The purpose of this review is to show you how utterly ridiculous Transformers: Dark of the Moon is and to convince you why you shouldn’t spend another dime on this dreadful franchise. Spoilers will be used to convey just how dumb it really is, but I will give you fair warning of what not to read if you wish to remain spoiler free.
Why You Shouldn’t See ‘Transformers: Dark of the Moon’
An Essay by Luke Hickman
Dark of the Moon opens with another Optimus Prime-narrated intro, only this time it’s uber-long. The intro itself is rendered useless and repetitive because once Sam (Shia LaBeouf, Disturbia) enters the story, we are told this same information once again. When the Autobots (the good robot aliens) were battling with the Decepticons (the bad alien robots) for control of their home world, things were looking grim. In a last-ditch effort to save their race, their leader Sentinel Prime (Leonard Nimoy, Star Trek) escaped in a ship with a weapon that could change everything. During their escape attempt, their ship was shot down. Heavily damaged, it cruised through space until it crashed into the first object in it’s trajectory – our Moon.
As scientists watched the ship crash onto the moon in 1961, president John F. Kennedy launched the space program so that we could get American men up there to check out the wreckage. Buzz Aldrin walking on the moon was really a top secret mission to investigate the out-of-this-world accident. Although neither Buzz Aldrin and his crew nor the wrecked ship landed in the dark of the moon, Transformers 3 still carries the title for some unknown reason.
Once this long opening comes to a close, the first 3D image we see after the Transformers logo transforms onto the screen is the half-naked butt of Sam’s new love interest, Carly (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, the no-acting-expereince-necessary Victoria’s Secret model). There’s your egotistical Michael Bay for you. Instead of using the 3D technology to make his movie look better, he uses it as exploitation. James Cameron uses 3D to immerse you in a beautiful new world in Avatar, Michael Bay uses it to show you the ass of the hot chick that can’t act who replaced Megan Fox.
Although no excuse is ever given as to why Sam is no longer with Megan Fox’s character Mikaela, they sure make sure to trash her within the first few post-intro minutes of the movie. Sam has been living with his (supposedly) intelligent new girlfriend in Washington D.C. while looking for an important job. It’s true – racist characters Skids and Mudflap (from Revenge of the Fallen) do not appear in Dark of the Moon, but are replaced with equally annoying on the stupid meter pet Transformers (which somehow have hair) that Sam keeps at his apartment. When Sam expresses concerns about Carly leaving him for not having a job, the two pet-bots respond with something like, “Keep her around. We like her. The other girl was mean.” Mr. Bay, great job tarnishing the reputation of an actress you exploited for two films and then fired.
When Michael Bay said that he corrected the errors of Revenge of the Fallen with Dark of the Moon, what he really meant was, “I crammed a poorly-written plot and an emotionless character story into a short amount of time so that I could give you a one-hour action-packed climax that will bore you to death.” Lets dig into some spoilers to show you just how terrible and unsuitable Dark of the Moon really is.
SPOILER ALERT. The Decepticons (which for some unexplained reason all resemble animals – snakes, panthers, pterodactyls, Predators) have known all along that the Autobot wreckage was on the moon. They collected a bunch of the materials necessary to build the secret weapon – teleportation device – but cannot activate it without Sentinel Prime – who is dead. The only person who can bring Sentinel Prime back to life is Optimus Prime – the current leader of the Autobots – so the Decepticons have been leaving trails since the 1960s that will lead Optimus to make the discovery for himself. The key error lies in the fact that Optimus didn’t obtain the power to raise another Transformer from the dead until the end of the Revenge of the Fallen, so how did the Decepticons come to know in the ’60s that Optimus would obtain the power they needed to bring Sentinel back to life?
CONTINUED SPOILERS. Once the Decepticons have their teleportation device in place and ready to go, they beam a huge team of Decepticon warriors over to Earth to aid them in the takeover. Where were the Decepticon warriors hiding? Under the dirt on the moon. Really. Why beam them over if they were already here? How long were they hiding? How did the other end of their Stargate transporter device get get on our the moon?
CONTINUED SPOILERS. Once the world takeover has begun, Decepticon forces plan to use the teleporter to bring their busted-up Death Star-looking world of Cybertron to Earth, using human kind as the slaves to help them rebuild their planet here. That’s odd, how are humans going to rebuild the death star? Can the Transformers give every living human a space suit and supply enough transportation, oxygen and living quarters in space to bring all of mankind up there? Are they going to give every human a Green Lantern ring? If so, that would make for a much better movie that Dark of the Moon and Green Lantern!
CONTINUED SPOILERS. At one point, their planet is literally hovering between Earth and the moon (again, how they got the Stargate to open on the other end of the galaxy is beyond me. I’m no physicist, but I’m pretty sure that a new planet floating in our orbit would thow Earth, the moon and Cybertron out of the sun’s orbit. The real kicker is that Sam shuts down the teleporter for a few minutes and the half-beamed Death Star idly sits there. When the teleporter is destroyed for good, Cybertron is somehow sucked into a black hole that fails to have any effect whatsoever on the Earth right next to it. Why didn’t the black hole open up the first time? Why didn’t it chew up Earth as well? Honestly, I could have written a better story at the age of 12. END SPOILERS.
