Transformers: Dark of the Moon

© 2011 Ray Wong

After the outrageously bad Transformers 2, I knew there would be a Transformers 3 and I swore I wouldn't see another one of this atrocity. 'Lo and behold, here I am, reviewing the new installment of the highly successful but brain-dead franchise. Fortunately, this time around, some brain cells have returned. Some.

The story begins four years later and Sam (Shia LaBeouf) has just graduated from college. He has a new girlfriend Carly (Rosie Hungtington-Whiteley) who has a high-profile PR job working for super rich and powerful Dylan (Patrick Dempsey). Meanwhile, Sam can't even get a job because he can't talk about the aliens and can't get anyone at the Pentagon to give him a recommendation. Frustrated (after all, he saved the world twice), he reluctantly takes an entry-level job under the supervision of Bruce Brazos (John Malkovich) who has a screw loose himself.

Meanwhile, the Autobots are working for the US military in covert operations. But soon, they discover the US government has kept a 50-year-old secret: the lunar landing project was all a coverup. In 1961, an alien ship crash-landed on the moon carrying a special technology that could have helped the Autobots win the war against the Decepticons and take back their planet Cybertron.

Worse, they realize the Decepticons are back and they're racing to get their hands on the technology as well. Optimus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen) leads a team to recover the technology and revive the inventor, Sentinel Prime (voiced by Leonard Nimoy). They understand the technology could create a time-space portal to bring Cybertron to Earth, thus threatening the lives of humans. With the help of Sam, they will have to find a way to keep the technology safe from the Decepticons.

Shia LaBeouf (Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps) reprises his role as Sam Witwicky, and his acting ability hasn't much improved. Mr. LaBeouf has three expressions: befuddled, angry, and goofy. It's even worse when his character continues to be underwritten and undeveloped. Years later, his character still acts the same way, like an overgrown kid. It's amazing, however, that he keeps getting super hot girlfriends. This guy must have something extraordinarily impressive, and we're not talking about his acting talent.

Other major players are also back in the game. Josh Duhamel (Life as We Know It) is fine as Colonel Lennox, but like every other character, his is undeveloped. All he does is act macho and heroic, which he does rather well. John Turturo (Cars 2) returns as Simmons and has some funny lines. At least he has fun playing it up. Tyrese Gibson (Fast Five) also returns -- at least his presence gives the film some needed diversity. Since Megan Fox was fired, supermodel Rosie Huntington-Whiteley makes her debut as yet another hot, sexy, not-a-strand-of-messy-hair damsel in distress. Acting? What acting? But at least she's an amazing eye candy.

New cast members include Patrick Dempsey (Valentine's Day) as a weasel (and it's good for him to play the bad guy for once -- still with great hair), and Frances McDomand (Burn After Reading) playing a droll top National Security director. She acts a bit of class to the ensemble (just a bit). John Malkovich (RED) and Ken Jeong (Hangover 2) provide some needed comic relief with their relatively unnecessary roles. The standout is Alan Tudyk (Beautiful Boy) as Simmons' mysterious and sexually ambiguous assistant. The voices have returned, too: Peter Cullen as Optimus Prime and Huge Weaving as Megatron. Leonard Nimoy lends his distinguished voice as Sentinel Prime.

Thankfully written by a single writer, Ehren Kruger (Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen), instead of by committee, the storyline is more coherent and reasonable. Of course, "reasonable" is a relative term. We're still talking about a mechanical alien race and tons of explosions. At least Kruger bases the story on a neat concept. However, as the plot unfolds, we get lost in the convoluted twists and a myriad of minor characters. There are so many plot holes and unexplained development that eventually I just have to give up making sense of them.

But who are we kidding? We don't go to see Transformers for the plot or acting. We go to see the Transformers, the CGI, explosions and stunts. Forget about the cheesy dialogue, flimsy character development, forced humor, and a plausible story. Forget about using your brain -- it's not required. In fact, it's best that we leave our brains at the door. The more you let yourself drift away into this fantasy land, the better you will enjoy this sensory overload.

And that's what director Michael Bay has given us: sensory overload. Criticize him as much as you want, but Bay knows what the mass audience wants and he delivers: super loud and busy popcorn entertainment with sexy babes and cool toys. This film sells toys, and sell a billion they will. What Bay has learned from the atrocity that was Transformer 2 is that he must give the audience what they want, namely the Transformers and the fight scenes. So instead of giving us extreme closeups of "what the heck is going on?" he uses more medium shots this time and the experience is so much better. In fact, he's staged certain amazing, War-of-the-World-esque scenes of epic fights and mayhem, including an extended 9/11-inspired sequence involving a building in downtown Chicago with excellent stunt work and choreography. Now that's what we're talking about.

Still, the movie is way too long without a good plot. At 157 minutes, it's seriously testing our patience by the last act. The extended climax lasts for about an hour, with more of the same going on. More flights. More explosions. More robots. More mayhems. More noises. More destructions. More. More. More. At the end of the film, we're totally exhausted and numb.

Plot holes? What plot holes?

In that regard, Bay is a genius. Transformers: Dark of the Moon is your ultimate testosterone-drenched fantasy epic that should entertain and delight boys and girls from age 6 to 65. No brains allowed.

Stars: Shia LaBeouf, Josh Duhamel, John Turturo, Tyrese Gibson, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Patrick Dempsey, Frances McDomand, Kevin Dunn, John Malkovich, Ken Jeong, Peter Cullen, Hugo Weaving, Leonard Nimoy
Director: Michael Bay
Writer: Ehren Kruger
Distributor: Paramount
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense, prolonged action and violence, mayhem, destruction, language, sexual innuendo
Running Time: 157 minutes


Script – 5
Performance – 6
Direction – 7
Cinematography – 9
Music/Sound– 6
Editing – 8
Production – 9

Total – 6.8 out of 10

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