“Transformers: Dark of the Moon” will likely be seen as a return to form for the franchise, though Michael Bay’s robot-battling epic does still go on too long and has some serious problems with making sense. But there are some great technical moments interspersed, and there is some fun to be had along the way.
Bay is a fine technician, and the 3-D in this film seems less like a money grab and more like an actual piece of the filmmaking. If all 3-D was like this, it would be worth the extra couple of bucks. “Transformers: Dark of the Moon,” for the third time, features the conflict between two factions of an alien race of robots, the Transformers, based on the action figure line from Hasbro.
The Autobots, led by Optimus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen), believe in working with humanity after leaving their home planet of Cybertron; the Decepticons, led by Megatron (voiced by Hugo Weaving), wish to conquer Earth and destroy the Autobots.
The film starts well. There’s a scene set during the war on Cybertron, as a ship with a secret weapon tries to escape but is shot down, eventually crash-landing on Earth’s moon. There’s an unbelievable yet entertaining introduction as the U.S. and Russian space programs of the 1960s are shown to be a race to secretly explore this moon artifact.
In the present, the Autobots have become a semi-deputized arm of the U.S. government, helping root out corruption as robots in disguise. The Decepticons are largely in disarray, licking their wounds and preparing for a return.
Meanwhile, Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf), our hero, has graduated from college and found a new girlfriend, Carly (Victoria’s Secret model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley), but despite saving the world twice, he can’t seem to land a job. (Sam’s ability to land ridiculously beautiful women is discussed in a funny scene with Sam and his parents, played by Kevin Dunn and Julie White, a pair the film could have used more.)
When Sam learns of a plot in which the Decepticons are manipulating humans, he’s thrown back into the mix, working with Lt. Colonel William Lennox (Josh Duhamel) and the Autobots, despite some protests that he’s just a “messenger.” The Autobots rediscover their previous leader, Sentinel Prime (voiced by Leonard Nimoy) and attempt to unravel the latest Decepticon plot, which, true to their name, features layers and layers of deception.
The film cooks along pretty well until we’re reintroduced to John Turturro’s former agent Simmons, at which point the human acting becomes even more cartoonlike than the robots.
A parade of talented performers cascade through the film, including Frances McDormand, John Malkovich, Patrick Dempsey and Ken Jeong, although it’s frequently not certain what they are doing there.
The third act goes on way too long, and seems to be computer-generated disaster imagery for its own sake. The spectacle becomes numbing at a certain point, and may induce motion sickness.
Fans at the screening cheered at the right moments, so this may be a win for the target audience. Despite the clarity of the 3-D filmmaking, both the plot and moral message (if any) have too much fuzziness to make this a complete success.
— Matthew Price
From Wednesday’s The Oklahoman
“Transformers: Dark of the Moon”
Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Josh Duhamel, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, John Malkovich, Patrick Dempsey
(Intense prolonged sequences of sci-fi action violence, mayhem and destruction, and for language, some sexuality and innuendo)