Transformers 3

17 07 2011

If you look at Transformers 3 as a summer blockbuster, it’s not that bad of a movie. If you look at it through any other lens, you may have a different opinion.

Forget about plot and character development. In Transformers 3, the focus is on special effects. Thankfully, they’re some of the best, most complex visual effects I’ve ever seen. Watching Autobots and Predicons transform between their vehicle and bipedal forms never seems to get old, and the technical complexity in a fistfight between Megatron and Optimus Prime is unbelievable to watch.

The movie begins during the Cold War. After an abandoned spaceship crashes on the moon, the Soviets and Americans race to capture its alien technology. In fact, the movie claims that the whole point of the 1960s Space Race was to discover this technology before the Russians did.  This outrageous claim is verified with a cameo appearance by – of all people –Buzz Aldrin who admits that, yes, his famous mission to the moon was all about Transformers.

Previously unknown to the Autobots already on Earth, the ship contains vital artifacts – and an ancient Transformer named Sentinel Prime. A newcomer to the series, Sentinel is a hero of the Autobots, although he holds a dangerous secret.

The plot, however, is overshadowed by the spectacular visual effects. But perhaps the most amazing special effects are the ones which aren’t computer generated. In one scene, soldiers skydive from a plane in order to penetrate the besieged city of Chicago.  To control their descent, the soldiers are wearing winged suits with which they can turn and alter their flight path.

Amazingly, most of this scene was not computer generated. The director, Michael Bay, actually filmed people jumping from buildings in Chicago wearing these suits. In a movie where so many effects are staged, it’s refreshing to know that they preserved a little bit of realism.

However, no matter how awesome the special effects are, movies still need substance. In Transformers 3, neither the character or plot elements blend together particularly well.

After Megan Fox was fired from the cast, an even prettier actress took her place. Rosie Huntington-Whiteley has no acting experience beyond Victoria’s Secret Fashion Shows. But as the romantic interest in a Transformers movie, Carly, she doesn’t have to. She stands around looking beautiful, and does a great job at it.

Unfortunately, any character development feels forced. The romance between Sam Witwicky (Shia laBeouf) and Carly tries too hard to recapture the magic of the first movie. It doesn’t work.

To cap it all off, the movie is incredibly long. At 157 minutes, it’s the longest Transformers movie yet. After two-and-a-half hours of watching computer-generated robots beat each other up, it starts to feel a little old.

Thankfully, Transformers 3 isn’t really about any of those things. The series has always been focused on what it does best: setting up epic fights between gigantic robots. In Transformers 3, we are treated to one of the most impressive Transformer fights of all time. And, somewhere among the 3-dimensional, glitzy action, we can almost forget about how little we care about either the plot or the characters.