Don’t trash Bay’s ‘Transformers 3’

By Sister Helena Burns, FSP | Contributor
Sunday, July 17, 2011

Everyone seems to be trashing “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” as badly as Michael Bay trashed the city of Chicago, but the storyline was great, and of course, Bay is the master of nonstop, can’t-look-away, how-did-they-film- that action films. Even if you don’t care for rock ’em, sock ’em big violence fantasy wars and explosions, Bay has a way of keeping the camera in motion and the undulating action on screen in sync with the human eye in a pleasing fashion.

The dialogue is far more sophisticated and quirky than most comic book flicks that use obvious, over-the-top declarations. In “Transformers 3,” the emotional tenor of each scene truly varies. It’s not all tension and “let’s get the bad guys.”

In this third installation of “Transformers,” Optimus Prime and the Autobots (cars who “transform” into robots) have lost the war against the Decepticons (evil Autobots) and have stayed on Earth to save humans from destroying themselves. But they’re not finished with their nemeses yet. The war isn’t over, it’s just been moved to Earth.

“Transformers” is phenomenally wellcast. Shia LaBeouf (Sam) proves himself a solid actor once again. British import Rosie Huntington-Whiteley (Carly) isn’t just a pretty face, but holds her own as a thespian. John Malkovich is delightful as Sam’s bizarro boss. Frances McDormand plays the no-nonsense, “don’t call me ma’am,” head of national security. Patrick Dempsey is winning as the villain.

Bay’s action scenes always maintain their humanity. This is what makes his movies so watchable. They’re not just big, dumb plot points and special effects. Human touches, conversation, personalities, virtues, rich character choices and development abound throughout the action.

Just when you think an interminable sequence of chases and battles is never going to end, there’s a change of pace, an actor’s moment to shine, a close-up, an unusual situation we’ve never seen before.

There are some great — mistaken — philosophical and political bromides bandied about (and proven wrong): “You have to choose the winning side to have a place in history.” “We have to do what the majority wants, not the minority.” “We had to cut a deal.”

As for special effects? What was real and what was computer generated? Those of us who were in downtown Chicago last summer and saw the filming know for sure. We didn’t see any Transformers, of course, but all the piled-up cars, broken pavement, explosions, fires burning and rubble were “real.” The base-jumping off the Trump Tower was also real.

In fact, our back alley at Pauline Books and Media on Michigan Avenue was the scene of the parking garage and school bus with Shia and Rosie.