And please note that when I write “a deeply horrible movie” the word in my head between “a” and “horrible” is not “deeply” but something much more Germanic and lively.
The movie opens with an alternate history of the U.S./Russian space race. It’s not national pride that is spurring the countries to get to the moon first but the knowledge that something has crash-landed there. Through a collage of archival footage and laughable impersonations of Kennedy and Nixon, we learn that the Apollo astronauts spent their time on the “dark side” of the moon investigating the crash of what we know to be an Autobot ship (a preamble to the human history explains some Autobot/Decepticon history and the last battle of the war on their home planet Cybertron).
Jump to the present day when we see the scantily clad derriere of Rosie Hunginton-Whiteley, or as she’s better known, not-Megan Fox. That’s right, present-day action opens on a butt shot. Michael Bay, you scamp. After several seconds, perhaps a whole minute, of bum, we finally see Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf). He’s a recent college grad, living with his new girlfriend Carly (Hunginton-Whiteley), to whom the bottom belongs, and desperate to find a job, particularly since his parents Ron (Kevin Dunn) and Judy (Julie White) are expected soon for a visit. Despite his having saved the world twice and received a “hero medal” from President Obama, nobody’s lining up to offer Sam his first gig. Eventually, he settles for a mail room job that he is discouraged to learn was set up for him by Dylan (Patrick Dempsey), Carly’s boss.
A word about Dylan: He is, I think, an accountant but his office looks like some World of Tomorrow/2001: A Space Odyssey ride and it’s filled with vintage collectable cars and hot assistants, of which Carly is apparently his favorite.
A word about Carly: She has lips like a sofa and tends to wear “dresses” that look more like large belts, and her blonde hair is always doing something (billowing in a heretofore nonexistent breeze, bouncing as she turns her head) that looks unnatural anyplace in the world outside of a shampoo commercial. She is a blonde, British-accent-having empty suit (or, in this case, empty skinny jeans) much like the previous occupant of the franchise’s main “girl role” only with about one-fourth the personality of Megan Fox. And maybe half the acting ability. Consider.
So Sam is miserable about all this — about his girlfriend being ogled by her rich boss, about being shut out of the government’s operations with the Autobots and mostly about not having a job in life that matters. But then he finds out that Decepticons are active again and he turns to William Lennox (Josh Duhamel), the military officer in charge of Autobot operations, to try to help prevent a coming crisis.
To explain coherently would be to spoil, so, broadly speaking, Optimus Prime (voice of Peter Cullen) and company check out the ship on the moon, where they find Sentinel Prime (voice of Leonard Nimoy), an old leader of the Autobots who may be a target of Decepticons in their current schemes.
Let me try to replicate the experience of watching this movie for you: Transformers! Moon! Butt! Screaming Sam Witwicky! Funny parents! Sexy cars! Sexy cars that are really transformers! Boom! Blonde hair! Sexual innuendo! More explosions! Bad transformers! Or maybe good transformers, who can tell! More screaming Witwicky! More hair! Explosions! Josh Duhamel! Hey, it’s Spock! Ka-boom! Ba-ba-ba-ba-ba, machine guns! American flag!
In there, you’ll get some dialogue, about half of which you can actually make out. There’s some romantic nonsense that even the movie doesn’t try all that hard to make believable. Tyrese Gibson and John Turturro return. Frances McDormand plays the role, required in each movie, of Government Agent Who Just Doesn’t Get It,. And then, just when you think the movie should be wrapping up and an hour before it actually does, there’s that late-second-act dip in action and then the battle that takes up the last 50 minutes or so. It is a grab bag of action movie tropes and highly tanned skin and jokes that all seem kinda mean and occasionally vaguely homophobic and robots. Rather than having a cohesive story line, it feels like somebody just dumped out the bag and strung it all together in random order. You can’t always tell who is talking to whom (or, as I said, what they’re saying, though sometimes I think screams and grunts really are all the actors have to work with), who is fighting whom, where half the action is taking place or what the hell is going on. At one point, a small group of army soldiers are engaged in the last-stand battle in Chicago. In the background, an elevated train goes by. The buildings are on fire, the streets are filled with dead people, destroyed cars and, yes, even derailed trains but somewhere one of them is still running smoothly?
There is so much more wrong with this movie — seriously, why is Sam screaming all the time? — but rather than going further into why I’m giving this movie its low grade, let’s talk about why I’m not giving it an F:
(1) If you are looking for something to provide you with two and a half hours (probably nearly three with trailers) of air conditioning, this movie will do that. Incidentally, so will The Tree of Life and even with its art-movie too-muchness it probably makes more sense. But that movie’s not playing everywhere so this might be the best thing you’ve got, ticket-price-to-time-spent-in-air-conditioning-wise.
(2) There are maybe 10 fun minutes toward the end of the climactic battle.
(3) The stuff with the parents is kinda cute.
(4) There is a really good drinking game to be made out of the action and frequency-on-screen of Hunginton-Whiteley’s hair.
This movie’s biggest sin is not that its story is dull and nonsensical or that its characters are uninteresting. The biggest problem with Dark of the Moon is that it is not awesome in the way that, as that Fios commercial used to say, Michael Bay usually needs things to be awesome. Bay is all about the explosions that themselves explode and the hysterical, bombastic score and the slow-mo highlighting of action bad-assery. But this movie has none of that giddiness, none of that joy, none of the excitement that can have you delighting at a Bay movie even when you know it’s kind of terrible. “Awesome” is all some of those Michael Bay movies have. Without it, Transformers: Dark of the Moon has almost nothing to offer. D
Rated PG-13 for intense prolonged sequences of sci-fi action violence, mayhem and destruction, and for language, some sexuality and innuendo. Directed by Michael Bay and written by Ehren Kruger, Transformers: Dark of the Moon is two hours and 34 minutes long and is distributed by Paramount Pictures.