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.

Legion

Every few years, Hollywood resurrects a theme or story, slaps on a fresh coat of paint, and calls it a new movie. In the 90's it was sequels, in the early 2000's-remakes. I suppose we should all be happy that Legion is neither, even if it does borrow some elements from The Prophecy.

The Prophecy was an awesome morsel of a movie, and this movie is familiar with that dish, but has a  recipe all its own: 100% more guns, a tablespoon of Charles S. Dutton, half a cup of Paul Bettany, and a quarter-pound diced religion. Cook at 350 degrees for 100 minutes.

It's two days before Christmas when Michael (Bettany), God's Five Star General, falls to earth and cuts off his wings. A few moments after that, he breaks into an Asian toy importer, which just happens to be a front for a large cache of weapons.

Are you picking up what I'm putting down? The Patron Saint of Kicking Ass, The goddamned (ok, maybe not damnedDragonslayer, just came down to earth and picked up two of every assault rifle and sub-machine gun he could find, like Noah crossed with Rambo.

Meanwhile, at a diner in the middle of nowhere, where shit is known to go down in these sorts of movies, a young woman named Charlie (Adrianne Palicki) is pregnant and Jeep, (Lucas Black, the creepy kid from American Gothic) has appointed himself her sworn, but mostly inept, guardian.

Also at the diner is a dysfunctional family of three one of whom is the cougar-tacular Kate Walsh.Dennis Quaid phones it in as the diner owner and Jeep's father, and of course Mr. Dutton giving it his all, like always he does.  In fact, Quaid is the only who appears to not care in this movie. Everyone else is putting their best into their performance, and Bettany is pretty stunning as Michael.

I'm not spoiling anything when I tell you that The Apocalypse comes, because that's really the first ten minutes or so.  The Department of Homeland Security even calls it the Apocalypse while encouraging people to pray and to kill the angels. What's the security color code for that? ("Be Advised: Today's National Threat level is code ONYX for Impending Doom").

Overall, the movie plays it very straight, and its apocalypse feels so earnest that the six characters trying to sort out their personal issues while the world is ending feels a little silly. The Dysfunctional Mom actually tries to blame the whole Apocalypse on her daughter. I guess it makes sense that while you're waiting for an army of Angel-powered zombies to kill you, you'll discuss whatever to keep your mind off it, but did no one in this movie read a goddamned John Grisham novel? Small talk, people!

You shouldn't watch this movie along with The Prophecy, but the second one had Glen Danzig. Sounds like a Calvacade to me!

EXTRA BONUS: Like most religion based movies, this movie tries to have message beyond "Good should triumph over evil." It also has to tell you how. In this case, there's an implied anti-aborition message that can be summed up as, "Don't get an abortion, it might be The Messiah."