Transformers – Dark of the Moon is a fitting title because it should always be facing away from us.
Michael Bay promised us that he’d do away with the problems of the horrendous first sequel to Transformers but he should have mentioned the possibility of creating some new ones. In actuality Transformers – Dark of the Moon isn’t as bad a movie as its Writer’s Strike embattled predecessor but its faults are inherently more noticeable. Partially due to the IMAX/3-D boost that lets us see everything in intrinsic detail and partially because the makers of these films have caused enough visual and sonic injustices that we are punch-drunk and know better. We know better. Yet we go.
Because we like BOOM!
Transformers – Dark of the Moon takes a rather haunting premise [that our moon landing was a cover-up involving a crashed Autobot ship] and deposits layer upon layer of extraneous info on it about a race of living robots whose origins we give fuck all about. The Transformers as a whole are fun for one reason: They look like something we’re familiar with and then suddenly they’re running around like something different and the terrain is getting its ass kicked. Their dying planet is dumb. Their motives are dumb. Their weapons are dumb and most importantly, the people they align themselves with are dumb.
As good as the man is at making pictures move prettily, Bay is that bad at parlaying the goodwill created by his visuals with anything even remotely resembling content. That lack of genuine emotion in these films is actually quite miraculous considering the [seemingly absentee] involvement of the best emotion wrangler in film history, Steven Spielberg. It’s miraculous because of how much inner fire and passion LaBeouf typically brings to his roles. Just a little bit of humanity in these films should allow for the vehicular mayhem to unfold organically but it doesn’t. Worse yet, if these films were designed to be robot porn they fail on that front as well because regardless of how feeble the human element to the movies is, there’s an awful lot of time devoted to the pink fleshy bipeds we give less than a shit about.
Shia LaBeouf’s Sam Witwicky is the most grating pussywhipped leading character in film history. And I like Shia LaBeouf. Sam Witwicky and his horrible family and shitty girlfriends are the worst protagonists in Event Movie history. If Downfall became a tentpole series, the Witwicky clan would still be the worst protagonists. To make matters worse, in the film’s first act we can’t experience a scene with Sam without him being delivered to us with some horrible music playing. Imagine the Aerosmith nightmare from Armageddon only worse and with no real reason for being other than contractual obligation. These little musical interludes are so very BAY that it hurts. It hurts because the little good things in the movie like Alan Tudyk’s crazy assistant and John Malkovich’s overtanned loony simply aren’t enough. The eye candy though plentiful and delivered with a much better sense of geography than in the previous films simply isn’t enough.
There has been a lot of banter about how this third film is the delivery of promise on all of Michael Bay’s talent. That it’s finally the one where everything falls into place.
No it isn’t. It’s the same damn thing only bigger and with more time spent on the set pieces. Yes, things are often pretty cool to look at and there’s no denying that the visual effects department and second unit crews deserve a nice pat on the back for their ability to deliver a truly gorgeous bit of splendor. But it’s still dumber than a puddle. It still is an example of how the Kitchen Sink mentality doesn’t work. It still does nothing to convince us these films wouldn’t have been more fun if it were just robots smashing each other for an hour and a half. If there’s a man alive who’d rather have a two+ hour long movie about a toy line WITH human subplots over a one and a half movie of just robots harming each other, I say that that man needs to be wrapped in cheesecloth and sent into the forest. The sheer force of DUMB against one’s skull in this movie wins the tug of war with the amount of cool stuff onscreen. Actually it’s not even close. Like an arm wrestling match between The Rock and Stephen Hawking.
It’s good to hear Leonard Nimoy’s voice. It’s bad to see that his robot has a Nimoy beard. This is a microcosm of why this film and its ilk are so maddening. It’s cool to see a giant action scene set amidst a skyscraper falling. It’s horrible to watch how ridiculous the execution is, with physics being given a firm rogering and the human characters granted immortality as the scene allows. It’s neat to have a frantic chase as robots pursue heroes on crowded roadways. It’s less neat to see hundreds of innocent commuters ruined casually in the midst of a PG-13 movie based on Hasbro toys. What was glorious in Bad Boys 2 is downright offensive here. Over the course of the entire running time of this film there is an almost admirable juxtaposition of great and horrible decisions. It’s definitely a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” proposition. Anyone expecting anything more than dumb bombast should know better but anyone willing to coast on it should also consider an appointment with a head doctor.
Transformers – Dark of the Moon is a fitting title because it is akin to the ugliest part of our ass but by golly when we ease our mirror right up to the crack it’s fascinating to stare into. I think Nietzsche said something similar.