Thursday, June 30, 2011

Transformers 3 Dark of the Moon - On High-Adrenaline Visual Spectacle & Immoral Trade Practices

The Decepticons are back, and they are convincing Sentinel Prime (Optimus’ erstwhile predecessor as leader of their home planet Cybertron) of an invasive plot against the Earth. Cyberton has ceased to become habitable.

Meanwhile, back to Earth, Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) has just recovered from a heartbreak (Megan Fox’s Mikaela broke up with him). He hooks up with the exceedingly adorable Carly (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley). But all is not well in Sam’s world. Sam misses his robotic pals (Bumblebee has been preoccupied elsewhere). He is also desperately unemployed and, despite having saved the world twice and gotten a Presidential medal from Obama, Sam becomes part of the statistics – though he still has a few more interviews up his sleeve. Times are indeed tough even for heroes.

If that wasn't enough, something sinister is a brewing.

The narrative takes us back to 1969, the year humanity made huge leaps on space exploration. Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon. But some salient discoveries have been kept from us – i.e. that the team has discovered a Cybertronian spacecraft hidden at the dark side of the moon, and forces have been after such “rubble”, including Megatron’s allies. Only 35 souls knew. For 50 years, this was a well kept secret.

When Optimus Prime, who carries the “matrix” to repower autobots to life, brings Sentinel Prime back to existence, little did they know that there was indeed a plot to revive the dead planet of Cybertron, by invading Earth and transporting Cybertron into the realm of the blue planet which would, eventually wreck havoc on its resources and inhabitants. This would be done through the 5 “pillars” found in the spaceship. These pillars have the capacity to reshape the universe through teleportation, a power that defies laws of physics. And once again, the fate of the world is in the hands of unemployed Sam and his few allies, no thanks to Mearing (Frances McDormand), a CIA honcho who has condescendingly downplayed Sam’s previous save-the-world effort as mere messengerial duty.

Fun in science fictions rests on the intuitive capability of its story tellers to make every detail plausible, and for the most part, “Transformers” succeeds. The mere transformation of vehicles into robots simply takes your breath away, as every detail has distinct sharpness, and wearing your 3D glasses (which I am not a fan of) takes you to a whole new level. There is stereoscopic grandeur in every slam-bang scene, and the relentless action stokes you like an adrenaline rush that goes on and on and on.

However, Director Michael Bay has to learn to hold back from his propensity for mind-blowing action. Movie goers empathy, as I earlier said, rests on believability. When a human limb gets cut off, the movie audience experiences fear for the possibilities of death and destruction. When humans fall off a 100-story building which is being crushed into smithereens by Shockwave, we experience anxiety because in reality, people who fall off tall buildings die. This makes “Transformers” an alternate world of fantasy, and when Optimus Prime gets his arm chopped off, yet he still charges ahead dauntless and ever powerful, we sit back and get sensitized. After a while, the whole relentlessness of implausibilities loses its novelty. Ho-hum.

Sam and Carly

Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, the former Victoria's Secret model

When you challenge reality, you soon end up with a jaded audience who thinks that if Sam Witwicky gets shot, that’s alright. He will still live. They all do.

And that’s not such a great reaction.

Shia LaBeouf has become a formidable screen hero and for a good reason. He is charismatic, young and inhabits Sam Witwicky with endearing charm. If only I didn’t have to pay more for an unwanted popcorn!

Josh Duhamel

Shia LaBeouf for GQ

Rosie Huntington-Whiteley


And yes, it has been called to my attention that the SM Group of Cinemas have been overcharging their patrons, peddling products that consumers do not necessarily want. If you haven’t noticed, Mr. Henry Sy’s chain of movie theaters have been relentlessly hiking their admission charges that in the last 5 years or so, their prices have escalated to an alarming 75%. Isn’t there a governing body to check these unscrupulous practices? The Philippines is still a developing country and allowing these cinema chains to continually hike cinema seats is immoral. This isn’t Singapore or Hong Kong where its movie going public could afford high value entertainment.


Watching "Transformers 3" in SM was like highway robbery!

