Transformers: Dark of the Moon

Transformers: Dark of the Moon opened June 28, and it has already raked in nearly $400 million domestically and $663 million worldwide. It is the third highest ranking film of 2011. (That will, no doubt, change.) Today, Michael Bay got my $7, and I must say, it wasn’t really money well spent. Am I surprised? Not at all. I didn’t see the film on opening week, because I knew that, like its two predecessors, it would be an overlong, juvenile, wince-inducing, very loud, horribly acted wreck of a film. And I was right.

The synopsis (This will take much longer than it should): We begin in 1961, with Autobots and Decepticons embroiled in war. Sentinel Prime (voiced by Leonard Nimoy), the Einstein of the Autobots, escapes from the conflict with 100 pillars – devices that will create some kind of space bridge – but he is attacked, and his ship crashes on the “dark side of the moon.” This mysterious crash inspires the U.S. to develop its space program so that, later, Apollo 11 can investigate. Two of the astronauts discover the ship and report it to NASA, but the government decides to hush it up. Fast forward to 2011. A military team is in Chernobyl, where they discover an orb-like machine part. They are attacked by a bird-like Decepticon and a giant millipede-like rotating Decepticon. Eventually, Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen) identifies the machine part and is angry that the government withheld information from him. The Autobots go to the moon, find Sentinel Prime, who is in stasis, and five or six of the pillars, and return to Earth. Optimus Prime revives Sentinel Prime, his mentor, with the matrix, and tries to hand over control. Sentinel Prime declines. SPOILERS ahead:  The Decepticons have been busy on Earth, forging alliances with high ranking humans. They even convince Sentinel Prime to turn to the “dark side.” (Hey, they aren’t called Decepticons for nothing.) Their ultimate goal is to enslave everyone on Earth, and use them as slave labor to rebuild their home planet, which they are bringing here with the aid of the high powered pillars.

But wait, there’s more. Yes, Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) is back with a new love interest. Out went the car-fixing, dark-haired chick (Megan Fox) and in came the saluki-owning, blonde-haired one (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley). Despite the fact that he received a medal of honor from the president and has graduated from an Ivy League school, he still hasn’t found a job. He’s sharing a huge apartment in Washington, D.C., with the leggy blonde who is paying all of the expenses, thanks to her overly generous boss, Dylan (Patrick Dempsey), a guy who has ties to the corporation Accuretta. He’s also sharing his abode with two super annoying robots named Wheelie (Tom Kenny) and Brains (Reno Wilson). Witwicky’s parents, Ron (Kevin Dunn) and Judy (Julie White), are traveling the country in a giant RV. But don’t worry, they show up long enough to crack jokes. Simmons (John Turturro) wrote a book about his experiences and is now a millionaire. He has a German assistant, Dutch (Alan Tudyk), who must have been some kind of special agent, because he’s handy with guns. All of these characters and more get thrown into the Autobot/Decepticon turmoil. But not really in any kind of intelligent or coherent way. Considering how convoluted the plot of this film actually is, I might not even be correct in this synopsis. But I’m not watching it again to verify anything.

Who is responsible for this train wreck of a screenplay? Ehren Kruger, the guy who many moons ago wrote Arlington Road (1999). He also wrote Reindeer Games (2000), The Ring (2002) and The Skeleton Key (2005), all films that, although not perfect, can be found in my DVD collection. Maybe it was working with Terry Gilliam on The Brothers Grimm (2005) that made his brain rot, because since then, he’s given us Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009) and this convoluted mess. There are simply too many characters and too much going on in this film. Either make a movie about the Transformers, after all, the film is named after them, or make a juvenile and inappropriate comedy about Witwicky and his eternal quest for love. Make a choice, Kruger, because merging the two creates a stop, go, stop, go effect. Just as the plot and action begin to move forward, we have to watch as Witwicky interviews for a job at Accuretta, gets confronted by the spastic “whistleblower” Jerry Wang (Ken Jeong), and then fumes about, well, everything: He’s upset that his girlfriend is getting expensive gifts from her boss (Dempsey), hurt that Bumblebee isn’t “there” for him; irritated that he has to take a low level job and that the director of National Intelligence, Mearing (Frances McDormand) won’t let him hook up with the Autobots and let him save the world AGAIN. Wah! Wah! Witwicky has to be one of the most irritating, petulant, pathetic douche bags in cinema. I keep hoping that one of the Decepticons will just tear him apart like a stuffed toy, and we will get to watch it in slo-mo and then in instant replay. Megatron (Hugo Weaving), I’m counting on you to get the job done. (And what was the deal with making Megatron appear in AFRICA, wearing a desert shroud like some Bedouin, and having that bird-like Decepticon perch on his arm? Where was his moustache and Persian cat to pet? Oh, I forgot. He has a hunchbacked lackey named Igor, too. See what I mean about shitty writing?)

