When I initially saw the first Transformers movie, I knew I was going to like it. It was about giant robots that turn into cars- scratch that, it was about DISCOVERING robots that turn into cars. The sense of a journey- from seeing Bumblebee stand up for the first time, to Optimus and company introducing themselves, to the final battle... it was a thrill ride. Also, the emotion of the characters worked extremely well- they had motives and reasons to fight, and grew and overcame obstacles. Sam understanding the meaning of his great grandfather's words- Lennox making it home to his wife and child... To put it simply, the movie had heart.
Revenge of the Fallen? Not so much. There were inklings of it- Sam growing into his role as a messenger between the Autobots and the humans, and, uh... that's pretty much it. Revenge of the Fallen was the ultimate summer blockbuster in every way possible- it cranked everything up to twenty. But it just felt unpolished- the multiple story arcs that had no conclusion, a long and convoluted plot... it didn't work. Sadly, some of the most thrilling scenes of the trilogy come from this movie- the Forest Battle, Devastator, Scavenger. Incredible things that made my eyes pop out of my skull. But without the heart to back it up, Revenge of the Fallen faltered.
After seeing Dark of the Moon for the third... yes, third time, I think that it did what Revenge of the Fallen did not in regards to being a sequel- rediscovered heart. Sam had a dilemma, wanting to feel as if he mattered, as well as having something to prove. The robots had their own emotion-laden storyline- dealing with a traitor in their midst, an ancient ally who was once one of the best of them. The deaths had impact. The story had twists and turns. The characters were solidly defined. Having Megatron strike back against Sentinel in the end was probably the most dastardly thing he did in the entirety of the trilogy- a better backstabbing than the conclusion of the Forest Battle. Moments were tense- you didn't know who was going to make it. Characters redeemed themselves- Wheelie especially.
Is Dark of the Moon amazing? Yes. Yes it is. It is a love letter to people who want to see robot duke it out in nasty, vicious ways. It has some of the best 3D scenes out there- it rivals Avatar in that aspect. It has its flaws- its running time is a little too long, characters are underused, and some of the editing is silly, but it tells a concise story. It is a space epic. People live. People die. Love is found, as well as purpose. Good overcomes evil. The planet is safe in the hands of the Autobots.
If Dark of the Moon ended this franchise, I would be perfectly fine with it. It is a victory over Revenge of the Fallen, succeeding in story and humor where the second miserably failed. But Dark of the Moon has also proved something to me- the past five years of my life have been eagerly anticipating the next installment of an action franchise with a sci-fi scope to it. It my be hyper-violent, and sometimes campy and silly, but that's why I love it. It's not afraid to do these things. Most of all, it has some damn good music. Seriously, check out the scores.
I'm ready for Transformers 4. I'm ready for whatever threat Optimus and company have to face. It's been a wild ride so far, but it can get crazier. If there's anything this trilogy, and, more importantly, Michael Bay has taught me, it's that things can get crazier.