Transformers: Dark of the Moon
(Michael Bay, 2011, USA)
Observe a child playing innocently with their action figures; theirs games, whilst regularly punctuated by oral bangs and crashes, are mostly meaningless and totally devoid of narrative cohesion. Observe the first two chapters in Michael Bay’s truncated Transformers franchise, and the similarities are plain to see. Not breaking with tradition this third time round, Bay, who eventually admitted faults with Revenge of the Fallen (2009) – an insufferable endurance test masquerading as a piece of Hollywood entertainment, keeps the notch firmly at eleven but at least tries to formulate some semblance of a plot, to cripplingly miserable results. You would have thought he’d have learnt from his gargantuan mistakes by now.
Tampering with historical events ala Zack Snyder’s equally muddled Watchmen (2009), Dark of the Moon opens with a fifteen minute exposé on what ‘really’ happened during the 1969 moon landing; a covert mission to investigate a crash-landed Autobot spacecraft originating from the planet Cybertron. While a CGI’d John F. Kennedy is quite laughable, this is an interesting introduction undercut almost immediately by, in the present, an under-the-skirt shot of Rosie Huntington-Whiteley as she descends a flight of stairs. Bay will be Bay, and we are thrown back into familiar territory where underwritten dialogue, wooden acting and mindless action are all elements that are par for the course.
As soon as the battle between the Autobots (the good) and Decepticons (the bad) resumes, the film falls back on what the series has now become known for, wrapped up in its own delirious action, frenzied misogyny and excessive celebration of mass consumerism, where almost every scene is tinged with product placement. Although Bay extracts the sickeningly stereotypical, and racist, robots seen in parts one and two, their absence is filled by ones that swear and demonstrate some overtly aggressive violence which, for a film predominantly youth-orientated and based on a child’s toy, is very graphic. Robots actually bleed when struck, bafflingly. Though the action is customarily well choreographed and makes full use of its 3D, it’s so indulgently convoluted and shot with a fragrant disregard for the space surrounding it that even the humans, let alone the robots are indecipherable at best. The metal on metal fisticuffs are clamorous and repetitive, yet the final battle (which goes on for over an hour) is saved by a worm-like Decepticon’s attack on a tower block, which is well paced and edited and wastes no time in delivering a bracing sequence that fly’s in the face of everything that comes before, and after it.
Alongside Huntington-Whiteley (an underwear model who acts accordingly) and emotionally shallow protagonist Shia Labeouf, Bay drags some notable supporting players into the fold; Coen Brothers alumni John Malkovich, Frances Mcformand and a returning John Torturro are all hammy, unfunny and one-note. Ken Jeong and Alan Tudyk are similarly miscast and offensively characterised, respectively.
You have to hand it to the megalomaniac director, he does at least keep the film in keeping with the overall tone and ambiance of the franchise, where monotonous action is matched by attempts at comedy so out of place and humorless. In fact, the only thing funny about the whole debacle is just how seriously it takes itself that it ends up being a wholly joyless and unremarkable send off to an unremarkable trilogy. Well we can all hope, can’t we?