I am going to sound like a broken record from my previous reviews, but I still don’t understand why Transformers movies even have human beings in them. They are unnecessary. The only reason I go to see these films is to see cool ass cars and trucks turning into giant robots that destroy each other. That’s it. I don’t give two shits about Witwicky, his family, the military … none of them. And I’m pretty sure that my sentiment is shared by 90 percent of other cinemagoers. Do you think that the legions of grade school boys who convince their parents to sit through yet another Michael Bay film are going to see this film for its plot? No, like me, they want to see the cars, especially the yellow Chevy Camaro – with black racing stripes – named Bumblebee. Sadly, he’s barely in this recent monstrosity. I was also pretty stoked to see a red Ferrari cruising along with the Autobots, and the $200,000 Mercedes Benz SLS AMG that Witwicky’s girlfriend got as a gift. Gorgeous vehicles! Actually, all of Dylan’s show cars were drool-inducing. Note to Kruger, we want to see cars transforming, so eliminate everything else. That would allow the film’s $195 million budget to get a hefty chop, and it could lose about an hour of its running time. Speaking of the film’s running time: Why does each Transformer’s movie need to get longer than the previous one. The first one was 144 minutes; No. 2 was 150 minutes; this one is 157 minutes long. And boy, do you feel those last two hours. I kept looking at my watch, thinking “My God does this ever end?” People should get a medal of honor just for sitting through the entire film without screaming out in pain. What makes me laugh is that this film had THREE editors – Roger Barton, William Goldenberg and Joel Negron – working on it. How much footage did Bay shoot? Six years worth? I can only imagine the nightmare of putting this film together under the watchful eye of Mr. Bay.

What else was wrong with Transformers: Dark of the Moon? How much time do you have? Huntington-Whiteley, a Victoria Secret model from England, has no real acting prowess. She was hired so we could watch her glide across a room, wearing a tight designer dress and walking two salukis. (I’m not joking about this.) Or wear another designer outfit while the camera inches up her body. Apparently, Megan Fox pissed off Steven Spielberg, executive producer, by her comparison of Bay with Hitler, and so she was fired. Who knows what made Bay choose Huntington-Whiteley. She’s too tall and looks too old for Witwicky. They make a ridiculous couple. In fact, she looks a bit like Cameron Diaz; if Diaz had lioness DNA. The more I looked at Huntington-Whiteley, the more she didn’t look right to me. Is she a mutant clone? It’s pretty sad that this film has only three primary women in it, and they are: A “gorgeous” object of desire whom every man wants to possess (Huntington-Whiteley); a black-glasses wearing, ball-busting bureaucrat (McDormand); and momma Witwicky (White), a woman who laments the fact that her son keeps losing all of his “hot” girlfriends. Really, guys? And I’ve already mentioned how amazingly annoying LaBeouf is, so we’ll leave it at that.

So is there anything good about this film? The cars, of course. My favorite parts of the movie are when they transform and kick the shit out of each other. But, again, this doesn’t happen nearly enough. I kept waiting for some serious damage to happen, and it did, sort of, in Chicago, but that took two hours to happen. By that point, I was so tired that I just wanted the film to end. The soundtrack contains some good songs by Linkin Park and Paramore; and the score by Steve Jablonsky is also notable. (I am contemplating buying it on Amazon.com.) I enjoyed John Malkovich’s performance. He plays Bruce Brazos, a martial arts practicing, heavily bronzed boss at Accuretta. Even though he didn’t seem to belong in this film, he gave me a few chuckles. Tudyk, too, gave his role all he had. I knew next to nothing about Transformers: Dark of the Moon before seeing it, so I was totally surprised to hear Nimoy’s voice. Why he decided to do this and not come back for more Fringe episodes is beyond me. Oh wait, money. What am I thinking? Oh well, I still felt joyful when, as Sentinel Prime, he said “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.” I felt like shouting: “That’s Spock in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan!” but I didn’t. And that’s about it.

Transformers films are all the same: Too little bang for the large amounts of time you have to waste in the cinema. They also are wick with stupid characters, juvenile humor, bad writing, convoluted plots, painful patriotic speeches delivered by Optimus Prime, cardboard cut-out females, and on and on. Save your money, people. Michael Bay doesn’t need it. Your brain cells will thank you.

Rating: 2 stars out of 5.

Author: Julien R. Fielding

Julien R. Fielding has been reviewing films, and covering the entertainment industry, for more than a decade. Her favorite genres are sci-fi, horror, action, and anime. She authored the book, Discovering World Religions at 24 Frames Per Second.

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