Transformers: Dark of the Moon * *

Genre: Action

Director: Michael Bay

Writer: Ehren Krueger

Cast: Shia LaBeouf, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Josh Duhamel, John Tuturro, Patrick Dempsey, Frances McDormand, John Malkovich

Voice Cast: Peter Cullen, Leonard Nimoy, Hugo Weaving

Running Length: 157 minutes

Synopsis: Picking up from where the last Transformers movie left off, the Autobots are now working with humans to fend off the Decepticons and also help to battle (believe it or not) terrorists in the name of world peace. However, when Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen) discovers a secret that the US Government has been hiding from them on the moon, this sets off a chain of events that begins with the revival of the powerful Autobot Sentinel Prime (Leonard Nimoy) and eventually to a secret from Cybertron’s past that causes the future of Earth to hang in the balance.

In the mean time, Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) is finding difficulty adjusting to a normal lifestyle after graduating from college, and is not even able to find a proper job, despite being in a relationship with yet another hot girlfriend, Carly (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley). He uncovers a Decepticon plot but has difficulty getting anyone to listen to him, much less believe in what he says. In desperation, Sam tries to put his motley crew back together, including the now-wealthy conspiracy theorist Simmons (John Turturro), but they have to get past the no-nonsense FBI Security Director Mearing (Frances McDormand) first.

Review: It’s perhaps redundant to review Transformers: Dark of the Moon as essentially nothing has changed since the movie franchise started, and the exact same flaws that plagued the previous two films are back in the third. However, since Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen was such a terrible film, there was really no way to go but up. So yes, Dark of the Moon is a better film than Revenge of the Fallen, but is that saying much?

Michael Bay himself had expressed disappointment in the screenplay of Revenge of the Fallen, but in all honesty Dark of the Moon doesn’t fare much better. Running at a very bloated 157 minutes, Bay and screenwriter Krueger spend almost an hour on largely pointless exposition, punctuated only briefly by much-needed action sequences. Is there really a need to see Sam getting relationship advice from his parents? Or stilted, emotionless scenes in which Shia LaBeouf and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley try to convince the audience (unsuccessfully) of their deep love for each other? The entire film shudders to a halt repeatedly due to these superfluous sequences, and any hope of Dark of the Moon being able to tell a compelling story dissipates in this first hour.

The human actors are all deeply unimpressive, and this includes (much as it pains me to say) Frances McDormand and John Malkovich, who are obviously slumming it for the money. In fact, the human performances are so weak that all of them could have been wiped out without me feeling much for their plight. This is particularly true of Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, whose complete lack of acting skills makes Megan Fox’s vapid performances in the first two Transformers seem like thespian masterpieces in comparison. It’s quite telltale that the most emotionally affecting scenes in the film are those that deal with the Transformers. In fact, the bro-mance between Sam and Bumblebee comes across as being more believable that the romance between Sam and Carly, and it’s due to Bumblebee’s emoting, not LaBeouf’s.

Michael Bay isn’t known, of course, for his storytelling ability, but one thing he manages to do well is in action sequences. The action in Dark of the Moon is thankfully less confusing than before, with Bay actually managing to slow down most action sequences that they become discernible, something that was sorely lacking in Revenge of the Fallen. And the special effects and CGI are really top notch, with the most memorable being the scene where the main characters are trapped in a crumbling building –almost reminiscent of 9/11, and is easily the most visceral of the many, many action set-pieces in the movie.

Bay had recanted on his initial decision to eschew 3D midway through production, and it shows in the finished product. This is possibly the least 3D film I have ever seen, and it’s easy to forget that one is watching a 3D film in long stretches, not because the environment is immersive, but because there’s no sense of the third dimension at all. My advice is to save the money and the eye fatigue and go with normal 2D instead.

In the end, Dark of the Moon would probably have worked better if Michael Bay had elected to keep it short and sweet instead of trying to aim for an “epic”. Though the action sequences work well, viewer fatigue quickly sets in when so much of it is crammed into the movie. Add to that the unnecessarily lengthy exposition, and Dark of the Moon becomes a numbing cinematic experience that goes on far longer than it should have been. If there’s a fourth movie in the franchise, let’s hope that Bay would finally be able to exercise some self-restraint and not turn it into another overburdened behemoth.

Rating:
* * (out of four stars)

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