Film review: Nothing more than meets the eye on new 'Transformers'

July 05, 2011|By BOB GARVER | Special to The Herald-Mail
  • Optimus Prime is shown in a scene from "Transformers: Dark of the Moon."
AP Photo/Paramount Pictures

When I review a sequel, I usually open by talking about the proud history of the franchise.

The history of the "Transformers" franchise is nothing to be proud of.  

The '80s cartoon was a glorified toy commercial, the original 2007 film was one of the worst films of that year and the second film in 2009 was one of the worst films of all time.  

Yet, even I have to admit, that it's hard not to throw money at movies about giant fighting robots with a knack for explosions and shattering glass.

The "Transformers" franchise has enjoyed financial success, and while I'm not happy that we now have "Transformers: Dark of the Moon," I recognize that it's good business.

The film is once again in the hands of all-powerful hack director Michael Bay. It's easy to make jokes about him favoring action over storytelling, but that would require him to be better at action.  It would also require him to waste less time with his annoying storytelling.  

Yet the movie about giant robots still wants us to spend a good deal of time with Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf). Now more than ever Sam is a source of unfunny human comedy, poor human decisions and unbuyable human emotion. But he still has his near-superhuman ability to avoid being crushed by debris.  

There's a plot with the robots where Optimus Prime and the Autobots (good guys) resurrect a former leader but it turns out to be a trap by Megatron and the Decepticons (bad guys) to win their war with each other and enslave Earth. The logistics are murky, just remember to hate the Decepticons.  

On the human side, Sam is bitter that he can't get a job. He has a new girlfriend (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley) and she has a rich boss (Patrick Dempsey). I wanted to punch the smug Dempsey character.  

Actually, I wanted to punch every character, but because Dempsey's is the only human character you're supposed to want to punch, he technically turns in the best performance of the film.  

Other new characters include Frances McDormand as a tight-knit government official and John Malkovich as Sam's boss whose quirks we're supposed to find hilarious. Once the action picks up, Sam reconnects with his old friends Simmons (John Turturro), Lennox (Josh Duhamel) and Epps (Tyrese Gibson).

  Roughly the last hour of the movie is a long action sequence where Sam and the other good guys try to save Earth from having another planet transported to an area nearby. The sequence is typical of the franchise; lots of peril, lots of property damage, and lots and lots of noise.  

Thankfully, the metallic whooshing has been toned down from the last film, it is now slightly less than nauseating. Don't worry, you'll still get inundated with crashes, clanks, bangs and explosions.  

There's also a lot of confusion in the sequence, as it's impossible to keep track of the various characters in all the action. I also couldn't tell where exactly the robots were being hit when they were fighting with each other. Therefore, I had no idea whether their hits even hurt.  

I'm bored with hating the "Transformers" movies, so I tried to find something to like about "Dark of the Moon."  Military guys swoop into the final battle on what can best be described as hang-glider suits. Those were neat. More importantly, I liked the audience at the screening I attended. An expressive, rambunctious audience can really make a bad movie bearable.

So despite Michael Bay's best efforts, I couldn't get too mad at the film.  I therefore proclaim "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" to be the best film in the wholly unpleasant "Transformers" franchise.  

See it with the craziest audience you can find.  

Two stars out of five.

"Transformers: Dark of the Moon" is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of prolonged sci-fi action violence, mayhem and destruction, and for language, some sexuality and innuendo.  Its running time is 157 minutes.  

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