‘Transformers: Dark of the Moon’ review: An exercise in entertaining excess
New ‘Transformers’ takes large step forward
Let’s get right to it: No ones sees “Transformers” (any of them) for the riveting character development or stellar storyline. Instead, what continues to draw crowds in droves (despite the monstrosity that was “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen”) is an eye-popping blend of non-stop action, otherworldly explosions and stunning animation, courtesy of the master of excess, Michael Bay.
And that’s perfectly OK. After all, not everything is meant to be “A Clockwork Orange” or “Memento.” Sometimes, moviegoers simply want to enjoy a few hours of mindless destruction. And that’s what “Transformers: Dark of the Moon,” the third film in the blockbuster series, does just shy of brilliantly. Or maybe just shy of brilliantly dumb… What difference does it make?
“Dark of the Moon,” directed by Bay and produced by Steven Spielberg, launches us back into the age-old war between the Autobots and the Decepticons, both a species of sentient super-machines capable of assuming the shape of motor vehicles. It’s a handy trick, and it makes for an excellent show-motion transformation during on the numerous fight scenes. (And coming in at two hours and 40 minutes, there are plenty of them.)
During the opening sequence (similar to “Green Lantern’s,” but infinitely better), the audience is taken through a revisionist’s daydream through history, explaining that the space race during the 1960s was not so much a race to beat the Soviet Union, but rather to investigate a giant Autobot vessel that has crash-landed after a massive war on Cybertron, home to the Autobots and Decepticons. To top that off, the actual Buzz Aldrin camoes to further detail the situation..
But the plot is besides the point. The script, by Ehren Kruger, details everything through a 1+1=2 method. You could probably Tweet the entire duration and not miss too much. Actually, you don’t have to pay attention at all to understand the political and military undertones. The Autobots are the good guys and fight for freedom, while the Decepticons hate pretty much everything. Also, humans (most of them, anyways) have sided with the Autobots (who aren’t all so trustworthy), lest they want the Decepticons to destroy the world. (Spoiler alert: They do wipe out most of Chicago. So much for showing camaraderie for the auto industry.)
Still, it can’t be stressed enough: Bay’s utter lack of coherence and plausibility (of all the planets between Earth and Cybertron, the Autobot ship made it all the way to our moon?) is coupled with a striking visual imagination that’s both audacious and skillful.
And even though all that kinetic energy is fun, three hours of it would have been a bit much if it weren’t for the sporadically dispersed funny bits throughout the movie. We get humorous performance from Frances McDormand, John Turturro, John Malkovich and Ken Jeong that, surprisingly, make the movie funny at times. It’s an eclectic meld of witty jokes, self-deprecation at the movie’s expense and perhaps a little improv.
You may find yourself more engaged with McDormand and Turturro than with the stars, Sam (Shia LaBeouf, “Transformers”) and Carly (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley). Side note here: For those unaware, Megan Fox, the female lead in the first two installments, was supposedly fired for comparing Bay to Adolf Hitler, which greatly insulted Spielberg. Hence, a Victoria Secret model now plays the love interest of our annoying hero.
But in the end, none of this matters. For all the craziness we’re supposed to take as a plot, there’s something cathartic about watching Optimus Prime, leader of the Autobots, just lay into some Decepticons. So put on some comfortable pants, boys and girls, because it’s time to get to action. Autobots: Roll out!
Three stars out of five.