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Case Number 22379

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Transformers: Dark of the Moon (Blu-ray)

Paramount // 2011 // 154 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // September 26th, 2011

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All Rise...

Judge David Johnson liked this movie, and if that means he's off your Christmas card list, then so be it.

Editor's Note

Our review of Transformers: Dark of the Moon (3D Blu-ray), published February 17th, 2012, is also available.

The Charge

"We kill them all."

Opening Statement

I am a ridiculous Transformers apologist, having been one of this planet's few sentient lifeforms to siphon out even a microliter of enjoyment from Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. What can I say? I have a soft spot for a giant robot with Peter Cullen's voice beating the hell out of other giant robots. Now, with no writer's strike (and no Megan Fox) to blame, Michael Bay has a shot to cleanse the palate and maybe, just maybe, atone for the unspeakable sin of the John Turturro Banana Hammock.

Facts of the Case

The space race? A load of crap. Apparently a giant alien ship from the Transformers' home world of Cybertron crash landed on the moon in the 1960s, prompting the US and Soviet Union to fast-track moon missions and scope out the tech. Fast forward to present day, as Optimus Prime discovers this inconvenient truth and immediately heads to the moon to retrieve the pilot of the craft, his predecessor and all-around Cybertron legend, Sentinel Prime (voiced by Leonard Nimoy). Sentinel had developed some dangerous technology, which if it fell into the hands of the Decepticons, could mean ruin of Earth.

Meanwhile, as all this important stuff is going on, Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) is arguing with his impossibly hot girlfriend and driving a beat-up Datsun.

The Evidence

Transformers: Dark of the Moon is a tale of two movies. The first is an unwatchable mélange of slapstick comedy, nonsensical character choices, and inappropriate sexual humor, spiced up with the occasional fawning shot of Rosie Huntington-Whiteley's rear end. We'll call this first movie "The Dark," as it's an abyss where Michael Bay's id dwells, a pitch-black cavern populated by forced humor and runtime-padding side-stories that do almost nothing to advance the plot. Here you'll find John Malkovich acting real stupid and then going away, while Ken Jeong burns through the last remaining ounce of goodwill he's built up from The Hangover with yet another cartoonish and lethally annoying guest spot. Oh, and Sam's parents are back. Their roles are brief—Thank God!—but they're still the cinematic equivalent of smallpox.

So, you're going to have to deal with over an hour of this horsecrap, broken up by some modest space robot action and a Very Special Guest Appearance by Buzz Aldrin. However…if you can endure this twaddle, you will be handsomely rewarded with the second movie, "The Moon," which is eye-popping in its action sensibilities. With Michael Bay freed from the requirements of patching together a narrative and generating comic relief, his ambition shoots for the moon in crafting the biggest spectacle of mayhem and destruction you will ever see.

As soon as the focus shifts to Chicago, which the Decepticons have turned into an impregnable fortress of huge spaceships and liquefied humans (seriously, Megatron and his cronies are homicidal maniacs in this movie), the smackdown does not let up. This Blu-ray viewing was my second run-through of the film and I still found myself sweating through my shirt because of the sheer level of insanity Bay throws on screen. Most of it was hinted at in the trailer, but the execution of scenes like the flying squirrel suits, skyscrapers collapsing, and Optimus Prime turning into a straight-up murderer are hugely satisfying. There is plenty more you haven't seen in the promo spots, bringing the total runtime devoted to a relentless alien invasion to a gaudy 60 minutes. Sixty. Minutes. Of action that does not end until the credits roll.

Which brings us to the critical question: Is it worth sitting through the "The Dark" to reach "The Moon"? If you had no choice and were confined to a theater seat, I'd say yes…but it would be close. On Blu-ray, the chapter skip button is your gateway to Robot Punching bliss.

This barebones Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy combo is a transparent double-dip. There's even a coupon for you to upgrade to the forthcoming 3D Special Edition! There are no extras at all, leaving you with the movie and all the accompanying A/V porn you would expect with a high-def Transformers adventure. The good news: you'll definitely get your money's worth out of the technical merits. The 2.40:1/1080p treatment is a screamer, a transfer that does precisely what it needs to: renders the chaos so it is visible and make those remarkable CGI constructions believable. Homeruns on both counts, as the clarity is there to define the action (it's a far cry from the dark, rolling balls that characterized the first film's robot-on-robot encounters) and the Transformers represent pretty much the greatest CGI I have ever seen. As you can presume, the high-def is largely wasted on "The Dark," with so much real estate devoted to garbage scenes, but the unholy pounding that Chicago receives makes for some of the finest home theater you'll see this year. Likewise, the 7.1 Dolby TrueHD audio track matches the visuals with an aural arrangement than will engulf you in its bombast, and kicks into a high gear during "The Moon." Perfect scores for both.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

That scene between Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and Megatron? Good lord…Why must Bay take a bazooka to my suspended disbelief with this stupidity?!

Closing Statement

Transformers: Dark of the Moon has plenty to cringe about, but…1) the plot sort of made sense, 2) those racist Autobots from the last movie are nowhere to be seen, 3) no more robot testicles, and most importantly 4) the action will melt your face.

The Verdict

Not Guilty. Don't judge me.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 100
Audio: 100
Extras: 0
Acting: 70
Story: 80
Judgment: 80

Perp Profile

Studio: Paramount
Video Formats:
• 2.40:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
Audio Formats:
• TrueHD 7.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English, Descriptive)
• English
• English (SDH)
• French
• Portuguese
• Spanish
Running Time: 154 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
• Action
• Adventure
• Blockbusters
• Blu-ray
• Science Fiction

Distinguishing Marks

• DVD Copy
• Digital Copy

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