Transformers: Dark of the Moon

If you’ve stumbled onto this website by accident and have somehow been unable to pick up on the obvious, we here at the Cavalcade love a bad movie.  In fact, we meet every month to just rip a movie apart for four hours.  It’s surprisingly cathartic.  In 2009, when director Michael Bay unleashed the cinematic equivalent of the baby from Eraserhead (1977) known as Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (RotF), we started chomping at the bit for the third installment.  The third movie in any Sci-Fi/Fantasy series is always the worst and considering just how awful RotF was, DotM would probably be the worst movie since Ed Wood conned his way onto a film set.  So you can imagine our surprise when we report that DotM is actually….good?

Years have past since the events of RotF and the Autobots and Sam (Shia Labeouf) are busy trying to make their way in the world.   However, since something has to happen or there is no movie (and even worse, no merchandising rights) the Decepticons start playing their old tricks again, revealing a secret withheld from the Autobots.  As it turns out, the entire space race was actually to find a crashed Autobot ship on the moon; as opposed to the betterment of mankind (and the crushing of Communism).  This sets off a chain of events that could legitimately end world.  I cannot go into further details for fear of revealing spoilers as there is so much plot in this movie.

If you’ve just finished laughing hysterically, I will say it again: there is an actual plot in a Transformers movie directed by Michael Bay.  I would not have believed it had I not seen it myself; but I did and I do.  Granted, it is a “We have to prevent DOOM!” plot, but it is solid. A leads to B, which in turn leads to C-as opposed to RotF: wherein A lead to B lead to HIDEOUS RACISM and testicle jokes.  It is almost as if Bay and the writers watched RotF, made notes as to where they went wrong and did the exact opposite for DotM.  This includes keeping the story moving forward at all times, explaining what the hell is going on, presenting the Transformers as actual characters, balancing the action and the talking, and cutting any and all superfluous characters.

This leads into an even scarier admission: I even enjoyed the humans in this film.  Whereas in the previous installments everyone was basically a caricature, here they are characters.  Sam Witwicky is dealing with trying to get his first job out of college, and speaking as someone looking for work in this economy, I can identify with this character.  Bay gives every character on screen something real to do that advances the story, even the previously annoying Wheelie and Brains.

Make no mistake: this is still a Michael Bay film.  There are more than enough explosions, boobs, slow motion, low angles, and military advertising for the film to meet Mr. Bay’s demands that “everything be awesome!”  However, he also decided to make his most solid picture since The Rock (1996), and for that we reluctantly thank him for making a movie that we will only be able to make fun of half as much as we had hoped.

Jonah Hex

John Malkovich phoning it in is about the same as Megan Fox putting her all into her acting. By that I mean their respective southern accents aren’t annoying. That’s really the main lesson I learned from Jonah Hex. Well, that and how to ruin a movie with thirty seconds of animation.

The crux of the story is Quinton Turnbull (Malkovich) killing Jonah Hex’s (Josh Brolin) family then branding him and leaving him for dead.Then we have that annoying animation the renders half the plot points in the first hour of the movie redundant, draining all the tension out of the story effectively ruining the narrative.

It's probably the simplest, most cost effective way to completely ruin a movie I’ve ever seen.

The plot is pretty much from  the Will Smith Wild Wild West . Angry southerner doesn’t want United States to survive, gets his hands on a Super Weapon, powered by the dark magicks of Eli Whitney (looking like it belongs in an episode of Disney’s The Gummi Bears), and away we go.

Hex gets wind of these nefarious doings and, at the behest of an oddly sober President Grant (Aiden Quinn), he goes to stop Turnbull and his band of henchmen, including an Irish psycho (Michael Fassbender) with a Maori tattoo on his chin. There’s a few fight sequences between this Looney Potato Eater and Hex, though they’re more confusing than anything else, and of course Hex eventually gets the better of him.

Megan Fox is in this movie too, but like a vast majority of her roles, she isn’t given much to do and isn’t really relevant to the plot. People appear to cast Megan Fox to distract from their inability to write women. There are worse ways to do it, like Brian DePalma or Frank "WhoresWhoresWhores" Miller will just have them raped and/or murdered. This is what progress looks like, unfortunately. Her character, whose name escapes me, is not in anyway interesting but does have a very tiny waist.

Hex, on the other hand, is the most interesting character in this movie which is good since his name is on the title. He is kind to animals, generally polite to women and at best crass to other men when he’s not shooting them dead. Brolin gives a dogged performance as Hex, playing more or less the character he played in No Country For Old Men, but with magic powers.

The opening animation is more is less the first grievous error that brings the rest of the films flaws into glaring relief. The portrayal of Ulysess S. Grant as the President was, again, a little more sober than history would suggest, but that pales in comparison to casting Lance Reddick in something that only gives him about five minutes of screen time. I could watch two hours of him giving the "Shining up shit and calling it gold" speech from The Wire. To only have him play the Whistler to Hex’s Blade is a crime.

This movie works easily with Wild Wild West, in fact. But I warn you, you’ll come away thinking you’ve watched the same movie twice...and that it wasn't very good.