When the second Transformers movie, Revenge
of the Fallen, was met with critical derision
and audience confusion (though neither problem stopped the movie from being
a smash hit), director Michael Bay promised that he recognized the mistakes
he made in the second film of the series and he would make up for it with
Dark of the Moon would be more like the first
film, Bay said. Gone would be the confusing mythology and the silly sexually and
ethnically inappropriate humor. Gone would be Megan Fox’s pouty bitchiness
(though Bay insisted that call came from Executive Producer Steven
Spielberg, not himself.) The story would make more sense. The action would
be more streamlined. The characterization – which was a surprising strong
point in the first Transformers movie – would be worked on harder.
Sorry all you millions of people who plunked down money for Revenge of
the Fallen, he seemed to be saying – this time we’ll do better.
You know what? I’ll bet Michael Bay believes he did
just that with this new chapter.
Doesn’t make it so, though.
Dark Side of the Moon is a
little better than the second film, but that is more due to the amazing
wretchedness of the second chapter than any great improvement in the third.
Okay, in fairness,
If anything, this one is even longer than the endless last
one, just as confusing and the characters are less likable. (Shia
LaBeouf’s hero character of Sam Witwicky has turned into a real smug, rude
asshole somewhere along the way.)
However, Bay has done one thing that is truly
exceptional with Dark of the Moon. He found an actress to play Sam’s
latest way-too-hot-for-him girlfriend who is even more attractive and even less of
an actress than Megan Fox was. Not that it is really even Rosie Huntington-Whiteley’s
fault. She seems like a nice fashion model who was just minding her own
business and got thrown in way over her head,
most likely given no direction or
guidance by Bay. As far as he was concerned, she could be there simply
because she was hot – there was really no other purpose to her character.
Besides, with the dialogue she was given, even Meryl Streep or Dame Judi
Dench would come out looking ridiculous in the role.
In fact, a few extremely talented actors are made to
look just as ridiculous as the new girl in Autobot town. How can we expect
her to look like a professional actress when Bay had Oscar-caliber actors
like John Malkovich, John Turturro and Frances
McDormand looking like untalented rank amateurs?
Dark Side of the Moon suffers from the same
basic problem all of the films had: it’s not all that easy to get all worked
up about a bunch of machines kicking the crap out of each other. I
could stage a fight between my television set and my refrigerator, but no
one would care to watch it. Certainly not for over two-and-a-half
It doesn’t help at all that the Transformers are such
ridiculous looking contraptions too, all dangling doors and
tires and windows and weird angles and
goofy faces. I challenge anyone who is not a hardcore fan to be able to
pick out more than two of them out by name. I’m shocked that I can even
recognize Optimus Prime and Bumble Bee. I was never sure through the rest
of the film which of these ridiculous robots were good guys or bad guys.
Not that I really cared all that much.
It’s actually kind of a shame, because Dark of the
Moon actually started out with an interesting variation on the story –
the suggestion that the first manned moon landing was actually a front to
investigate an Autobot shipwreck. Of course, Bay plays fast and loose with
the historical timeline – showing President John F. Kennedy sending the
astronauts to space and then President Richard Nixon congratulating them for
their return. (Is Bay suggesting the flight lasted five years?
No, he’s just not a nuanced enough filmmaker to show the passage of time
This interesting tack is quickly mostly abandoned for
the same old Transformers stuff. Also, this historical trick is
brought back a couple of other times with diminishing results (they suggest
that the bad guy Decepticons are responsible for the Chernobyl nuclear
disaster, which seems like a lack of tact and a bit of bad taste).
I suppose though, the most damning thing I can say
about Dark of the Moon is that my nine-year-old
nephew, who loved the first two films and is hugely into the toys, hated the
I never cared in the least about the Transformers, but
I mostly agree with him.
And after all that, Dark of the Moon still is a
little better than Revenge of the Fallen was. Kinda scary. I
guess that tells you all you really need to know about the series. If you
need a little Transformers fix, watch the first hour of the first film.
That’s all the average viewer will ever really need to see.
I hope that Bay makes good on his latest promise that
this will be the final Transformers movie. I hate to say it, but I
have a feeling we haven’t seen the last of them, even if Bay is no longer
involved next time around.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2011 PopEntertainment.com.
All rights reserved. Posted: September 23, 2011.