Film Review: ‘Transformers: Dark of the Moon’

When asked about his role in Jaws 4: The Revenge, Michael Caine once said, “I never saw it—but I saw the house it paid for, and it’s fantastic!” I suspect John Turturro’s been saying something similar for the past four years whenever he’s asked about the Transformers movies. Now we can add John Malkovich and Frances McDormand to that group. And maybe Alan Tudyk.

The plot is as labyrinthine as it is unnecessary. Back in the early 1960s, a ship from war-torn Cybertron (if the Transformers spend all their time fighting, how did they ever evolve?) crashed on the moon. Among the cargo were several “Pillars” that have some sort of significance to the war.

Also, a big, tough Autobot named Sentinal Prime. The White House gets wise to this, and thus we have the impetus for the moon landing (apparently, many historical events were due to Transformers; they don’t get around to revealing that car in which Kennedy was shot was an Autobot, but there may be a fourth film).

Fast-forward to the present day, where the Autobots are now working for the Feds to preserve humanity (how did we ever get along without them?). While on a mission to Chernobyl, Optimus Prime discovers some remnant of the Pillars and decides that it’s high time to revive Sentinal. Also, the Pillars are somehow able to teleport things, which means that it can be used to bring an army of invading Decepticons to earth (according to Frances McDormand, National Intelligence Director).

Meanwhile, Sam (Shia LaBeouf), now bereft of Megan Fox, has shacked up with new twist Carly (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley), who, apart from being British and blond (just to assure us that she’s not Megan Fox) is also suffering from Permanent Fishface Syndrome (damn Facebook). Sam is in desperate need of employment.

He eventually finds it working for John Malkovich in a subplot that’s there so Ken Joeng can tell him that the Decepticons are coming and then get thrown out of a window. Also, Carly’s employer Patrick Dempsey, is in bed with the Decepticons (if ever there were a need for protection…) and kidnaps Carly so Sam can have something to do other than scream (or perhaps to give him a reason to scream more). And Sentinal’s also in bed with the Decepticons (it’s an all-out robot orgy). Need I go further?

At nearly three hours, the movie could have used some cuts. Director Michael Bay delivers some ear-blowing and exciting action sequences (the escort scene was pretty damn sweet), but did we really need to see Sam’s job hunt? Or have the plot explained to us over and over again (and yet it still doesn’t make sense)?

The problem with these movies, and, I think, the reason there’s such a divide between the fans and the critics is that Bay does a good job at action and has such a love for showing the robots in all their intricate gadgetry that you can’t say you felt ripped off or that he didn’t do justice to the movie-goer who wants robots and explosions. The CG is just as good as you can expect, and the direction not as confusing as the previous two.

At the same time, he drags the film down with plot detail after plot detail and endless exposition. Does anyone really care how the Decepticons get here so long as they do so shit can get blown up? Is the whole story about the Pillars really that important, much less engaging?

This isn’t Shakespeare and it doesn’t need to be—I’m perfectly happy watching some robotic lamprey destroy the crap out of a building that then have the top half of that building fall onto another building—all the while showing the people in the first building fall horrendously to their deaths. My advice to Bay is to watch some Jim Cameron and learn how to tack on a simple story to his action. Or maybe I’m just angry because they blew up my apartment complex.

Chicago in-jokes:

The AMC on Illinois—where we have the bulk of our screenings — was likely blown up.

The section of the El shown was actually not blown up by the Decepticons; it was the Green Line, and that’s how it always looks.

At the screening for Monte Carlo, two older critics got into a violent argument about whether Chicago was actually targeted or if it just happened to be where the Decepitcons ended up. The best line: “The good thing about it is that [former mayor] Daley can say, ‘Not on my watch!’”

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