moon, but who was expecting it to be spotless from these? I for sure wasn’t. You take the whole franchise with a pinch of salt and say “hey, for 2 and half hours, I’m going to enjoy myself”. That’s what I did this evening, and boy, did I enjoy myself! Go watch it, even if you hate the idea of transforming robots. Trust me, the visuals alone will be enough to ensure you have a blast.