In Transformers: Dark of the Moon, the latest visual effects show-reel from action director Michael Bay, a race of evil alien robots threatens to annihilate all of humanity. Not a hard task when there isn’t a spec in sight to begin with.
The words “soulless, empty spectacle” doesn’t even begin to describe the third Transformers movie, but it’s a good place to start. Bots go “bam!”, buildings go “boom!” and boobs go “boing!” That is the Transformers mantra. And while I’m partial to a solid dose of eye candy as much as the next guy, I was always taught to enjoy things in moderation. Michael Bay, quite clearly, was not.
Mercifully, unlike the film’s woeful predecessor Revenge of the Fallen — where the story was about as basic yet bewildering as being read a children’s book backwards — Dark of the Moon does appear to possess a plot, although don’t quote me on that. The opening montage reveals how the first manned mission to the moon was actually in response to an alien spaceship that had crash-landed on the surface. The downed vessel, known as The Arc, once belonged to the sentient machines known as the Autobots, who now work for the US military imposing “freedom” in the Middle East by blowing things up. The contents of The Arc, we’re told, possess the power to defeat the evil Decepticons — aka Space Arabs — once and for all. But that’s on the condition they don’t get to it first, and that we stay awake long enough to find out.
The peculiar thing about this opening montage is that it doesn’t end. Even when the film catches up to present day and re-introduces us to protagonist Sam Witwicky (Shia LeBaouf; Eagle Eye) and his latest drop-dead gorgeous gal Carley (UK model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley), events still unfold with nauseating haste, darting from location to location, character to character and explosion to explosion without any attempt to connect the dots. Such an erratic, discordant rhythm becomes grating well before the film’s agonisingly drawn-out finale, where Bay begins burning money as manically as Heath Ledger’s Joker.
The visual effects and sound design are, of course, top tier. I’m not going to deny the film that. One building demolition in particular provides the open-jawed spectacle we’ve come to expect from Michael Bay, and for a good five minutes or so, I was in awe of the film’s technical accomplishments. But then I slumped back into my chair as the robots returned to clashing fists, cracking lame jokes and changing allegiances — almost as if they were under the absurd assumption that we could tell them apart in the first place!
Throughout the film’s unreasonably long runtime, I had plenty of time to ponder things like “where are all the female robots?” That’s when Megan Fox’s replacement Rosie Huntington-Whiteley mechanically sauntered into frame, vacantly delivered her line as though it was being fed to her by someone off-camera, and trotted off again with an arbitrary close-up of her tightly-clad assets. Question answered.
Snark aside, I’m touching on what I think to be one of the series’ biggest shortcomings. Bay has had three mammoth movies — more than seven hours combined — to humanise these giant hunks of metal, yet we still know so little about them. How do they reproduce? Can they ever experience love? Did they have mundane day jobs before war broke out? And what’s their ANCAP safety rating?
Of course, we’re talking about a franchise that can’t even humanise the humans, so I’ll try to keep my expectations to a bare minimum next time.
Oh God, please let there not be a next time…
If you’re looking for the Transformers 3 experience without having to actually endure through it, simply tip out your cutlery drawer onto a FHM centrefold whilst humming ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’. Hey presto.
Watch my video review of Transformers: Dark of the Moon below: