Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011)
Overwhelming in its senselessness, Transformers: Dark of the Moon continues the unwieldy and garish Michael Bay franchise that began back in 2007. Bay’s utter lack of concern for plot, character development, suspense, and other general components associated with decent movies is in full effect, as is his “aggressive” style of making films that continues to rake in heavy dough at the box office.
The 2011 entry in the Hasbro toy movie franchise is more of the same hurtling and hammering around, so most people know what to expect out of these things by now. There are some changes, such as the replacement of Megan Fox with English model Rosie Huntington-Whitely and the baffling appearances of generally good actors like Frances McDormand and John Malkovich.
Transformers: Dark of the Moon opens back in 1961 with a Cybertronian spacecraft crash-landing on the moon. NASA detects the crash and JFK, represented through Forrest Gump-like film trickery, sends a mission to the moon to find out what it was (now you know the “real” reason behind the moon landing). Fast-forward to present day and the Autobots are hard at work helping the United States military industrial complex…er, government.
After Optimus Prime stumbles upon a fuel cell from the ancient ship that crashed on the moon, he comes across the former leader of the Autobots, Sentinel Prime, and the Pillars he created as a way to make a sort of “space bridge.” Unfortunately, the Decepticons get involved in everything again and that draws out Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) and the whole gang of helpful humans.
I will give this movie credit for two items, as much as I hate to do it. First, the introduction was moderately good. The whole moon landing spiel was interesting and I reluctantly enjoyed Bay’s set-up and use of old presidential footage. Second, the Driller is a notable piece of movie magic. The scenes in which it tears through buildings and the ground are the best in the flick.
Unfortunately, Transformers: Dark of the Moon doesn’t do any better than its predecessors when it comes to telling a story and giving us characters to care about. It doesn’t help that the acting is as appalling as ever, with the blank, pouty stares of Huntington-Whitely serving as a reminder to how good the series had it with Megan Fox. And LaBeouf is little more than a mass of bellowing, shouting and obnoxiousness. His purpose is to give us an “in” to the world of the rattling robots, but, like almost all of the movie’s humans, there’s no practical reason for him to be hanging around.
Bay doesn’t seem to care much for such inconsequential things as characters, though, for they are mere objects to him. His sudsy ogling at Huntington-Whitely is established from the outset, with the first shot of her being a zoom on her butt as she walks up some stairs in a men’s shirt. For most of the movie, save for the elongated action sequence at the end, she’s offered in various cocktail dresses as the camera preoccupies itself around her thighs. She’s treated like a car, not a human being.
The military, as you might expect, gets to play a huge role in how things break down. The allegories are impossible to miss, with the Autobots’ departure leaving the poor humans on their own to handle their trouble with the Middle East and Decepticons. See, the “good” robots must occupy the planet until the earthlings can properly defend themselves; their destructive, bulky presence is essential if Witwicky and Co. are supposed to be safe.
While it carries a better set-up and a neat effect or two, Transformers: Dark of the Moon isn’t any better than its ancestors. It’s a shade better than Revenge of the Fallen, but overall it’s the same foaming, booming, flabbergasting, distended Bay buffet as the rest of the series, a superficial exercise in American blockbuster excess that has doubtlessly delighted its target audience to slobbering little bits.