When the credits finally roll and the requisite Linkin Park song plays at the end of Transformers: Dark of the Moon, the audience checks their phones or watches. The collective thought is palpable.
â€œDid that really need to take two and a half hours?â€
Michael Bay still seems to be chasing his Gone With The Wind here, and the result is another very poor film with excellent visual effects. There is not much happening in Dark of the Moon that has not been seen in the previous installments of the series, and the moments that worked in previous movies are magnified and redone in spades. However none of the meta-references and self-deprecatory humor seem to connect with the audience. When Sam’s mom quips about the mean old girlfriend, we know she is talking about Megan Fox (who is not around for this adventure) but it does not ring true. Bay wants this to be his Return of the Jedi or Last Crusade, but it simply is not.
The film opens with a promising segment about the â€œrealâ€ reason behind the Moon mission of the 1960s, but just when you think the series may finally tap into its potential Bay flips us right back to our hero Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf).
And this is where the film lost me.
LaBeouf plays Witwicky as an embattled college grad who is bitter about the lack of employment options out there for him. He complains and whines to his gorgeous live-in girlfriend Carly (played by Brit model Rosie Huntington-Whitely) who also happens to be paying for his life. He grows increasingly rude to her, insisting that he saved the world twice with the Autobots. Why should the audience care for such a rotten protagonist? Why is it worth our time when so many Americans are struggling with this same problem, albeit without the live-in model as a Sugar Daddy?
Bay doesn’t have an answer to this question, so he responds as he always does, by blowing more stuff up. The movie introduces â€œThe Pillarsâ€, which act as a wormhole to move things across the Universe – the Decepticons want it to bring their war-ravaged planet of Cybertron to Earth, where they can use humans for slave labor to restore it to glory.
Beyond this you need not know, as the film slowly devolves into an hour-long apocalyptic set piece in the streets of Chicago. The action in this film improves upon the previous two; Bay is finally letting the scenes breathe, and slowing down the action so the fights are not just meaningless clashes of metal. The Decepticons finally begin to look as evil as we are supposed to believe them to be, especially the serpentine-looking Cyclops Shockwave, who headlines a scene in Chernobyl that is by far the highlight of the film.Â The 3D in this movie was smattered in the press leading up to this film; however it is very high quality and improves the film.
When you see this movie it is impossible to say the director does not have talent – I know how chic it is to hate Michael Bay as a critic, but it’s true. Bay has a tremendous visual flair that is comparable to a young Brian De Palma and Steven Spielberg. He simply can get exactly what he wants on the screen – however, what he wants is the issue. I believe that he is relieved to be done with this series, because now he will be able to try something new. His time at the Happy Farm that is Dreamworks with Steven Spielberg has stunted his growth as a filmmaker more than it has helped him. Like so many other filmmakers of this generation, he thinks that if a movie has special effects and moneymaking potential then it is a good film. I think he will do better to go back to the form of his original collaborations with Jerry Bruckheimer (Bad Boys, The Rock). He seems to be trying, his next film is a self-proclaimed â€œsmall filmâ€ called Pain & Gain where a group of bodybuilders turn Bank Robbers and go on a crime spree… alright, well that’s small-er, sounds like Bonnie and Clyde meets Pumping Iron. Hopefully it will distance him somewhat from the muddled mess that ended up being made of the promising Transformers series.
As the film and series ends there will be little love lost between audiences and Transformers, seeing as there was never much of a connection between the two anyways. While it can boast being the most successful toy adaption ever in Hollywood, it can boast of little else. Transformers: Dark of the Moon is a movie with about 30 minutes of quality trapped within a bloated 150 minute running time. Bay may be talented, but no one could tame this dumpster fire of a franchise with this muddled mess of a movie.