Transformers: Dark of the Moon Directed by Michael Bay
Starring Shia LaBeouf, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, John Turturro, Patrick Dempsey, Peter Cullen, Hugo Weaving, Leonard Nimoy
Release Date: June 29, 2011
Say what you will about Michael Bay, the man is not a fan of subtlety. It’s pretty well established that, if he could make money doing it, he would release a movie that is just pyrotechnics followed by credits. The third movie in Bay’s Transformers film trilogy actually comes pretty close to that, but surprisingly, it’s still better than the movie that proceeded it. While that doesn’t make Transformers: Dark of the Moon a great movie, it certainly hits the mark it is aiming for.
Perhaps learning from the mistakes he made with Revenge of the Fallen, Bay severely cut down the exposition, leaving an overwhelming majority of the two and half hour film to be filled with mindless action sequences. When the first Transformers film came out, some people were disappointed that there wasn’t more fighting between the giant CGI robots. This time around, it’s unlikely anyone will say the same, as the entire last hour of the film is dedicated to one long battle.
But there is a plot behind all the fighting, albeit briefly touched upon. Before coming to Earth, the war between the Autobots and Decepticons ravaged their home planet Cybertron. As the war reached its climax, a damaged Autobot ship hurled into space, eventually crashing on Earth’s moon. A little historical revision later, and the space race of the 1960s was really about trying to find out what was left on the “dark of the moon.”
It’s a story partially borrowed from the animated series, so big Transformer fans should already know what to expect, but all anyone really needs to know is that it’s a secret, it’s powerful, and naturally both the Autobots and what remains of the Decepticons want to fight over it.
Then there’s Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf), the whiny guy with a huge sense of entitlement. Unsatisfied with living in a luxury apartment with his supermodel girlfriend Carly (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley), Witwicky seems angry at the world for not letting him play with the Autobots all the time. Fortunately for him it’s not long before he lands a job as a mail clerk at an office that just happens to employ several people involved in the moon landing cover-up, and thus he is pulled once again into the robot war. Carly comes along because, well, why not? As a replacement for Megan Fox, who was not asked to return after backstage drama during the second film, Carly serves no purpose but to be eye candy and the occasional damsel in distress. This really shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who saw the first two films and the “vital” role Fox played in them, but really, it would have been nice to see them try and give this new character more depth.
But most people aren’t lining up this movie to see a well-written story or deep characters, they just want to watch giant robots fight, and Bay is happy to obliged them. While most of the human characters wander aimlessly through the film, the Transformers fulfill their purpose of being fun to watch.
Surprisingly, for a film so clearly marketed to children, the violence is significantly more graphic than the previous films. Besides adding a “bleeding” effect to the robot characters, many humans are shown being murdered by Deceptions throughout the final battle. Older viewers will likely appreciate that Bay no longer shies away from the idea that a city-wide battle would likely result in innocent people being killed, but the shots of people being blasted into flying piles of bones may come to a shock to parents who brought the young ones with them.
Viewers looking for big battles and intense action sequences will leave satisfied. Bay had a surplus and goes all-out for the grand finale of his trilogy. Plenty of characters get their chance to display a few cool slow-mo combat moves with the exception of Megatron (voiced by Hugo Weaving), who is disappointingly relegated to a background character for most of the film.
By playing to his strengths as a director, Bay manages to downplay the film’s weaknesses, but he is incapable of hiding them completely. Dark of the Moon is not a good story, but it is action-packed and the visual effects are a testament to how far we’ve come in the world of visual technology. Even so, it’s not worth the extra money to watch in 3D, the effect adds nothing to the action sequences. Occasionally fun, it is mostly forgettable.