Don't get me wrong: I didn't like Transformers: Dark of the Moon, and I certainly never mistook it for high art (even using the word "art" in this context makes me squirm). But, for the first time in my experience with director Michael Bay's endlessly annoying franchise based on the Hasbro toy line, I took a few minutes of enjoyment in a way Bay actually intended. In what the effects guys dubbed the "Tilted Building Sequence," my eyes widened: yes, this was artistry, special-effects artistry, and in potent 3D that actually made a case for shelling out the extra bucks. All hail Industrial Light & Magic!
But those few minutes of orgiastic agog-ery can't make up for the fundamental problem with these movies: they are intensely juvenile, casually sexist, and blatantly stupid in ways that few if any over the age of "T for Teen" or bereft of a Y chromosome could enjoy. This time, Bay ponies up for not only John Turturro (reprising his role as ex-Sector 7 Agent Seymour Simmons), but also John Malkovich and Frances McDormand, the latter playing the "Director of National Intelligence." With these stars and those special effects, one can't argue that Transformers: Dark of the Moon gives audiences nothing to see here, especially in 3D, but the clanging of metal remains monotonous, the humor remains tin-eared, and the whole enterprise remains deafeningly, blindingly over-the-top. To be fair, that's also why fans love these movies, and they're welcome to them. But it's hard not to think of what the budget of at least $195 million (not counting marketing costs) could do for starving African children. Yes, yes, that's a cheap shot, but did I mention Transformers is intensely juvenile, casually sexist, and blatantly stupid?
Shia LaBeouf returns as Sam Witwicky, who's now frustratedly cut out of the work of the heroic robotic alien Autobots (as Peter Cullen's Optimus Prime intones, "We were once a peaceful race of intelligent mechanical beings..."—of course you were). Faced with a not-terribly-friendly job market and insecurity over hot girlfriend #2 Carly (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley), Sam could use another adventure to bolster his confidence ("He's a millennial," sez Mom, "the lost generation"), and Dark of the Moon eventually obliges. The Autobots' new challenge involves long-dormant Sentinel Prime (voiced by Leonard Nimoy, he's "the Einstein of his civilization") and the Five Pillars he created to "reshape the universe" with a Space Bridge capable of intergalactic teleportation...or something. Look, whatever it takes to get evil Decepticons wailing on good Autobots again.
As a public service, here are some questions not to ask during Transformers: Dark of the Moon. Why are robots lecherous? Why do they have ethnic and geographic Earth accents, like a Scottish brogue or Brooklynese? Why would a robot have a dreadlocked beard? How many pixels did all the egregious product placement buy? How much did Turturro, McDormand, Malkovich, and comic relief players Ken Jeong, Andrew Daly, and Alan Tudyk chargefor their services? And just how shameless is Michael Bay, for including the line "Let's roll!"—enthused by both robot and American resisters—in clear evocation of 9/11 heroism?
The title refers to Apollo 11 actually being a Transformers-prompted mission to the moon, and that's just the start of 154 minutes (minus credits) of elaborate nonsense, including cameos by Buzz Aldrin and Bill O'Reilly (yeah, this is his kind of tailgate cinema). But this third outing certainly delivers when the plot escalates to all-out urban warfare (the story certainly doesn't lack for high stakes), and the 3D is additive, especially in the eye-catching reflective surfaces of the glass and steel towers bisected by killer robots. Given the Oscar-nominated sound, I wouldn't want to be in the theater next door, but then again, I wouldn't much like to be in a theater playing Transformers: Dark of the Moon either.
Paramount pulls out the stops for its Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy special edition of Transformers: Dark of the Moon. This is a downright astonishing A/V presentation in hi-def, with a 3D picture that has some pretty potent moments and a flawless 2D transfer that will satisfy those made queasy by 3D. Mostly shot with 3D cameras, the image here is the real deal. Crosstalk is kept to a bare minimum as the picture provides excellent dimensionality not reliant on pop-through-the-screen effects (as noted above, reflective surfaces provide a novel and highly effective use of 3D during the skyscraper sequence). Both transfers are totally faithful to the theatrical experience and filmmakers' intent, with searingly brilliant color and pinpoint detail, all in perfectly calibrated contrast with inky black level.
The bonus features leave nothing to be desired, other than a Michael Bay commentary (I'm not at all sure that's to be desired, anyway). I quite enjoyed the propaganda piece "Uncharted Territory: NASA's Future Then and Now" (26:15, HD), which gives a historical overview and puts a focus on the International Space Station, with discussion of hopeful plans for the future.
"Above and Beyond: Exploring Dark of the Moon" (1:50:46, HD) is the centerpiece of the extras, a feature-length documentary in five parts: "Rising from the Fallen: Development and Design" (22:24, HD), discussing the conscious attempt to improve on the previous sequel; "Ready for Primetime: Filming Across America" (27:50, HD), covering much of the production and shooting in 3D; the self-explanatory "Battle in the Heartland: Shooting in Chicago" (13:40, HD); "Attack of the Birdmen: Aerial Stunts" (16:08, HD), focused expressly on the base-jumping sequence; and "Shadow of the Sentinel: Post-Production and Release" (29:30).
Deconstructing Chicago: Multi-Angle Sequences comprises "Previsualizations" (17:05, HD) with optional commentary by Bay and previsualization supervisor Steve Yamamoto, and "Visual Effects" (18:36, HD) with optional commentary by visual effects supervisors Scott Farrar and Matthew Butler. One can watch the previz footage by itself or side-by-side with the final footage, and "VFX Breakdowns" on their own or side-by-side with the final footage. "Previsualizations" include "Doomsday Plan," "Assault on the Humans," "Evening the Score," "Sam Fights Laserbeak," "Brains & Wheelie Left Behind," "Osprey Approach," "Building Slide," "Colossus vs. Building," 'Sam vs. Starscream," "Autobot Capture," "Optimus to the Rescue," and "Carly Confronts Megatron.' "Visual Effects" segments include "Mothership," "Assault on the Humans," "Laserbeak," "Fully Armored," "Osprey Approach/Aerial Incursion," "Tilted Building," 'Trapped," "Driller Attack," "Brains & Wheelie Cause Havoc," "Sentinel Prime," "City Under Siege," and "Carly Confronts Megatron."
The Art of Cybertron offers still galleries labeled Autobots, Decepticons, Environments, Weapons and Gear, and Ships.
The Dark of the Moon Archive comprises "3D: A Transforming Visual Art" (3:06, HD) with Bay and James Cameron discussing 3D, "Moscow World Premiere" (2:29, HD), stunt-centric "Birdmen Featurette" (2:28, HD), "Cody's iPad" (2:07, HD)—pairing Bay with a super-fan—and "The Sound of Transformers: Dark of the Moon" (9:17, HD).
The Matrix of Marketing collects the "Teaser Trailer" (2:34, HD) and "Theatrical Trailer" (2:32, HD) as well as a gallery of Transformers posters, style guides, promo items, and concession items.
Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT30 55" Plasma 1080p 3D HDTV
Oppo BDP-93 Universal Network 3D Blu-ray Disc Player
Denon AVR2112CI Integrated Network A/V Surround Receiver
Pioneer SP-BS41-LR Bookshelf Speaker (2)
Pioneer SP-C21 Center Speaker
Pioneer SW-8 Subwoofer