This is just a small example of how the story of Dark of the Moon makes no sense when you apply the tiniest bit of thought with it. But why stop there? Why not describe to you in detail the stupidity of the character story also?
Having saved the world twice now, Sam feels like he needs some recognition for his heroic actions, which he simply cannot get due to national security. His Ivy League degree is of no relevance to him. He gauges his worth upon his actions in aiding the Autobots, so when Sam fails to get a prestigious job where he can once again make a difference, he gets discouraged. Poor Sam.
The only thing that makes him feel worse is how much more impressive Carly is compared to him. She works as a high-paid assistant (which baffles me as to how the two of them live a poor life together) to a douchy businessman (Patrick Dempsey, Grey’s Anatomy). SPOILER ALERT. Dempsey’s character has been secretly working with the Decepticons all along. He looks at the impending war as business, figuring that the Decepticons are going to be the winning team in this war, so why not buy stock in them. The only thing keeping Dempsey’s performance from being a typical James Bond villain is the lack of a maniacal laugh.
CONTINUED SPOILERS. The lame arc with Sam’s character climaxes with him realizing that he doesn’t need to be the hero in order to feel needed and important. Of course, he becomes the action hero anyway. END SPOILERS.
Bay has been claiming all along that the stupid humor and dumb characters would not be present in Dark of the Moon. Boy, is that a lie. Not only does every dumb character return (with the exception of Skids and Mudflap), but every new character added is just as cartoony, annoying and unnecessary as the others from the previous films. Of course, John Turturro (Mr. Deeds) finds a way to return. Now a conspiracy theorist dishonorably discharged from Sector Whatever, his zany character is brought back to help Sam piece together the mystery of the Decepticons’ plan.
Kevin Dunn (Godzilla) and Julie White (The Astronaut Farmer) reprise their roles as Sam’s parents visiting from Los Angeles. Having traveled thousands of miles to see their son and staying in an RV right outside Sam’s apartment, you’d figure that we would see them frequently, but they only pop their annoying heads up in the beginning just to say a few awkward, inappropriate and uncomfortable things.
The new annoying characters include John Malkovichv (Burn After Reading) as the A-hole boss of the generic, unspecified business that hires Sam; Frances McDormand (also in Burn After Reading) as the strict new head of Sector Whatever; Alan Tudyk (3:10 to Yuma) as the computer-hacking bodyguard (because we all know those two prefessions go hand in hand) of Turturro’s character; Ken Jeong (The Hangover) as Sam’s loud-mouth co-worker who has been revealing secrets to the Decepticons; the previously mentioned “Dr. Evil” Patrick Dempsey character; and countless nameless Transformers. Dumb characters and even dumber dialogue abound.
After receiving constant backlash concerning the relentless product placement in his movies, it’s obvious that Bay tried hiding the product placement in Dark of the Moon, but only made it even more of a sell-out move. Now, each Transformer dons the emblem of his name-brand car’s hood ornament in the center of his chest like the bat logo on Batman batsuit.
Despite being shot in 3D, the 3D itself is utterly pointless in Dark of the Moon. Every shot is composed the same way: an out-of-focus object is in the foreground, the character or action takes places in the middle ground and there’s a wide-open long distance view in the background to give depth. Every single shot shouts, “Look at me! I was shot in 3D,” adding nothing to the overall experience of the movie.
The 3D offers one enhancement from the previous films – but it has nothing to with the 3D itself. Films shot in 3D cannot and should not use fast, quick-cutting editing. They human eye cannot keep up with it, so the use of 3D required Bay to pull his shots back and stop cutting so quickly. A major complaint from the first two Transformers stemmed from it’s action scenes. They we so fast that you could never discern what you were seeing, you never knew which giant robot was punching which other giant robot. The 3D camerawork in Dark of the Moon helps fix that problem. Even though you still don’t know which robot is which (because they all look and sound the same), at least you can see what is going on in Dark of the Moon.
The action scenes in Dark of the Moon aren’t any more creative or refreshing from those of the previous movies – especially the hour-long Chicago invasion climax of the movie. Everything feels familiar. In fact, just as the first Transformers used footage from Pear Harbor, I’m almost certain that Dark of the Moon uses footage from The Island. Most of the action in Dark of the Moon resembles something you’ve seen in previous Transformers movies, previous Michael Bay movies or Inception. Aside from one fantastic CG-less actual stunt (the wing-suit precision skydiving scene), every action scene in Dark of the Moon is forgettable.
There is absolutely no reason why a formulaic, effortless piece of junk like Dark of the Moon should gross a gazillion dollars. There is no reason why an unoriginal movie of the lowest common denominator should beat out the worthy, creative and refreshingly original ones – like Super 8. Do not be a sucker and fall for Michael Bay’s hollow Revenge of the Fallen apologies like I did. The only people who will thoroughly enjoy Dark of the Moon are the easy-to-please audiences who like everything – including and especially Revenge of the Fallen.
Photo credit: Paramount