Transformers: Dark of the Moon

Transformers-Dark-of-Moon-PosterWhen going to any Michael Bay film, it’s best to check your brain at the door from the get-go and just abandon yourself to the idea that you will not be watching high-quality cinema.  You’ll get explosions, hot chicks, muscled-up dudes, fast cars, and more explosions.  But even so, some of his films really go for broke and shoot for the bottom of the movie barrel.  Nevertheless, I was pretty excited for his third entry into the burgeoning Transformers movie franchise partly because the trailer was completely awesome, partly because Michael Bay said it would be way better than the second film, and partly because I dig explosions and giant fighting robots.  I also fully expected an assault on my senses as well as my intellect, and while Bay was correct in that his final foray into Cybertronian lore did indeed far surpass Revenge of the Fallen, it was only worthwhile as simple entertainment and not much more.

I saw Dark of the Moon on the Friday of its opening weekend in a packed theater, but as I write this review a week and a half later I’m struggling to come up with images, scenes, or even characters from the movie that made an impression on me.  It’s not that the movie didn’t have its moments…it’s that nothing really stands out.  When I think of other big-budget disaster movies like 2012 or The Towering Inferno, certain images come to mind like Woody Harrelson watching Yellowstone Park explode, or Paul Newman strapping himself to a pillar in an attempt to survive a flood of water.  But with Dark of the Moon it’s all a blur, like someone took all the elements that are supposed to make up a cool summer blockbuster and threw them together without stopping to consider whether any of it really mattered.


Believe it or not, all he did was press "PC LOAD LETTER" on the copy machine.

One of the most pressing issues with Bay’s treatment of Hasbro’s cartoon begat as a vehicle for selling toys is that his tone just doesn’t work. The original Transformers cartoons, as well as the 1986 animated movie which exceedingly surpasses Bay’s films in every way possible, were serious but fun in a campy sort of way.  Bay’s films are serious but attempt to be fun in a wince-inducing sort of way.  Juxtaposing world-is-at-stake alien invasions and Black Hawk Down-style demolition setpieces with scenes of our intrepid hero Sam Witwicky (Shia LeBoeuf, as spastic as ever) making out with his Barbie doll girlfriend or trading barbs with sarcastic transformers on his living room couch just doesn’t work.  Mistaking the Transformers universe for Bad Boys III, Bay can’t help but infuse his own brand of crass humor and off-color inappropriateness (this film is marketed to young boys, with a section at Wal-Mart selling Bumblebee and Optimus Prime bedsheets and sun visors) into a film where it simply has no reason to be.

That being said, some parts of Dark of the Moon really were amazing to behold in a July 4 fireworks “oohh…aahh” sort of way. Watching Optimus Prime lay waste to a horde of decepticons during the siege of Chicago was pretty awesome, and Bay really does pull out most of the stops in creating an avalanche of destruction in the third act of the film.  There’s even a modicum of something approaching plot depth, which a bit of unexpected double-crossing and other grade-school-level turncoat action.  All the human characters in this film exist to fulfill one-dimensional casting calls:  Tough Military Dude, Hot Girlfriend, Wacky Parents, Slick Boss, Spunky Kid, and so on.  In the first of Bay’s films these characters had something called motive, (Captain Lennox even spent a minute pining for his wife and baby girl back home in the first movie, but in Dark of the Moon his character does nothing but grunt and shoot) but here all individuals exist solely to propel the action forward and spout bits of plot exposition.  Like I said at the start, all this is to be expected given the film’s pedigree, but it’s just too bad the film doesn’t strive to do anything but wow and amaze an audience.  In the end, Shakespeare himself put it best: “it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”


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