Transformers Dark of the Moon

PROVING that humans really are the most expendable aspect of this franchise, Megan Fox’s character from the first two movies is barely referenced in the third movie. A robot obliquely refers to her absence as having to do with her being “mean.” Lo and behold, the film’s human hero Sam Witwicky (Shia LeBeouf) has taken up with a new girlfriend Carly (Victoria’s Secret model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley).

Don’t think too hard about it. Console yourself that there’s a pretty girl amid the mayhem. The movie is all about the robots and the destruction they wreak.

That said, Transformers: Dark of the Moon represents a vast improvement in the series, especially compared to the execrable second part Revenge of the Fallen. As much as director Michael Bay professes to ignore critics, he seems to have paid attention to them and is now is less inclined to baffle our senses with the quick-cut spectacle of clashing metal robots intercut with sweaty, anxious human faces for two hours.

At the very least, Bay now employs slow motion and a more thoughtful approach to editing so that it is possible to distinguish good robots from bad robots… before they bash each other into so much junkyard debris.

Young Witwicky, fresh from college and bearing the (secret) thanks of the U.S. government, gets a job in a mailroom where he uncovers a conspiracy that has something to do with the 1969 moon landing. Back in the day, American astronauts first uncovered evidence of an alien Cybertronian spacecraft, an escapee from the ancient war between noble autobots and the power-hungry Decepticons. It appears a number of humans have aided and abetted a decades-long conspiracy.

The autobot leader/semi-trailer Optimus Prime (voiced by the sonorous Peter Cullen) suggests it is time for autobots to fly to the moon and retrieve the long-lost autobot leader Sentinel Prime (voiced by Leonard Nimoy) to prevent the evil Decepticons from regaining a foothold in their plan to take over the world and enslave humanity.

That doesn’t work out so well. Before long, Chicago is the apocalyptic stage for a devastating battle wherein Sam and sundry military characters (Josh Duhamel and Tyrese Gibson return) make a desperate bid to prevent the end of the world.

The script by Ehren Kruger is only slightly less stupid than the last film. Bay still offends in the way he twangs at patriotic heartstrings (cue the shot of the shredded but still proudly waving American flag) and the way he hires terrific actors with the intent of demeaning them with roles beneath their talents. (Frances McDormand comes out almost unscathed as a gruff intelligence honcho, which is more than you can say for John Malkovich as a goofy corporate guru.)

But you have to give credit to Bay for delivering the spectacle, especially in that battle-of-Chicago sequence, which, to give it its due, pushes visual effects to Avatar-like standards.

It’s a pity it’s all in service of a line of Hasbro toys.

I’m not sure which is more upsetting about the battle sequence: Witnessing the devastation of a great American city, or the realization that the movie steadfastly denies us any emotional connection to the horror of it all.

The Blu-ray has no significant extras in anticipation of a more deluxe Blu-ray edition to be released later, probably in mid-2012. Two and a half stars out of five. Tags: read more

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