Michael Bay promised publicly that “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” would be an improvement on the critically-panned “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.” In a way, Bay stays true to his promise, yet this is hardly a matter of bad transforming into good. In my review of Bay’s 2009 sequel, I deemed ‘Revenge of the Fallen’ a “cinematic assault.” ‘Dark of the Moon’ still left me battered and bruised, but I’m anticipating a speedier recovery than last time.
Visually, Bay turns his franchise from a pounding migraine into a less-severe headache. Forced to alter his quick-cut, dizzying visual style in order to flow better with the film’s use of 3D (which surprisingly doesn’t look as dreadful as expected), “Dark of the Moon” contains action sequences where the action can actually be understood.
Plot-wise, the story here is still a bit of a puzzle, yet compared to the narrative Rubik’s Cube of ‘Revenge of the Fallen,’ this movie at least manages to bring the slightest bit of sense to nonsensical alien-robot warfare.
But alas, the kindest thing I can say about “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” is that it isn’t as bad as its mind-obliterating predecessor. But the movie is still quite a dreadful experience. All in all, Michael Bay gives this third entry the cinematic equivalent of a high-fiber diet. It’s a little less bloated, and firmer in a way, but whatever way you look at it, shit is shit.
Normally I’d feel a bit silly using potty humor in a review, but ‘Dark of the Moon’ seems to call for it. It’s baffling how much Michael Bay’s handling of this blockbuster franchise reflects the fact that these are movies based off a line of children’s toys.
Bay is an elementary-school juvenile, recklessly destroying cities, taking human life, and pitting massive robots against each other in one twisted-metal battle after another. I get a small chuckle imagining Michael Bay positioned behind his camera, making explosion noises by pushing his lips together like an over-imaginative five year old.
Interrupting the robot action is the film’s motley crew of wooden characters, spewing dialogue from a screenplay that seems as if it were written in crayon. Main players like Shia LeBeouf as Sam Witwicky return, along with the exhausting “comic relief” of characters like Sam’s parents (Kevin Dunn, Julie White) and the always-hammy performance by John Turturro as Simmons.
“The Hangover’s” Ken Jeong makes a brief appearance in an unnecessary subplot, collecting yet another paycheck by utilizing his now-tired stereotypical Asian circus act. But it’s the addition of actual talent like John Malkovich and Frances McDormand in disposable roles that irks me the most—not to mention a cameo by astronaut Buzz Aldrin to feed into the movie’s ridiculous space-race-conspiracy premise. “Anyone can be bought,” muttered a fellow critic after the screening.
But the true disaster here is Megan Fox’s “replacement,” Rosie Huntington-Whiteley—yet the disaster lies not in her mediocre acting, but in the way Michael Bay and the movie treat her like a piece of meat. It’s as she received this part by the casting department merely looking her up and down. In her time on screen, she is never without A) protruding cleavage or B) the majority of her legs on display. Hell, her introduction into the film is a close-up shot of her ass while skipping up stairs in a pair of underwear.
No, “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” is not the same travesty as “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen,” but the act of comparing the two is essentially moot. It’s comparing the city dump to a few smelly dumpsters, a septic tank to a porta-potty. More or less, it’s still unpleasant. There’s a point in ‘Dark of the Moon’ where planet Earth actually seems doomed. Is it wrong that I rooted for my own world’s destruction in a film, just so I never have to sit through one of these again?
Greg Vellante is a film critic for The Eagle Tribune.