Over the Fourth of July weekend, I stumbled into a local theater to watch the most expensive fireworks show of all time. For two hours and thirty four minutes, I witnessed 200 million dollars worth of colorful explosions pop on the silver screen. Too my surprise, this mindless example of entertainment claims to be a movie…and that movie just happened to be titled Transformers: Dark Of The Moon. I’m guessing this is a common mistake.
The phrase “critic proof” comes to mind whenever I think about all three of these flicks. Transformers (2007) had a scatterbrained plot but its action packed third act completely delivers, making it a flawed yet entertaining action movie. I would never call Transformers a “good film” but I think it succeeds at what its trying to be, which is nothing more than mindless summer fun. The second film Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen (2009) is easily the worst film I have ever payed money to see in theaters. Absolutely void of anything resembling a plot and featuring long and incomprehensible action sequences, Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen showcased everything that is wrong with big budgeted studio pictures. The film’s biggest crime was the introduction of the racist caricatures known as Mudflap and Skids. But no matter how vocal film critics are about the numerous plot holes and offensive imagery in this picture it seems like audiences around the world couldn’t help but dump money into the laps of Dreamworks’ execs. Is the Transformers films evidence that humanity is getting stupider? Probably, but I’m not writing a thesis paper on that idea. I’m just here to talk about this new movie.
The film opens with a general outline of the movie’s basic story…which actually shows promise. In 1961 an Autobot spacecraft known as The Ark crash landed on the dark side of the moon while trying to escape a Decepticon attack. Secretly hidden on board the damaged ship is a powerful weapon specifically designed to end the civil war plaguing Cybertron. This event unintentionally sparked the Space Race between The United States and The U.S.S.R. who were eager to get their hands on some alien technology. Of course this faulty history, and my hopes of an interesting story in a Transformers movie, quickly passes by and then the audience is forced to follow the shenanigans of Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf). Out of college and desperate for a job, Sam spends the first third of the film running in and out of job interviews. Is this Michael Bay’s attempt at commenting on America’s current economic crisis? Maybe. Much of the first act is spent setting up Sam’s new girlfriend, Carly Spencer (Rosie Huntington-Whitely) who has replaced the ever so popular Megan Fox. The first reel of the movie plays out like an American Pie film. I don’t mind watching juvenile comedies but it annoys me that this kind of lowbrow humor is in film based on a popular children’s toy.
But where are the Autobots during this whole mess? Well it turns out that Optimus Prime and Co. are secretly going overseas and picking fights with nations that are either hiding Decepticons or Decepticon technology. Is this Michael Bay’s attempt at commenting on American’s War on Terror? Maybe. But the biggest threat to the Autobots isn’t Megatron and his super secret plot of enslaving humanity…it’s actually actress Frances McDormand who plays Charlotte Mearing, the new head of the government agency known only as Sector Seven. Mearing is completely ineffective as a leader. Desperate to eliminate her female identity entirely, McDormand’s character is offended whenever someone refers to her as “ma’am.” Although she is on the same team as Sam and The Autobots, Mearing makes completely illogical decisions and often causes more harm to her allies than The Decepticons themselves. Does Michael Bay think that women shouldn’t be in high positions of power? Maybe. Eventually the plot gets moving when Sam stumbles across across a conspiracy theory involving the doomsday weapon hidden on the moon.
Once the film kicks it into high gear, it never slows down. This is where the film finally gets exciting. The number of Decepticons occupying Earth eventually quadruples leaving both humanity and The Autobots outmatched and outgunned. In a matter of days Megatron takes over the planet and puts in effect his evil plot to resurrect his dead home world. The only good I can say about Transformers: Dark of the Moon is the action. A good two thirds of this film is explosions. And between those explosions are surprisingly more explosions. The final battle in Chicago is breathtaking but there are moments where it feels like Michael Bay has no idea how to string together these action scenes into a coherent story. I kid you not, I swear I saw the Decepticon Shockwave die like four times during the final fight.
This third installment suffers from the exact same problems the previous films had. Even though the word “Transformers” is in the title, a bulk of the picture focuses on the dozens of different human characters while the Transformers themselves are left in the background. The lack of character in the Transformers is only escalated by their incomprehensible character designs. The only characters I can identify in any given robot skirmish is Optimus Prime (he’s blue right?) and Bumblebee (that one’s yellow). These two Autobots are the only two audience members truly care about. But why? Transformers: Dark Of the Moon is very much like watching pornography. You’re not there for the performances or whatever mindless dribble the writers are calling a story. The only reason your viewing this abomination is for the action. And a good two thirds of this film is exactly that. When all the money shots have passed and the end credits begin to role, you will feel satisfied…yet a bit dirty.
Final Score: 5 out of 10