The second "Transformers," 2009's "Revenge of the Fallen," was without a doubt the worst movie-going experience I have ever had. I've lost fist fights at the movies and that experience wasn't comparable to sitting through director Michael Bay's dreadful, punishing, confusing, migraine-inducing piece of junk. I don't care that "Revenge of the Fallen" mocked Obama and made his administration the arch-villain; I don't care that it was openly pro-military and pro-American. It was still utter torture to sit through, and I would rather watch "Crash" Clockwork Orange-style than put myself through that again.
But all is now forgiven.
"Transformers: Dark of the Moon" is not only a terrific piece of popcorn entertainment, it's far and away the best of the trilogy. And the best news is that Bay's delivered another pro-freedom, pro-American, pro-military blockbuster that made somewhere around a billion dollars. We don’t get too many of these, and we should embrace and support the good ones.
The film isn’t perfect. In most cases, I still can’t tell an Autobot (the good guys) from a Decepticon (the bad guys), which makes it difficult to understand who to root for during the many action sequences, but unlike its predecessor, "Dark of the Moon" has a story that sets up and explains the stakes well enough that you don’t feel like you’re watching someone else play a video game for two hours.
Length is another problem. This is a four-act story instead of the standard three-act, but the too-long climax really is jaw-droppingly well done and on Blu-ray the only thing that surpasses the fantastic picture quality is a sound design that made my archaic 5.1 system do things I never thought possible.
Though I hate him in almost everything else, in this particular franchise, Shia LeBeouf is perfectly cast as the every boy who's not only unwittingly thrust into a secret war between giant robots from another planet, but also into the deepest recesses of America's national security apparatus, which Bay always portrays with humor but also respect. Moreover, while the boyish LeBeouf is the star and hero of the film, he is always surrounded by the American military, which -- and God love him for this -- Bay always portrays as selfless and heroic. In other words, Bay portrays our service men as they really are.
Liberals will love that LeBeouf's Sam Witwicky is smitten with meeting President Obama and conservatives will get a huge kick out of the humor-mileage Bay, with the help of a very game Frances McDormand, milks out of Senator Barbara Boxer's unfortunate "Ma'am controversy.
Leonard Nimoy returns to voice Sentinel Prime, a character who gives a powerful voice to the film's important theme, that of human liberty and why that's something worth fighting and dying for. And when the fight is over and our heroes gather to take inventory of what just happened, it is the tattered stars and stripes that waves prominently in the background.
As big a treat as the film is the four-disc package it comes in that was just released last week. You get a 3D copy of the film, a digital copy, a regular DVD copy, and another Blu-ray disc that includes hours and hours of extra features to dig into. This is probably the first time ever that I thought watching at home in 3D might be kind of fun.
After my experience with the first sequel, I was soured as hell on the franchise and hit "play" with some real trepidation. But I had a blast watching Michael Bay redeem himself and I suspect you will, as well.
'Transformers Dark of the Moon' is available at Amazon.