TF3 finally showed up this week. I won't say I was waiting anxiously for it's arrival, but I will say I was at least a little excited that it was here. From a long time fan's standpoint, I had felt like the first movie was great, despite some rather stupid designs. The second movie, I don't have to rehash what an atrocity that was other than to say it's glaring flaws were action sequences moving around too fast to really catch all the intricate detail ILM put into the fights and what I feel amounted to Michael Bay not having a writer's leash on him.
So we get to TF3 and my expectations are that it'll likely fall between TF2 and TF1 on good movie scale.
About a month ago, Drakus and I started planning out getting together to watch this at an IMAX. Turns out, the IMAX in his neck of the woods had closed and the one I usually went to at Opry Mills was still closed due to the Nashville flooding that happened a year or so ago. Oddly enough, IMAX option were pretty limited at that point. It was either a 5 hour drive to Fayetteville, Arkansas or it was a 4 hour drive for him to Nashville anyway so we could go to the Hendersonville, TN IMAX. We opted to meet up in Nashville.
So we hooked up, got our tix, etc...and if you haven't seen the movie, this is where you should stop reading.
First thing to note about TF3 is that it's in Real 3D. James Cameron (of Avatar fame) was on hand to help Bay film this. It's clear from the onset of the movie that they were telling the truth about the 3D part of this being at the forefront of their thoughts rather than treating it just from the post-production standpoint. As most reviews would indicate, the opening 10-15 mins of the movie are just awesome. The overall 3D presentation wasn't on the scale of Avatar as I felt Avatar did a much better job of immersing you in the actual environment. TF3 has some moments/sequences where it's almost there, most notably the opening space sequence and the building slide. Aside from that, I didn't think the 3D aspect of it really added that much to the presentation.
Megan Fox/Rosie Huntington-Whitely
One of the other "major" changes was the lack of Megan Fox. When I read she had been fired from the movie, I literally felt like doing a happy dance. I've probably bitched on this blog about her before, but my main issues with her were that she just looked too fake and her character was completely useless. Both of those traits are pretty typical of the lead female role in a Bay film, so I wasn't really holding that against her too much, she just seemingly became the poster child for what everyone hated about the TF films in general and a good chunk of it she brought on herself with her various media appearances.
Her replacement was Rosie Huntington-Whitely.
Yeah, a lady Bay managed to pick up straight off the runway modeling Victoria's Secret products. Zilch in the way of acting experience, unless you count modeling as acting.
BRING BACK MEGAN FOX!!
...or wait. I was willing to give her a chance, especially considering I just didn't want Fox's character or Fox herself in the last installment. Much to my surprise, she did pretty good. Don't get me wrong, no one goes to see a movie like TF3 for potential Oscar-nominated performances, but if you had to give an oscar to Fox or RHW for their TF performances, RHW is going to win. Her character is actually semi-useful to the plot and she doesn't stand around screaming "SAAAAAAAAAAAAM!!" the entire movie. Hell, there isn't even a slow motion, oiled up running sequence involving her. There is a shot where she's standing there and shit's blowing up behind her moving in slow motion, but she's mostly clothed, remarkably clean and not really doing anything but staring at the bayhem going on around her.
My only major gripe with her is that there are couple times in the movie where it seems like her face does the whole "MY PREEECIOUUUUS" thing that Bilbo Baggins' face did in Fellowship of the Ring.
Bay had promised the twins (Skids and Mudflap) and their obnoxious personalities would not be in TF3. As information and pictures of the movie toys were coming to light, it was starting to look like Bay was replacing the twins with a trio called The Wreckers.
Now bear in mind, The Wreckers have a long history and when I saw the initial images of the toys, I just groaned. All 3 turned into souped up nascars complete with sponsorships from big boys like Lowe's and Target. Topspin has a mullet. Roadbuster has a ballcap. Leadfoot is bald with a beer gut. All 3 of them have wrap-around sunglasses.