A 3D seat is charged P250. You actually see this itemized on your ticket. This is enumerated as follows: Gross – P250, Net – 250, Basic charge – P227.05, 10% Amusement Tax – P22.70, Community Tax (C Tax) – P0.25. Total – P250. Nowhere could you find the P50 they blatantly collect for an unwanted popcorn. But upon payment, they charge you P300 - inclusive of the P50 fee for an unwanted popcorn! Isn’t this deceptive? Why do I need to buy popcorn when the service I want to avail of is only the admission for a movie screening? Trade practice stipulates that every purchase shall have a receipt, otherwise this constitutes a violation. The Bureau of Internal Revenue (B.I.R.) has to take note of such irregularity.

Why popcorn? There are non-popcorn eaters, you know. Why not a choice of, say soft drinks or chips. Why shove popcorn down our throats? Why this desperation? Isn't Mr. Sy rich enough already?


When I handed my ticket at the cinema entrance, I was asked to go back for my popcorn. But I am not a popcorn eater? What do I do with my P50 popcorn? And really now, doesn’t this unscrupulous and gravely greedy trade practice something to ponder on? I’ve been told that the Sy family has indeed embraced the religious life, thus you won’t see any R-rated flicks (from the impeccably crafted “Brokeback Mountain” to the brain-challenged “Hangover 2”). The big honcho has also been listed in Forbes’ list as one of the world’s richest men. This makes us proud as Filipinos. Who doesn't admire hard earned success? However, you somehow hope that such religiosity, influence and wealth will filter through their trade practices, particularly in their cinema chains.


If you think I’m one of the very few who complains about such practice, google away. There have been several who, apparently, have fallen on deaf ears. The SM people have apparently sent representatives to meet with the complainants but nothing much has really been done about the complaints.

This was anonymously forwarded to me:

Department of Trade and Industry, wake up!

The movie going public also needs to be protected. Otherwise, there really is a tangible reason why people would resort to buying pirated films instead!

Secretary Domingo boasts of a very impressive trade and industry portfolio. He was former Manager Director of the Chemical Bank in New York and the Chase Manhattan Bank in Manila. He is Wharton-educated (where he holds a master’s degree in Operations Research). He was also a member of the academe; he lectured International Trade and Business Law at De La Salle University’s MBA Program. Now isn’t that a tall order? If you’re not impressed by such glowing resume, I don’t know what would.

But the interesting sidebar here is: He served as undersecretary for the Board of Investments, and also was Executive Director of SM Investments Corporation. And would he brush off our concerns under a rug? Let’s hope not!


duduy said...

I have long since lost any kind of love for this movie franchise mainly because the movies themselves show little love for the dear robots that inspired my childhood. This one is no different.

Unfortunately, since i have 3 kids of my own now, i was obliged to watch it with them. I just didn't think the producers of this film had the audacity to make it as a 2 1/2 hour monstrosity.

After the movie, cheers and applause can be heard all around. Yup, that pretty much sums it up. This movie is big, loud and ultimately, utterly meaningless. It works for fans of Showtime and Party Pilipinas and I am not one to take that away from them.

I only take comfort in the assumption that this is the last installment and would never have to suffer through another catatonia-inducing mess.

Autobots pretend to leave the planet, knowing fully well that the Decepticons will in turn commence a gangland style massacre of the Chicago inhabitants. All for the very noble purpose of making humans realize the value of freedom.

Uhum. Very American indeed.

Cathy Pena said...


People love slam bang spectacle. I think it's human nature. But the relentless visual and auditory assault were almost numbing in this movie.

And, yes, Americans always think of themselves as "heroes" even when they're actually the oppressor. This characteristic is ingrained in their genetic make-up. When they shower in the morning, the waters subconsciously program them to believe that they're the good guys - even when they plunder their way through Vietnam, Iraq or Afghanistan. Such adorable creatures.

P.S. Isn't Japan the perfect place to show "Transformers"? Don't they have temples built in honor of Sentinel Prime? ;->

duduy said...

Well the robots were born there but i dunno about a temple though, haven't heard of one yet. Happily, i am not THAT MUCH of a robot geek. :)

The Japanese have a rather different Transformers universe especially after the first generation cartoons. So ya, they probably wouldn't mind that much. For all we know, they've subtitled it with stuff like "Megatron smells like dogfart."