Futuristic Movie Month: "Transformer: Dark of the Moon" Review

Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures

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Rating: PG-13
Length: 154 minutes
Release Date: June 29, 2011
Directed by: Michael Bay
Genre: Action and Adventure / Science Fiction and Fantasy

"Transformers: Dark of the Moon" is the third installation in the Transformer movies series, following "Transformers" and "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen." Michael Bay continues as director of this action-packed sequel, and Shia LaBeouf resumes his role as Sam Witwicky, the human who is most intricately involved with the transforming Autobots. Both provide continuity, and the stunning visual effects and interesting plot that melds history with the present day take this film over the top in the Transformer universe.

"Transformers: Dark of the Moon" opens with a return to the past. In 1961, a Transformer ship, the Ark, crashes onto the dark side of the moon. NASA alerts President Kennedy to the anomaly, and the president decides to send a rocket into space to investigate. It takes 8 years to prepare for the mission, but in 1969, the Apollo 11 mission succeeds. This integration of history adds interest to the plot of the movie. President Kennedy hides the true nature of the mission's quest from the public, which creates tension and infuses the film with an undercurrent of humor right from the start. The integration of historical film footage from the past with new movie footage adds additional humor as well as believability to the story.

Next the film fast-forwards to past hero Sam Witwicky who is now ready to move on with his life. Sam has a new job and a new girlfriend, but like many young adults, he is discontent with his place in the world. While a piece of his heart remains with the Autobots, he is determined to make a difference in the world. When he becomes privy to information that could help the Autobots, he steps up to continue his role as hero in a more mature way than in either of the previous films. The underlying theme shows the universal struggle of every person as he moves from youth into adulthood, and viewers will relate to Sam's frustrations and insecurities.

Shia LaBeouf gives an excellent performance as a young man dealing with all the pressures of life plus extra responsibilities as  a former hero. Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, in her first Transformers appearance, brings strength to her role as Sam's girlfriend Carly Spencer. The interplay between Sam, who wants to impress but is feeling a little lost in the non-superhero adult world, and Carly, who wants Sam to succeed in life and encourages him to make his way in the world, provides a nice counterpart to the action-packed, battle-filled Autobot versus Decepticon storyline.

Another newcomer is Leonard Nimoy of "Star Trek" fame, who provides the voice for Autobot Sentinel Prime, the former Autobot leader who was stranded on the moon. Nimoy portrays Sentinel Prime in a realistic, serious and authoritative manner which lends credence to all of the Autobot roles. Special effects further heighten the reality of the Autobots, especially in the 3-D version of the film. Emotional voice performances draw the audience in and increase empathy for the mechanical members of the cast. Several humorous human roles, including John Turturro as Seymour Simmons and Frances McDormand as Charlotte Mearing, add comedic relief between the intense battle scenes.

The visual effects are the real winners in "Transformers: Dark of the Moon." Bay pulls out all the stops to create over-the-top action and battle scenes that do not disappoint. The addition of 3-D elements pulls viewers right into the action with debris appearing to fly through the theater and real cities collapsing before their eyes. Quality stunt work combined with computer-generated animation bring the fantasy world to life. The combination of a variety of locations and different filming techniques helps to create an epic film that builds the plot one layer at a time, bringing the story to a dramatic conclusion. The production crew blends these elements seamlessly into a visually stunning movie with no discontinuity between live action and special effects.

The Annie Awards, which recognize the best in animated films, bestowed the 2012 award for animated effects in a live action production to senior technical director Florent Andorra for his work in this film. The film also won the 2011 Scream Award for best 3-D movie in the science fiction, fantasy and horror genres.

"Transformers: Dark of the Moon" brings the Transformer series of movies up to a new level. A complex plot that ties together the past and the future, a more mature Sam Witwicky, plenty of comedy and epic battles all come together in a show that is larger than life. Director Michael Bay has created a winner with strong appeal to action lovers of all ages.