It is telling that a 15-year old male – presumably a member of the film’s target audience – would describe the latest installment of the Transformers franchise as “kinda long.”
Despite that (correct) assessment, the Michael Bay-directed action movie earned another $47 million dollars over the weekend, pushing it to the No. 1 spot, not just for the week – but for the year 2011 as well.
Long or not, Bay knows the formula. His storyboards are recipes for adolescent male pastries, a mixture of cartoon-violence, fast-and-beautiful-cars, and fast-and-beautiful-women that are high-calorie hormonal delicacies. When he presents his concoction, it is in the form of a well-timed, relentless-paced, over-the-top action movie.
It is, perhaps, the definition of a ‘blockbuster.’
“Transformers: Dark of the Moon” – stars Shia LaBeouf as Sam Witwicky, who has the thanks and a medal from the government, but can’t find a job. It doesn’t stop him from having a gorgeous and wealth girlfriend, not coincidentally the dream of every US 15-year old.
She poses seductively, cars are displayed (literally and metaphorically), and the bad-bots return, at which point Sam goes into action. The bad-guys get his girl and he must get her back.
Sam accomplishes the feat mostly by running around while ducking the flying debris, on a mission to stop the bots and save the damsel-in-distress. Director Michael Bay is one of the few who can take such a simplistic storyline and punch it up into a widescreen whirlwind of action.
To say the movie is nothing more than special effects is wrong. The film interweaves archival film of the Kennedy administration’s space program and later moon-landing sequences with computer-techno alternatives to create a relatively seamless plot-key: the rush to land a man on the moon was to view first-hand whatever had crash-landed there.
The deftly-edited staging scenes raise the tone of the movie at the outset, providing plenty of wiggle-room as the plotting descends into simple bot-on-robot fight scenes.
There, Bay could learn a little from the live-action fight film masters. The lightning pace of the Transformer fight scenes quickly become a blur of color and sound. Live-action films use slow-motion to allow the audience to be drawn into a fight scene, sometimes repeating a roundhouse right several times from different angles for effect. Remember the slow-mo face-flapping impact shots in Raging Bull?
But school is out for the summer. 15-year olds are listless and distracted from their home videogames. Rosie Huntington-Whitely wears her dresses tight. Tickets are available for I-Max, 3-D, and regular, and the result is $261 million US and $645 million worldwide.
Tom Hanks may be talented, but his Larry Crowne has no chance at achieving those numbers. It will take a wizard to unseat the robots.
Like next week’s Harry Potter finale.