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TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON
Blu-ray Edition

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Shia LaBeouf, Josh Duhamel, John Turturro, Tyrese Gibson, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Patrick Dempsey, Kevin Dunn, Julie White, John Malkovich, Frances McDormand
Director: Michael Bay
Audio: Dolby TrueHD 7.1, Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40:1
Studio: Paramount
Features: See Review
Length: 154 Minutes
Release Date: September 30, 2011

All I want is to be back in charge. Besides, who would you be without me, Prime?

TIME TO FIND OUT!

Film ***1/2

Damn, does it feel great to be a Transformers fan again! That's pretty much the most fitting set of words I can think of to open my review of Transformers: Dark of the Moon. Ever since seeing it on its opening day, I've been conflicted on whether or not I actually like this more than the 2007 original. That's how frickin' awesome this movie is.

Like the majority of the public, I was immensely let down by the second installment, Revenge of the Fallen. If you go back and read my review, you can see me basically struggling with myself to come down hard on the movie, while at the same time applauding the monumental effects work...thus resulting in perhaps the most conflicted two and a half star review I've ever given. But now, I'm clear in my opinion that it's one of the most disappointing sequels on record, as well as director Michael Bay's worst effort to date, thus making Armageddon look a bit more better (impossible task, to say the least).

Even Bay himself went on to publicly admit that the second movie wasn't as good as it could've been. That further illustrates, to me at least, how much effort was put in to ensure that Dark of the Moon would not be a disastrous repeat of the preceding movie. And sure enough, both Bay and the franchise are back in amazing form with this entry.

The movie opens with the revelation that a spacecraft from the planet Cybertron crash landed on the Moon, only to be eventually discovered by none other than the crew of Apollo 11 in 1969. Yes, the very same men to first set foot on the Moon happen to stumble upon a robotic ship the likes of which man has never seen. It's a recreation of history that surpasses ridiculousness, and yet Bay and his filmmaking team do a spectacular job convincing us!

Cut to present day, where our young hero Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) is enduring some post-college blues. Despite having graduated, being awarded a medal by the President for his part in saving the planet from the Decepticons, and a new smokin-hot girlfriend named Carly (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, who has indeed outfoxed Megan Fox) who is able to pay the bills by working at a big auto-firm, Sam is having a difficult time finding a successful job. He does eventually land a gig as a mail clerk at an office building run by a tightly wound boss (John Malkovich).

Meanwhile, the Autobots run across some Decepticons at the Chernobyl disaster site. It is also there that they discover a fuel cell from the Cybertron spacecraft, known as The Ark. Upon learning from the American government, in particular Director of Intelligence Charlotte Mearing (Frances McDormand), the whereabouts of The Ark and the truth behind the American race to the Moon in 69, Optimus Prime and his fellow autobots intend to travel to the Moon themselves in order to reach The Ark and hopefully revive an autobot believed to be on board, Sentinel Prime (voiced by Leonard Nimoy).

Sentinel is revived by way of the Matrix of Leadership. Optimus has also recovered five metal pillars from The Ark, which have the ability open a bridge through space and time. These materials were the very same ones that were to be used to end the war between the Autobots and Decepticons before the ship crashed on the moon.

And the Decepticons, with Megatron having fully recuperated in Africa, are also interested in retrieving the powers associated with The Ark. They begin hunting down all remaining NASA associates who were all involved in a cover-up of The Ark's existence. One of these targets is at Sam's new workplace, leading to a horrendous attack at the office building and Sam fleeing to the secret location of NEST and the Autobots.

Now aware of the cover up involving Apollo and the crashed robotic spacecraft, Sam contacts former Section 7 agent Simmons (John Turturro), now a super-wealthy published author whose latest book details the government's attempt to hide the heroic efforts of the Autobots from the public. Never one to resist the uncovering of a conspiracy, Simmons jumps at the chance to assist Sam and the Autobots.

Eventually, Sentinel reveals himself to be a traitor, as he made a deal long ago with Megatron to end the war and rebuild Cybertron. By rebuilding, he and the Decepticons plot to use the remaining pillar devices to bring Cybertron to Earth. And that means the Decepticons plan to exterminate all humans in the process.

As you can see, there is actually quite a bit of plot here and more so than anyone would expect in a Transformers movie. Which is great in this case since of course the previous movie basically had no plot whatsoever, making this a case of much needed compensation. This movie also carefully uses its time in the first half to set up the rather complicated storyline, and if you start to worry that there's a certain lacking in the action, don't!