Can you say, rednecks.
This was actually the one part of the movie I was dreading, but credit to Bay and Co., they threw everyone off. The Wreckers are actually pretty fkn awesome, albeit minor characters in TF3. Right off the bat, they're introduced with "We don't let them off the base because well...they're assholes" by the CIA director. Then they speak and they're not redneck or stupid at all, but yes, they are assholes and they're enjoyable additions to the movie.
The cheesy writing and dumbass story of TF2 was a huge sticking point and fodder for most of it's ridicule. The first 10-15 minutes of TF3 has more story in it than TF2 did as a whole. That's not saying much, but it's clear they put a lot more time and thought into actually trying to tell a story in this movie. They'll blame the writer's strike as the primary culprit for the TF2 bullshit, but I don't buy that as a whole.
At it's core, the plot of TF3 is basically derived from set of G1: Season 1 cartoons called "The Ultimate Doom". I suspect this was done primarily as a fan wank, but it's pretty funny watching just how closely it follows that original plot line. It's almost like the writers, in this case, decided to just fluff up the original story with a few new plot twists, deaths and whatnot, then make a huge movie out of it.
And yet, somehow it worked.
Bay clearly goes for the jugular when it comes to leaving open ends for a 4th installment. Pretty much every main character is killed off. Shockwave (more on him in a min), Ironhide, Wheelie, Starscream, Sentinel Prime, Barricade, Soundwave, Laserbeak, and Megatron.
Shockwave was probably one of my bigger points of contention with this movie. Vast majority of the ad campaign for this movie leads you to believe Shockwave is the primary antagonist. This was much to the glee of G1'ers as Shockwave was always the cold and calculating brainiac that most felt could lead the Decepticons. Turns out, all of Shockwave's appearances in the movie were basically shown in the trailers. He had maybe...3-5 more minutes of screen time on top of what most had already seen in the trailers. Completely irritating.
Don't get me wrong, I'm glad he was in there in some capacity, but he's one of the bigger characters in the TF Universe. He was mostly killed by humans. He had virtually no lines other than a few grunts. I just didn't see much of a point in having a character that's been as developed as he has over the decades in such a minor role, much less a role that showed most of his screen time in the trailers.
A few plot points that ended up being purist shout-outs:
- Sentinel Prime has always been somewhat of a background character until lately, when shows like Transformers: Animated or games like War for Cybertron develop his character. Prior to that, it had always just been mentioned that he was the leader before Optimus.
- Ironhide getting wasted, and rather brutally, by space rust and his actual death lines are reminiscent of some of the various ways he's been killed in other continuities.
- Megatron's line "All Hail Megatron" is more or less a direct shout out to the IDW Comics series by the same name. That series was very popular with G1 purists as the writers for that series managed to capture why the war was being fought and why it will likely never end.
- Rosie Huntington-Whitely's character name of "Carly" was the name of the woman that eventually married Spike (Sam) in the G1 series. This was who fans wanted to see portrayed from the start, but for whatever reason, Bay decided to go with "Mikaela Banes".
- Leonard Nimoy voices Sentinel Prime in this movie. Nimoy also voiced Galvatron in the original G1 movie. A number of Spock references were seen throughout the movie. The first was literally an episode of Star Trek and Spock being referenced as "going crazy". The second was Bumblebee using Spock's line "I am and will always be, your friend". The last was Sentinel Prime saying "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few." The last two are obviously a little more obscure than the first, but they're Spock references nonetheless.
Go see it in IMAX if you can. Otherwise, make sure you see it in 3D. The vast majority of the things that made TF2 suck are gone from TF3 and I dare say this one was actually better than the first. It drags on a little bit, but for the most part, the story is fluid, the action is breathtaking at times and it's probably most violent of the 3 films. I wouldn't expect a sequel to this, but I would definitely expect another director to take a shot at a series reboot.
Spielberg coming out of that Executive Producer chair perhaps?