Directed by: Michael Bay
Premise: The third film in the Transformers series. The wreckage of a spaceship is discovered on the moon. When it is revealed that the ship carries a secret weapon, the factions of giant robots race to claim it.
What Works: Dark of the Moon is an improvement over the previous Transformers film, Revenge of the Fallen, which was an incomprehensible cacophony of metal grinding against metal. This new film is much better directed and is about on par with the original film. The Transformers movies are to be understood and appreciated as spectacles of destruction. They are not about story or acting or social commentary; these are the contemporary equivalent of the Godzilla movies of the 1960s and 70s and like those films Transformers is about giant beings that kick to hell out of each other while causing as much property damage as possible. And taken simply as a display of special effects, Dark of the Moon does its job with some impressive fights and chases.
What Doesn’t: Although Dark of the Moon is consistent in quality with the original Transformers, it still suffers from the same problems that have plagued the series. The film runs over two and half hours, which is too long for what amounts to a wrestling match between giant robots. Because this is the third entry in the series, it is incumbent on the film to be more than a glorified fireworks display and it has to do something more with its characters, both human and mechanical. Shia LaBeouf resumes his role as the lead human character and he has not grown from one end of this franchise to the other. LaBeouf is a competent actor but the scripts for the Transformers films have shown little interest in human beings and LaBeouf is virtually the same character at the end of this film that he was at the beginning of the original. Dark of the Moon replaces Megan Fox with Rosie Huntington-Whiteley as LaBeouf’s love interest and Fox’s absence is noticeable. Although Fox’s role in the original was underwritten, she was acerbic and a masculine counterpoint to LaBeouf’s effeminate hero. Huntington-Whiteley has none of this; whether that is the fault of the actress or the script is impossible to tell, since the primary job of women in Michael Bay movies is to stand in the foreground and look pretty while the scenery blows up around them. A similar problem exists with the robots. Aside from Bumblebee and Optimus Prime (voice of Peter Cullen), none of the robot characters in the film are distinguishable. Megatron (voice of Hugo Weaving), the lead villain, is barely on screen and never does anything to antagonize the heroes. New character Sentinel (voice of Leonard Nimoy) has the kernel of a potentially interesting story but the film dispenses with drama for action. The robots are special effects, not characters, and as they engage in fights it is difficult to tell who they are or what side they are fighting for. While these criticisms were made and largely excused on the first movie, it’s more irritating to see it again for the third time. The audience has been on this ride before and as thrilling as it may be, it’s old hat now.
Bottom Line: Transformers: Dark of the Moon is an effective piece of Hollywood spectacle but everything about it was already beaten to death in the two previous Transformers pictures. There is nothing fresh or exhilarating about it and no amount of slow motion explosions can hide that fact.
Episode: #347 (July 10, 2011)