MOVIE REVIEW: Transformers: Dark of the Moon


If you look up infamous action director Michael Bay's name in the dictionary you would find these three words next to his picture: incoherent, implausible, and cool.  That's Michael Bay's specialty.  He makes movies that are equal parts of all three and we love him for it, as evidence of his resume where seven of the nine films he's directed have gone on to make over $100 million at the U.S. box office.  From the terribly inept Nicolas Cage in The Rock to the everything-that-could-possibly-go-wrong-just-so-the-one-thing-in-the-end-goes-right action sequences of Armageddon, we overlooked the stupidity and came out in droves anyway because Bay's action is better than anyone else's around.  The coolness has always outweighed the incoherent and implausible parts.

The same goes for his trilogy of Transformers movies.  We all grew up loving the cartoon and they sure pick cool cars to come to life.  Yet, it feels like a little boy wrote the three movies in crayon while smashing Tonka trucks against his sister's Barbie dolls in the sandbox.  All three essential Michael Bay ingredients are present, but it's tough to tell which one of the three ingredients you taste the most.

The first film had a glimmer of genuine new awesomeness introducing us to Sam Witwicky (Shia LeBeouf) and his Autobot friends, Bumblebee and Optimus Prime (voiced by original cartoon actor Peter Cullen).  The second, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, gave you the embarrassing racial stereotype sidekicks and the implausible "Autobot heaven" bits.  This third one is more of the same and so long, lame, and frantic that it wins the incoherent award.  Is that combination entertaining?  Well, that's up to you.  If you're the 12-year-old boy that this movie was shooting for, you'll love it.

Like the great teaser trailer from last summer, Transformers: Dark of the Moon sets its story history against the space race of the 1960's.  In fun fictional twists that include re-editing archival news footage and even an appearance by Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin in the present day, it turns out the moon landings were just a cover-up for the real mission: investigating a crashed alien spacecraft on the moon for its technology.  Much like the Hoover Dam "Allspark" cover-up in the first movie and tearing up Petra and the Great Pyramids in the second, these human history story set-ups are ridiculous but offer a National Treasure-like wonder for a few seconds.  Hey, if Watchmen can change the entire path of history since Richard Nixon in its opening credits, why can't Transformers muddy the water a little?  Implausible?  Check.

Anyway, on that crashed alien ship on the dark side of the moon is a comatose Sentinel Prime (voiced by Leonard Nimoy), Optimus Prime's Autobot predecessor who escaped Cybertron before the Decepticons took over.  He attempted to escape with his invented energy pillars which can open a space bridge between two places.  They become the objects the Autobots and Decepticons fight over.  Implausible and incoherent?  Double check.

Oh wait.  Are we forgetting compelling humans actors in this?  Apparently so, but you won't find one intelligent or compelling in Transformers: Dark of the Moon.  They are all thin, dumb, and forgettable.

Sam still has his crackpot mother (Julie White) and doting father (Kevin Dunn), but has acquired an implausibly hot new girlfriend, Carly (played by Rose Hunington-Whiteley's lips and curves) who works for a questionable playboy (Patrick Dempsey) boss.  From Sam's first post-college job with a tan and quirky John Malkovich as his boss and Ken Jeong (The Hangover series) as a twitchy co-worker, he longs to go back to mattering and saving the world with the Autobots.  Optimus and his crew are still working for the government alongside Lt. Col. Lennox (Josh Duhamel), but have a new uppity government supervisor (as is the norm) played this time by Academy Award winner Frances McDormand.  Don't forget the returning John Turturro and his usual over-the-top routine.  He's picked up, what else, a gay stereotype sidekick personal assistant (Alan Tudyk).  It wouldn't be a Transformers movie without his achingly stupid humor.  More implausible and incoherent?  Triple check.

After a painstakingly boring Sam-centered first 90 minutes (yes, the movie is nearly three hours) and more ups, downs, twists, and turns after that, the rumble finally lands in Chicago, as advertised. That's what we've all been waiting for and, finally, Transformers: Dark of the Moon delivers the goods: an hour long metal-meets-metal-and-concrete throwdown of battle and destruction.  As was explained before, the "cool" factor normally outweighs the Michael Bay implausible and incoherent ingredients in most of his other movies.  There's plenty of cool for sure here, but, as sorry yet unsurprising as it is to say, the cool in Transformers: Dark of the Moon is not enough to outweigh the other two.  The implausible behaviors and plot, coupled with the incoherent violence and eye-rolling moments, are too much.

As in every Transformers and Michael Bay movie, the rules of science, political correctness, speed, gravity, weaponry, geography, time, and sound go right out the window.  If 800 little impossible events in those departments bother you (as it does this reviewer in a great read), set against another Michael Bay trend of force-fed flag-waving patriotism, then you'll be looking at your watch a lot, taking your 3D glasses off to reduce eye strain, and sit there wishing the barrage of incoherent noise would just end already.  Prepare to be put through the wringer.

LESSON #1 (AND THE ONLY LESSON): THINGS AREN'T WHAT THEY SEEM-- Ok.  So this rips off the cartoon's "more than meets the eye" mantra, but it's true about the movie.  Historical events are cover-ups to bigger things.  Cars and machines turn into robots and weapons.  Characters that you think are friends become villains.  Everyone seems to have secrets, personal agendas, connections, and underlying talents that they keep from everyone else, human and robot.  Look a little deeper and get the whole story.  

Sorry kids.  That's it.  You could try and look at Sam's imagined necessity and quest to be a hero to impress his girlfriend or the Autobots' constant sense of valor, but what's the point?  It would only sully the other 50 lessons it would take to go over all of those broken rules of science and plausibility Michael Bay breaks.