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Friday, July 1, 2011


Release date in India:
June 29, 2011
Michael Bay
Shia LaBeouf, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Frances McDormand, Leonard Nimoy, Peter Cullen, John Turturro, Josh Duhamel, Patrick Dempsey

I’m seriously risking certain family relationships with this review. The children’s gang who watched Transformers 3 with me are flummoxed by my reaction to it. One of my teenaged friends even said to me in an affectionately patronising tone, “Ammama, just because you don’t get it, doesn’t mean that it’s not the coolest film ever.”

Well then, all you teenagers reading this review: be warned that this is a critique by an Ammama (a form of address for an aunt or elder sister in Malayalam) and not by a fellow teen.

Now that I’m done with that caveat, let me just say I think Transformers: Dark of the Moon a.k.a. Transformers 3 is quite a bad film. I remember enjoying the special effects in the first instalment of this series and even its quasi-philosophical/religious undertones. How could one ignore the allusion to the battle between the good angels and the forces of the fallen angel – the evil rebel Lucifer – while watching the story of Optimus Prime and the one who strayed away from the right path, Megatron. But it’s Part 3 now, I’m no longer so overwhelmed by those cars, trucks and other sundry everyday machines repeatedly transforming themselves into gigantic robots, so I need something more. Unfortunately, the “something more” that Transformers 3 offers is just more chaos and one new super-glam Barbie.

Let’s go over the story once. Fans of the franchise would clearly remember that in the first Transformers film, Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) is an American teenager leading a normal teen’s life when he buys a car and discovers that it’s not a mere automobile but a mega-robot which can transform itself into the vehicle at will. In flashback we are told about the robots from the planet of Cybertron, the battle between the Autobots (the good guys) and the Decepticons (the bad guys) that destroyed Cybertron, the descent of both groups on Earth in search of the All Spark which is the object that was responsible for creating their alien robotic race, and so on.

In Transformers 3, the Autobots continue their strategic alliance with humans … well actually with Americans, but as we all know, that’s the entire human race in Hollywood’s book. Sam – now a disgruntled college graduate without a job – discovers through a series of developments that the Decepticons are planning to steal Earth’s resources and use humans as slave labour to rebuild Cybertron. We are told that a Cybertronian spacecraft manned by Optimus’ senior Sentinel Prime had crashed into the moon many decades back and that was what prompted US President John F. Kennedy to kick off America’s mission that sent Neil Armstrong to the moon. There’s a connection to the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in the story that I will not describe in detail. But the gist of Transformers 3 is that in present-day America, Sam Witwicky and Optimus Prime once again take on the task of saving Earth from the Decepticons.

It’s all very clever at one level, but the manner in which the story is told is plain downright immature. Besides, there is so much plot confusion that at one point it seemed like everyone was shouting and attacking everyone else without quite knowing why. I mean, if the Decepticons intend to use humans to rebuild their planet, wouldn’t it make sense to conserve humanity? And yet, before any provocation is thrown in their paths, they start running riot in Chicago, ripping buildings apart, and killing every man and woman in sight.

I can see why Shia LaBeouf would want to be a part of this silly enterprise. After all, it’s this multi-million-dollar-earning series that has made this youngster an international star. But it beats me why Oscar winner Frances McDormand or hotties Josh Duhamel and Patrick Dempsey were willing to join the cacophony. Model-turned-actress Rosie Huntington-Whiteley replaces Megan Fox as Sam’s girlfriend. Ms Whiteley looks delectable in a white shirt and nothing else in an early scene in this film, but seems incapable of moving the muscles in her face. If director Michael Bay was looking for a mere hot bod for that role, why on earth didn’t he think of someone like swimsuit model Brooklyn Decker (Just  Go With It) who is beautiful, has a fabulous figure and … wait for it … CAN ALSO ACT!

For me, the selling point of the first film was the imposing Optimus Prime behind whose metallic facial features I could visualise a ruggedly handsome man. Sadly, Transformers 3 does not have enough of him. Equally sad is the fact that the film makes a mere token bow to femininity – the robots are probably genderless but they sure as hell all sound like human males and there’s a passing glimpse of a female Autobot. What the film does have in good measure is the wonderful and well-chosen Leonard Nimoy (Mr Spock from TV’s Star Trek) who lends dignity and strength to the voice of Sentinel Prime.

Any sci-fi action adventure treads a fine line between being profound and being silly, depending on how effectively it coaxes the audience into a suspension of disbelief. Unfortunately, Transformers 3 falls way past that dividing line into juvenile territory. The film clearly intends to send out messages about the conservation of resources, basic goodness and honesty (which Optimus exemplifies) and certain political issues that are of universal concern. It is no doubt making a statement on alliances with evil forces (I’d like to believe that’s a reference to the inevitably self-destructive nature of America’s tie-ups with known perpetrators of terrorism in its war against terror). There’s also a condemnation of political and diplomatic opportunism here (the Decepticons’ human partner-in-crime teams up with them because he is convinced that they will be victors, not because he feels they are right). A well-meaning storyline, sequences of awe-inspiring action and special effects do not add up to good cinema. Seriously man, please lay this franchise to rest!

Rating (out of five): **

Release date in the US:
June 29, 2011
MPAA Rating (US):
PG-13 (for intense prolonged sequences of sci-fi action violence, mayhem and destruction, and for language, some sexuality and innuendo)
CBFC Rating (India):
Running time:
151 minutes

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