Because the second half of this movie is unlike anything I've experienced not just in a Transformers movie, and not just in a Michael Bay movie, but any action movie! Once the humans and autobots fight back against the Decepticons in a nearly wiped out Chicago, what results is a series of sequences that will make your jaw drop on more than several occasions. To sum it up perfectly, there is enough epic-scale action in the second half of Transformers: Dark of the Moon to occupy three movies.

One of the major let downs in Revenge of the Fallen was the simple fact that Bay's handling of the many action scenes was shockingly underwhelming. Bay is one director who's never been one to let an audience down when it comes to the execution of action, and his method of doing that is so remarkable that it overshadows just about all the flaws in the scripts he directs. So for him not to come through in this area on a movie filled left and right with major problems with very much a sucker punch to the face of those of use who've always defended Bay.

I went into this movie hoping and praying that Bay would redeem himself in this department, and boy did he ever! He managed to pull off some of the most invigorating action movie-making to ever be executed. Believe me when I say that this is an action-gasm for the ages!

Usually there's always a major highlight in an action movie of this size and scope, but here there happens to be a double whammy. What makes it even more extravagant is that the first big action sequence is followed by the second one. I can't remember the last time I nearly lost my breath as a result!

The first is when Lennox and his team fall out of a helicopter...in WING-SUITS! I have no idea how Bay was able to pull this off, even with his many connections to the military, because I've never seen wing-suits in action and these men appear to be flying through the air for real. Never before have I seen such a realistic action maneuver executed like this in any movie (and it was twice as astonishing in IMAX 3D!).

The scene that follows has Sam and the rest of the NEST team, led by Epps (Tyrese Gibson), taking cover in a Chicago skyscraper...that's collapsing once attacked by the Decepticons. They are forced outside the building, slide down the outside glass until using gunfire to fall into a lower floor. All is well, until the destruction-inducing Decepticon Shockwave catches sight of them and proceeds to demolish the rest of the building.

That should give you an idea of what all you're in for here, although seeing it in full glory will be all the more effective. And to cap it all off, Optimus Prime has not one but two mega battles to the end with two different enemies. They also happen separately, making it a one-two punch kind of deal!

In terms of pure extravagant, mega-sized popcorn summer blockbuster entertainment, no other movie this year defined that more perfectly than Transformers: Dark of the Moon. It's a truly epic action roller coaster, with some of the best action and visual effects you will ever see in your life. And it proves that Michael Bay has reclaimed the throne as king of movie spectacle.

Video ****

By this point, it should surprise no one that a Transformers movie on Blu-ray illustrates HD visual beauty at its most spectacular. These movies were simply made for the format, and Dark of the Moon is not only the best looking of the three, but one of the best looking Blu-ray releases you will ever experience. With strong colors, phenomenally detailed images, and top of the line visual effects (looking even more remarkable in 1080p), the end result is a movie that you owe it to yourself to experience on Blu-ray. For 3D enthusiasts, a Blu-ray 3D edition will be available soon and having seen the IMAX 3D version this past summer (which is hands down one of the best 3D presentations to ever exist), I can definitely see holding off for that version if you own a 3D TV, because it will be worth every penny!

Audio ****

Again, no surprise to find a Transformers movie providing a most astounding piece of lossless audio...in fact, pretty much any Michael Bay movie guarantees that. I was a bit skeptic prior to popping the disc in, only because the mix here is in Dolby TrueHD, which you don't see many studios using that much these days. But it is in 7.1, which pretty much ensures a bombastic sounding presentation, which this Blu-ray disc certainly carries. The sound associated with the marvelous effects work is mind-blowing to say the least, and the last 70 minutes of this movie is basically going to rock your sound system, not to mention your world! Music playback and dialogue delivery are both at top-notch levels as well!

Features (Zero Stars)

Nothing to be found on this release, with the exception of a bonus DVD disc of the movie which also includes a downloadable Digital Copy.

The future 3D Blu-ray release is guaranteed to be heavy on the extras, and this release does come with a $10 voucher for that edition...which ain't too shabby.

Summary:

After an unexpected slump with the second movie, Transformers: Dark of the Moon is unquestionably a redeemer of a third installment, not to mention a super-spectacular one as well. The action and spectacle will astound you, especially on the Blu-ray format! One of the year's best reference quality releases!

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