Hi, all. Well, I finally got to watch Dark Of The Moon, the 2D version. I got all pumped for this one too. Rewatched my copies of the first two movies several times…spoiled myself silly by reading a couple of plot synopsis and some of the fan forums to know which tidbits to especially watch for…you get the picture. All in all, I was really anticipating having a fine ol’ time at the theatre because DOTM sounded to me like it was going to be another Revenge Of The Fallen and for me that was a GOOD thing. But instead…
Instead, I wound up feeling depressed.
It took me most of the hour’s drive home afterwards to figure out why. Now, objectively, I still do think that this new film has more in common with ROTF than with the first Transformers movie. What I saw was lots of time spent on the mundane human stuff again, most of it flavoured with the same juvenile level of humour as before, interspersed with spells of fun, great-to-look at action and the odd stab at a serious scene, which I could never take seriously at all in ROTF, given the overwrought and obvious, cartoon-styled manner in which they were always presented. I was enjoying DOTM the exact same way at first—heh! more live-action craziness, bring it on! Then the Sentinel Prime character was brought out of stasis. And sucked all the frivolity out of every scene he was in after that.
The hell of it is that I’d been prepared to kind of laugh at Sentinel Prime. I mean, the beard and mustache? Why? He’s a robot! What was the point? And was he supposed to be another one of these improbable geezer robots at that, a sort of junior-senior to Jetfire’s ready-to-kick-the-bucket senior? Thank goodness it turned out that I’d gotten an entirely wrong impression of him off the photo stills and descriptions and that any silliness dropped away the instant he finally sprang into action. Once he did…wow! What a great-looking character! That face I’d thought too humanistic and goofy? Just wonderfully expressive. And he could ACT, his voice-actor could act, with not a shred of ha-ha about him. I was astonished by how arresting he was and by how much I wound up liking him.
Do you know why the Lord Of The Rings movie trilogy was so successful and why so many people who normally don’t care for fantasy enjoyed it? It’s because the folks who made LOTR were smart enough to make it a drama first, one which just happened to take place in a fantastical setting. Sentinel Prime in some aspects reminded me of that—he was an excellent dramatic actor first and foremost, who just happened to be an intelligent transforming alien robot to boot. He’s for sure the first adult-level, dead-serious depiction of a Transformer which I’ve ever seen, at least in my estimation of what constitutes ‘adult’.
Another thing I thought great about Sentinel Prime was that he seemed to draw a show of genuine drama from anyone interacting with him as well. Most often this involved Optimus Prime, and I must applaud Optimus’s own voice-actor, Peter Cullen, for rising to the occasion every time. There was one scene in particular, the first time they really clashed and Sentinel beat Optimus down onto his knees, which I found heart-breaking…Optimus actually sounded faint with shock as he pleaded with Sentinel to reconsider, just a devastating moment for him. I think it was also the turning point for Optimus, the scene after which he finally boxed up all his usual compassion and kindness and tucked it away for later until he’d finished stepping up like Atticus Finch to destroy all the rabid dogs threatening his community. But I doubt I would have gotten or been so moved by a performance by Optimus if Sentinel Prime hadn’t been there first for Optimus to play off.
The flip side of getting snippets like this, of course, was that the rest of the movie started to seem—I’m sorry—pretty stupid and superficial to me by comparison. It soon became almost like flipping between two TV channels, a minute here of Schindler’s List, then ten minutes of Spongebob Squarepants. Not that there’s the slightest thing wrong with Spongebob Squarepants either. It just doesn’t go well with certain types of other entertainment offerings…there’s too much clash of tone and content. The gravity of Sentinel’s scenes became so much more appealing to me that I eventually started to resent the same goofy stuff I was snickering at earlier. Even the sight of Starscream flailing around like a drunken chicken during his long, played-for-yuks--well, you KNOW which scene—didn’t elicit a single laugh from me. Then I started feeling bad for feeling resentful!
I dunno… Maybe I was just feeling especially womany that afternoon when I watched DOTM. Or maybe I’ve got more emotion invested in this live-action incarnation of Optimus Prime than I thought I did—he is my favourite. All I know for certain is that I was riveted by Sentinel’s performance throughout and that the pain he dealt Optimus with his monstrous betrayal often had me cringing…hell, I even winced when Sentinel smacked Megatron…Megatron, of all people! Worst of all in the end was knowing that a serious adult drama involving Transformers characters CAN be done and that the perfect setup for such had been there, right there in DOTM, all the ingredients already lined up, but none of it was developed and it WON’T ever be developed because the movie market for a serious version of Transformers is just too small to be commercially viable. So yeah, these are the reasons why I think DOTM ultimately depressed me... I think…
It would be nice to know that I’m not entirely alone in feeling the way I do or even hear that maybe you think I’m nuts, that you think I’m being ridiculous. Either way, thanks for putting up with this long and whining debut rant from one of your long-time lurkers and for investing some of your time to read this far. I couldn’t have confessed this to anyone but another Transformers fan.
Even in the movieverse, Kickback remained unclear on the concept.