Transformers: Dark of the Moon
Maybe Optimus isn’t past his prime; or, how to make the least awful Transformers movie ever
Transformers: Dark of the Moon
Directed by Michael Bay
Cast: Shia LaBeouf, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Josh Duhamel, John Turturro
The best defense of the third Transformers movie is that nobody buying a ticket to Transformers: Dark of the Moon believes they’re about to see a great work of cinema. It’s like people who eat deep-fried Kool-Aid at the state fair. (It’s a thing, look it up.) They’re not doing it for the nutritional value. Transformers will kill your brain cells. Guaranteed. But then, so will beer—and we all love that in the summertime. So, perhaps it’s time to re-evaluate the mega-bazillion-dollar super-blockbuster franchise.
Transformers: Dark of the Moon is—much as I hate to admit it—fun to watch for the most part. It’s going to be the smash hit of the summer. Everybody and their neighbor is going to see it. Don’t get me wrong: In many ways, it’s a terrible, terrible movie. But odds are you’re gonna get your money’s worth out of the thing.
The story isn’t notably different than previous outings. The evil Decepticons are fighting the heroic Autobots. There’s some incomprehensible alien doohickey everyone’s trying to get. The fate of mankind hangs in the balance. And annoying young dork Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf, acting almost entirely with his spittle now) is the only one who can save us. In a nutshell (a big nutshell, mind you), humanity has been kept in the dark about the true nature of the Apollo moon landing for decades. Seems a Cybertronian spaceship crash-landed on the moon back in 1961. The entire American/Soviet space race was just a ruse to get to that spaceship and its high-tech cargo. Heck, even Buzz Aldrin (who makes a cameo here!) was in on it. Cut to 40-odd years later. Poor Sam Witwicky has graduated college and is looking for a job. Nobody will give him one, even though he’s saved the Earth from alien invasion twice—because he can’t tell anyone about it. The guy just can’t catch a break. At least he’s scored himself a hot new girlfriend (Victoria’s Secret model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, who looks like a Victoria’s Secret Model and has the acting skills of ... a Victoria’s Secret model).
Everything changes, though, when the nasty Decepticons return, trying to get their hands on that incomprehensible alien doohickey hidden on the dark side of the moon. Sam’s soon blowing the lid off the cover-up, the Decepticons are again plotting Armageddon and the Autobots are desperately trying to recover the body of an ancient Autobot leader. (You can tell he’s ancient because somebody bothered to weld wrinkles onto his metal face.) Screenwriter Ehren Kruger (Scream 3, The Ring Two, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen) piles plot elements on plot elements, stretching the entire thing out for a near-interminable 157 minutes. (Apparently, $195 million buys a lot of special effects but not an editor.)
It’s not what you’d call a brilliant storyline. But compared with the previous series entries (the nonsensical second outing in particular), Transformers: Dark of the Moon is a paragon of storytelling economy. It actually makes some sort of logical sense. By the same token, the fight scenes are much more effectively shot and much easier to follow than the chaotic scrums of Revenge of the Fallen. Here, our heroes perform a kind of robotic wire fu, flying and twisting through the air in acrobatic slo-mo. The CGI effects are particularly fluid in this go-around, making for a seamless transition between real and unreal. In other words, if you’re just here to watch robots fight each other, you’re in good hands.
Make no mistake: There are dump-truck-loads full of insanely stupid stuff going on. Now, in addition to peeing and farting, the robots drool like hydrophobic bulldogs. Nearly every human on screen (John Turturro, Patrick Dempsey, Alan Tudyk, Ken Jeong, Frances McDormand, John Malkovich) throws caution to the wind and overacts like a frickin’ maniac. The humor is neither infantile nor mature. It’s just ... weird and out of place. Michael Bay continues to be the most fetishistic director in the world, salivating over hot cars, hot girls, big guns and American flags (in that order). The climax, yet again, revolves around idiotic humans saying, “Hmm. I really think we can trust these Decepticon guys.” (On a summer movie side note, I’d like to point out that there’s something vaguely sinister about that Sinestro guy. You might want to look into that, Green Lantern.) And correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t remember nearly as many four-letter words, gay toilet stall sex jokes or piles of melting human corpses in the original cartoon.
To reiterate, though: As cynical, money-grubbing, Hollywood-bastardized, knuckleheaded and overindulgent as Transformers: Dark of the Moon may be, it’s the best Transformers movie ever ... assuming you don’t count the 1986 animated feature starring Orson Welles. That was awesome.