Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Michael Bay
Stars: Shia La Beouf, Patrick Dempsey, John Malkovich, John Turturro, Josh Duhamel, Frances McDormand, Kevin Dunn, Julie White, Ken Jeong, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, voices of Leonard Nimoy, Petter Cullen, Hugo Weaving.
This third film in the incredibly lucrative Transformers series is everything that you would expect from a Michael Bay film – a bombastic, overblown, noisy, empty spectacle full of superb special effects and massive destruction on a massive scale. Someone – maybe executive producer Steven Spielberg – should take Bay aside and teach him the meaning of restraint.
This time around the battle between the autobots (the good robots) and the Decepticons (the bad robots) takes on global ramifications. An extended prologue weaves the history of the space race and man’s landing on the moon with that of the planet Cybertron, which was torn apart by civil war. As the autobots fled the tyranny of the Decepticons, a spacecraft of autobot warriors crashed on the dark side of the moon. Some decades later Optimus Prime’s mentor Sentinel Prime (voiced by Star Trek’s Leonard Nimoy) is recovered from the wreckage and brought back to a top secret research base in the States. But the Decepticons seize this opportunity to try and conquer the Earth. Working in collaboration with a few humans like Patrick Dempsey’s arrogant and megalomaniacal millionaire former racing car driver, they plan to use a series of special “pillars” that were stranded on the dark side of the moon, to open a portal between their world and Earth.
Despite having saved the world on two occasions and having earned a Presidential medal, our hero Sam Witwicky (Shia La Beouf) is unemployed and frustrated by his exclusion from the Transformers program. But Sam is soon drawn back into the action as he tries to thwart the Decepticons and their evil plans. The whole thing comes to a climax as the opposing forces wage all-out war in the streets of Chicago, which eventually seems repetitive and excessive. This sequence is both visually and aurally overwhelming, much like a video game, and will leave most in the audience feeling drained and exhausted.
Transformers: Dark Of The Moon is an adolescent male fantasy, full of fighting robots and soldiers engaged in pitched battles on the streets of Chicago, and they won’t care about the plot holes or lack of emotional resonance. This film also seems more unnecessarily violent than its predecessors.
According to Bay, part of the problem with Transformers 2 was the lack of a coherent script. Here, writer Ehren Kruger (Arlington Road, Scream 3, etc) has offered something of a meatier premise with its whiff of conspiracy theory. He cleverly weaves the “secret history” of the space race and the moon landing into the Transformers legend, but that is the only hint of originality in an otherwise formulaic film.
Most of the regular cast have returned for this sequel, including Hugo Weaving and Peter Cullen and the rest of the vocal cast behind the main Transformer characters. Megan Fox has been replaced by the beautiful but bland former Victoria’s Secret model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, who plays Sam’s sexy new love interest Carly Miller. John Turturro returns as the paranoid Simmons and Josh Duhamel again plays Special Forces soldier Lennox, who finds himself in the thick of the action. However, the scenes involving Kevin Dunn and Julie White briefly reprising their roles as Sam’s overly possessive parents could easily have been cut from the film without diminishing the dramatic impact. Ken Jeong (the sexually ambiguous Mr Chow from the two Hangover movies, etc) brings a spurious and vaguely offensive edge to his hysterically ham-fisted performance as Wang, Sam’s paranoid colleague.
And Bay has managed to get a couple of serious actors to lighten up their screen personas, and have a bit of fun for a change. Thus we get John Malkovich bringing his usual intense and eccentric persona to his performance as Sam’s narcissistic new boss, and Frances McDormand plays Mearing, a headstrong and humourless CIA officer in charge of the Transformers program.
Bay maintains his usual kinetic and restless style of direction that eventually subdues the audience into submission. The film is 154 minutes long, and there is too much padding and dopey, homophobic attempts at humour that slow down the action. On the positive side though, the muscular action scenes are done with gusto and energy. The special effects from the ILM factory are also superb, and Transformers 3 boasts some of the best use of 3D visual effects this side of Avatar.
Of course, the executives of Hasbro are already rubbing their hands in avaricious glee in anticipation of the massive merchandising windfall about to come their way as a result of the film’s box office appeal with adolescent males.