Political comedian Lewis Black famously quipped that without Dubya in the White House to kick around he could effectively retire from comedy. Movie critics are in a similar situation this weekend without the prospect of another Transformers movie.
Yes, the beast that is Transformers is finally being concluded or put out of its misery, whichever depends on how many Hasbro toys are sitting within a 10-foot radius of your computer. You’ve probably already guessed: I have none. The first film I hated. The second one I really hated. And here’s the third, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, that’s terrible but not nearly as loud and obnoxious as Part 2, Revenge of the Fallen. I still hated it, though, which would make a great quote for the poster: “Slightly less grating than the others!”
I reserve much of my frustration specifically for
, the director of all three films. He less directs and more manipulates his characters for maximum damage, like a child setting up his toys and then seeing how they all scatter when stuff is thrown at them. Here his toys are set up in downtown Michael Bay , where a tantrum-prone Bay throws every piece of shit conceivable their direction. Chicago
The movie begins with the historical lead-up to Apollo 11 — and what might be the worst impersonation and/or CGI buffoonery of JFK ever committed to film — and culminates with the astronauts making their giant leaps for mankind from the lunar module into the gaping maw of a giant Transformer ship parked nearly right next to the American flag. Later in the film the actual Buzz Aldrin shows up because something every American icon needs to do — he was the second man to step foot on the moon for heaven’s sake — is talk to giant green-screened robots for a director who wouldn’t know a narrative structure if it burrowed into his eye and laid eggs there. Planning a birthday party for your 10-year-old? Book Buzz Aldrin; he has too much time on his hands.
could shoot the video … if he were qualified. Michael Bay
Anyway, turns out the moon ship contains a Cybertronian device that will reverse the tide of the agonizing Transformer war that has spilled onto Earth. The device is a teleporter of some kind, which makes no sense because Transformers were transporting around the globe in the last film, but nevermind. The teleportation device is controlled by a Transformer with a mechanical beard, which makes even less sense, but nevermind again. So the transporter will be used against hero Optimus Prime by — get this! — transporting an entire planet to Earth. What about the two planets’ gravity fields destroying each other? Nevermind, nevermind, nevermind, for real this time. Making sense of this plot is like making sense of baby gibberish or Charlie Sheen’s twitter feed.
This is a good example of how the franchise invents new devices that serve the story at that exact second. Unfortunately, the writers never consider the longer impact. For instance, the Transformers have selective immunity to bullets. Sometimes bullets hurt them and other times it might as well be string cheese thrown at them from pre-schoolers. The only time guns do work is when the plot requires it, like when a character needs to be killed, which happens quite frequently during a lingering and cluttery sequence in
. Consider another scene in Chicago , where Optimus Prime, the main Transformer, destroys robots as big as skyscrapers yet finds himself stuck in crane cables. The cables aren’t really an obstruction to this intelligent war machine, but the plot required him out of the picture for 15 minutes, which is the only reason he got stuck to begin with. This is how the whole plot runs, and it was old during the first movie. Chicago
Other tricks that are returning to the franchise are the spinning camera effects, the low-angle up-the-nose camera shots, the incessant product placement (mostly GM, Cisco and Lenovo), the incomprehensible action sequences and
’s continued objectification of women. The first shot of a woman is a close-up of her underwear-clad butt as she offers sex to a man. The rest of the movie she is spent waiting for rescue or more sex, and there’s the camera always hovering like a dirty old man over her legs, breasts or lips. Michael Bay could probably make a great porno. Michael Bay
The woman here is Victoria Secret model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, who was hired for her measurements (34-25-35) as opposed to her acting ability, which often involves her staring into the void with this vapid look on her face. Actually that part she's pretty good at. She joins Shia LaBeouf, whose smart-alecky attitude is growing old and stale. I noticed something about his Sam Witwicky character that I’ve never noticed before: Sam needs some therapy. He’s detached from events around him, he blows up at the tiniest issues and he has a raging God Complex that festers more with each new outburst. There’s a scene where he yells at some military guards that’s downright embarrassing. At one point I expected him to start flopping on the ground like a whiny little fish. Man up!
Transformers has always rubbed me wrong, but Dark of the Moon does something I wasn’t expecting: it offended me. Not to be overly sensitive, but I have a problem with any film that allows a character to shoot a gun point-blank at the head of the Abraham Lincoln’s monument. A villain does it in a disposable scene smack dab in the middle of Moon. It’s insensitive for a film — especially one that is purely pop entertainment — to replicate the
assassination just for kicks in a movie designed for children. And then later it blows up a space shuttle in a scene that might as well have been footage of the Challenger disaster. Did anyone on the set study history? Or do they just have fun trampling all over it? Lincoln
Sam joins his Transformer buddies as they once again swat away Megatron, a mechanical monster that wears a cloth hood — apparently the robot is modest, or maybe he has a sun allergy. The action is once again preposterous. There’s a lengthy sequence with soldiers in skydiving wingsuits, a stunt that Bay inflates to the breaking point and well beyond. Another sequence takes place inside a tilted skyscraper and it might be the best part of the film simply because it makes sense logically and visually, a rare feat in any Transformer movie.
Transformers might be cool to some, but it’s as far as possible from being great. Hopefully this is the last time I have to justify this belief.