Like most, I was perplexed when Michael Bay revealed the subtitle of his latest opus, “Transformers 3.” “Dark of the Moon”? Really? Shouldn’t the word “side” be in there somewhere?
However, after sitting through this monstrosity, I think I understand the reasoning. The audience was in the dark throughout the entirety of this bloated abhorrence because the plot, as is to be expected from Bay at this point, makes absolutely no sense.
The movie begins with a recreation of the moon landing. After Neil Armstrong delivers his famous line, the cameras go dark and the astronauts begin their real mission: something something giant robots.
Of course, this all proves the moon landing was fake, since here we are a half-century later with nary a giant anthropomorphic robot. So even though Bay continues to wreak a path of destruction through Hasbro’s most successful license, at least we can give him credit for providing additional conspiracy fodder. Wait…
Suddenly, with a cut so drastic it gives the audience whiplash, the film cuts to something just as astronomical, namely, an ass. The ass belongs to Rosie Huntington-Whitely, the Victoria’s Secret model with no previous acting experience who replaced Megan Fox as Sam Witwicky’s (Shia LaBeouf) new love interest. This scene doesn’t have quite the Hitchcock-esque subtlety of Transformers 2, which introduced Megan Fox straddling a motorcycle and taking her pants off, but it gets the point across just as effectively.
This is not to demean good ole-fashioned fan service. After all, I’ve always advocated that “Transformers” could be drastically improved by showing nothing but robots fighting interspersed with scenes of attractive women in various stages of undress. But unfortunately, such service comes with a price. Namely, Shia LaBeouf.
Some have called LaBeouf the anchor that weighs down the franchise, but that’s simply not true. Orlando Bloom was an anchor in “Pirates of the Caribbean,” Hallie Berry was an anchor in “X-Men.” LaBeouf is the cinematic equivalent of the torpedo that struck the RMS Lusitania.
Despite living in a Washington, D.C., apartment so lush it would make a sitcom writer blush, Witwicky believes his life to be less than subpar. He goes to great lengths to ensure the audience understands his pain, the pain one can only know from banging a lingerie model every night and having friends throw job offers at you faster than John Malkovich throws his career away by appearing in this film.
Which brings us to the biggest problem with this film, one that has dogged the series since its inception: the human characters. No one goes to see a ‘Transformers” film for the human characters. Oh sure, some might go to squee over LaBeouf or to see certain parts of Fox, but there’s not a single filmgoer who cares one bit about whether or not Witwicky gets a job when they could be watching giant robots fight.
Yet it is the human interactions that dominate “Transformers 3.”
The graphics, as are to be expected from a Bay film, are absolutely stunning. But even these are nearly ruined by two things: one, the lack of appropriate differentiation between the Transformers and two, the camera perspective. Other than the fact that the Autobots have blue eyes and the Decepticons have red ones, there is no way to distinguish the robots from each other. And it’s impossible to identify with a character when you can’t, you know, identify the character.
Going into this film, the question was not if it would be bad, but if it would be as bad as “Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen.” That answer, unfortunately, is yes. Not because “Transformers 3” is any more annoying, insulting or head-achingly stupid than its predecessor, but because it still had the potential to be a somewhat decent popcorn flick. The last scene takes Bay’s penchant for wanton destruction to awe-inspiring levels, and provides the thrilling climax absent in previous installments. But with characters more shallow than a Tucson wash and a bloated runtime that rivals “Lord of the Rings,” “Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon” is nowhere near worth the aggravation.
You may not be able to transform, but feel free to transport yourself into a car and speed away from the theater as fast as you can.