May 31, 2017
Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011) (part 3 of 11)
We next go to Ukraine, where our heroes from the Network Elements: Supporters and Transformers, or NAMBLA, are heading to Chernobyl, a place which, we are told, won’t be inhabitable for another twenty thousand years. That’s an impressive number, which, amazingly, is only off by about twenty thousand years. Anyhow, the NEST team deploys and begins looking for something. They find something from the Sputnik program, and as they do, they’re suddenly attacked by a giant robotic snake.
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This giant robot snake is, apparently, Shockwave, though I’m not sure if he’s a separate entity controlling it or if it’s part of him. We then get a fight where many of the NEST guys are killed before Optimus stops the snake, making it drop the Sputnik piece it had grabbed. It then slithers away and Optimus says it was indeed Shockwave, so I guess instead of being a brilliant strategist robot with a gun arm, like he was in the Generation 1 version of the character, Shockwave is now a slithery snake thing. Depressing.
Next up we have the Russian soldier who had brought the NEST guys to Chernobyl being chased by Laserbeak, who, it is worth nothing, gets more characterization, and possibly more screen time, than Megatron. Laserbeak, who drools when he talks, as you’d expect a robot to do, shoots up the guy’s car and kills him. Fun times.
We have a bit of a tone-shift now, as we go from watching scenes of action to watching Sam look for work. This is every bit as exciting as it sounds. It’s a montage sequence, showing him interviewing with various obnoxious corporate types, including a Japanese man. We know he’s Japanese, because Sam calls him “sensei”, then refers to him as “an Asian Colonel Sanders”, and like all Japanese people, he sits in an office surrounded by Japanese artwork.
This is intercut with Sam riding around in a car with his parents. Here his dad questions why they bothered to send their son to an Ivy League school. You know, one that the government paid for. He also wonders why, in a massive economic downturn, his son, with no work experience, doesn’t have a job three whole months out of college. So basically, along with Sam, his parents have now managed to burn away whatever little likeability they had from the first movie.
Now we go to John Malkovich. Yes, one of the most interesting actors of our times is someone who Michael Bay apparently has compromising photos of. That’s the only reason I can think of for why he’s in this movie.
He’s a very intense corporate type named Bruce, who interrupts his interview with Sam to take notice of a woman using a red cup on an office floor with a yellow color scheme. To be fair, he might have just been doing this to get Sam to shut up, as Sam seems to be trying to channel some gangsta (huh… my spell-checker knows the word “gangsta”) rapper, as he sits there talking about what a stone-cold killer he is. Oooookay.
Bruce offers Sam a job in the mailroom. Sam refuses, believing it’s beneath him. Bruce starts to explain that they have a large number of Phi Beta Kappa, Ivy League people working for him, and that everyone starts out at the bottom, but Sam interrupts and starts talking about how he’s saved Bruce’s life twice already, but isn’t allowed to talk about it.
This is something of a recurring theme with Sam during this movie, and I find it somewhat confusing. Clearly the word is out on the Autobots. As we see later in the film, everyone seems to know about them. Sam also has an FBI file that gets mentioned a few times, and received a medal from the President, which he’s not shy about discussing. So I’m unclear as to what part of this he’s not allowed to talk about. If there’s any part he isn’t supposed to talk about, then he’s an idiot for basically talking about it with everyone who will sit still for five seconds. It’s just yet another bit of bad writing and another thing that makes me dislike the character more and more.
Anyhow, the scene ends with Bruce convincing Sam to take the mailroom job so that he can then go onto another, better job. Sam reluctantly agrees and so he has a job now.
I’d like to point out that this whole business of him not having a job has eaten up quite a bit of screen time to no real purpose. His job hunt doesn’t matter at all, and the fact that he eventually gets a job doesn’t matter at all. The job hunting bit takes up 3 minutes and 37 seconds of screen time. Let’s chop that out. We’ve now removed a total of 5 minutes and 7 seconds from the film. Let’s add in, say, two-and-a-half minutes for the conversations about job hunting that happened earlier. That brings us to 7 minutes and 37 seconds of meaningless scenes that add nothing to the story that I’ve just chopped out. Excellent.
Now we have an appearance by another actor who should know better, in this case, Frances McDormand, best known for her appearance in Fargo. Here she plays Charlotte Mearing, the Director of National Intelligence, who goes to have a chat with the NEST team. She’s apparently trying to find out if they were behind the attack on the Iranian nuclear facility. Lennox, who you might remember from the first two movies, or might not, feigns a lack of knowledge.
Though the movie plays this somewhat for laughs, I’d say it’s actually a kind of serious issue. If you have NEST going around running missions on their own initiative that the DNI isn’t informed of, that’s an issue. If the DNI isn’t supposed to be informed of these missions, and is trying to go outside the chain of command to find out about them, that’s also an issue.
Mearing goes to Prime, who appears to be sulking. He transforms out of truck mode and begins bitching at her for not sharing every bit of information humanity has about the Transformers’ arrival on Earth. He’s referring to the Sputnik bit recovered in Ukraine. Mearing’s defense is that, hey, the USA didn’t know about this until now, either.
Now comes a serious headdesk moment, as she introduces Buzz Aldrin. Yes, the second man to walk on the moon turns up in this movie, and a little bit of me dies inside, especially when the movie goes on to explain that all six missions to the moon were a part of a plan to recover whatever they could salvage from the crashed Autobot ship. The crashed Autobot ship. Singular.
I mention that because we had six missions that went to the moon, and they didn’t all land in the same place. So either there were several crash sites somehow spread out all over the moon’s surface or more than one ship crashed. Or this is just a really stupid movie. I pick option three.
It’s also implied that the reason we stopped going to the moon was because we’d recovered everything. But that’s just stupid, because the movie clearly shows later on that we did not, in fact, recover everything. There is some lip service about cost, but I imagine that finding alien technology on the moon would be a reason to keep going there and then beyond, not a reason to stop, and to keep going regardless of the cost.
Anyhow, it turns out that this ship was called the Ark. It carried tech that was designed to end the war on Cybertron and was captained by Sentinel Prime. Optimus says they have the ability to go the moon and pick up what’s left. Remember that fact for later.