TRANSFORMERS: Dark of The Moon - Shia LeBeouf, Rose Huntington-Whitely, Patrick Dempsey, Josh Duhamel, John Turturro (153 min.)
Reviewing a Michael Bay film like you would review any other type of film has become foolish. There are tropes of Bay filmmaking which define the picture as his own while, at the same time, ensuring it will be bad on a few basic and inherent levels. There will be the swooping and gliding camera, the assault on the senses, the noise, the awkwardly-placed humor, the objectification of women, and the poor dialogue in a Michael Bay film. So you just have to go with it. Transformers: Dark of The Moon has all of these things, because it is a Michael Bay film after all. So it is everything you would expect, not much more. Surprisingly, a little less was in store.
We all know the players in this Transformers universe, other than the hulking metal aliens themselves. Back is Shia LeBeouf as Sam Witwicky, the closest human friend of the Autobots and a consistently tense young man. Sam has graduated college and is looking for a job, and despite the fact he has saved the world a couple times finds himself struggling to land a worthy one. Maybe it’s because his interviews are full of ridiculous and awkward moments of comedy (as seen in a montage). And of course his last girlfriend was fired, er, dumped him, so in comes Carly. Rose Huntington-Whitely is Carly, some sort of publicist or something. She is Sam’s newest bombshell girlfriend who we meet in only panties and from behind first – a typical Michael Bay introduction for women.
Carly and Sam live in Washington D.C. and before long are thrust into conflict with the Autobots and Decepticons, who have returned to Earth to retrieve a special piece that will bring their planet into our atmosphere. This piece has been hidden on the moon and was the real reason for our maiden voyage back in 1969. To be honest the plot doesn’t really matter. The first half of the film we gather up the actors from the previous two films, and in the final 45 minutes we destroy Chicago. The screenplay finds inane reasons for us to gather up John Turturro, Josh Duhamel, and Tyrese Gibson from the previous pictures. In between, we get to meet more aimless characters like Sam’s tyrannical new boss (John Malkovich), a CIA operative (Frances McDormand in a forgettable role), and Carly’s shady boss (Patrick Dempsey) who has mischief under his sleeve.
I am whisking through the plot and character details I suppose because Michael Bay does the same. Except Sam that is; Bay makes certain Sam is played as extremely tense and shouting and just grating in general. Everyone else is a caricature or a type, and we meet them in incredibly drawn-out opening scenes. We go here and talk, there and talk, and a brief fight breaks out, then we return to setting things up. All of this set up takes us to Chicago about 90 minutes in, where we still have an hour left to go. This left me wondering why we didn’t just start things in Chicago. The opening scenes in Washington D.C. really don’t have a reason for existing in the capital, so why start there? Many of the scenes don’t have a reason to exist at all. Nevertheless, we are whisked away to Chicago out of nowhere where the evil Decepticons attempt to close off the city and pull their dying planet into our atmosphere. From there, they will use humans as slaves to rebuild their planet. Of course, not if Optimus Prime, the leader of our allies the Autobots has anything to say about it.
The showdown in The Second City is undeniably impressive and epic and, in this improved and sharpened use of 3D, wonderfully visceral. We remain mostly in the heart of downtown during the assault as buildings are chipped away at and a larger glass structure is squeezed like a python by a traveling robotic worm creature. The Chicago sequence is thrilling at times, but like the rest of the film it goes on way too long and becomes repetitive.
There is a good film somewhere here. Somewhere, in the midst of the Chicago scenes and a few brief scenes in the first half there exists a fairly tight and cohesive summer popcorn flick. Some of the action is hyperactive and quite entertaining. And as I said before the new 3D Bay uses is brighter and more engaging. But this one is so bloated on excess and unnecessary portions the whole thing sags. We could have shortened some fights, removed at least three characters, even changed the setting of the film at places, and there could have been a nice lean summer action film. Did we really need to shoehorn Tyrese back into the proceedings? No. His re-introduction is one of the biggest eye-rolling moments in the film. The other huge eye-rolling moments? Every line from Tyrese. I am sorry, but he is just terrible.
Transformers 3 is so much of an improvement from the second film (which I graded an F) there is almost enough here to forgive its shortcomings. Almost. There are some funny moments in Transformers 3 to balance out the action; but there are some extremely obvious attempts at humor that fall flat. And then there is one characters’ death played for laughs and it comes off as utterly tasteless. But then again, this is Michael Bay. Taste is always an afterthought.