Summer is here, and with it comes heat, humidity, and … Hasbro action figures. Michael Bay is at it again in true Michael Bay fashion- Dark of the Moon is the third installment in the series adapted from the Hasbro toy car-robots, and Bay sticks to his guns. Shia Labeouf still yells constantly, Optimus Prime still preaches on the value of humanity, and the action “climax” is almost an hour long. The movie is not without merits, however, and certainly outshines it predecessor, Revenge of the Fallen.
Prime and the Autobots duel with a Decepticon host again led by the super-villain Megatron. And audiences are finally enlightened as to the purpose of the Apollo space program and the cause of the Chernobyl disaster, among other things.
The film is fun, and the 3D action is unrelenting. Bay provides excellent sequences and finds some creative Transformer death scenes. Several dozen humans are bloodlessly vaporized along the way as well. Aesthetics buoy the film from the start as Bay once again shies from a meaningful script, but, strangely, I’m not sure I would have it any other way. Optimus Prime and Lennox, played by Josh Duhamel, are characters whose life-forces are sustained by cheesy one-liners. Without them, they wouldn’t exist. Duhamel is at his best when addressing his troops and telling them he “can’t promise them a ride home.” The script fails miserably when it comes to emotional appeal, but there are some genuinely funny moments.
As for the rest of the cast, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley fills in nicely for Megan Fox as the requisite GSLPCIRLWLGUD (Girl Shia Labeouf Probably Couldn’t Get In Real Life Who Looks Good Under Distress). Little more needs to be said- for an acting debut, she was solid, but don’t expect her to stray too far from her super-babe role in the future. I don’t consider Labeouf to be a bad actor; he has a certain charisma, and he’s frequently funny. But the man yells in every situation. The following lines are present in all three movies at least 1,000 times each:
“NOOOOOOOOOO!!!!! NO-NO-NO-NO-NO-NOOO!!! N-N-N-N-N-NO!!!!
(Check out this hilarious Labeouf video: what has been seen can not be unseen)
The movie shines in one personal category: it avoids the Frodo factor, which originated in Tolkien’s classic Lord of the Rings trilogy. Frodo Baggins and his companion Samwise Gamgee are tasked with an impossible journey, and they whine their way through three films. I seriously groan during The Return of the King when the movie cuts from Aragorn dominating orcs to Frodo and Sam’s bro-mance.
Frodo: I need you on my side.
Sam: I’m on your side, Mr. Frodo.
Frodo: I know you are, Sam.
I hate it, and it’s a testament to the epic quality of the films that Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli and others are able to overwhelm the whining with awesomeness. Frodo and Sam are supposed to add a David vs. Goliath appeal, but you can’t tell me that a squad of elves couldn’t do the job quicker and cooler than the Hobbits. Maybe the giant eagles could just drop them in- the possibilities are endless. A side note: I would pay good money for an extended cut of The Return of the King that substitutes epic battle footage in place of every Frodo-Sam scene.
The first two Transformers movies had a terrible case of the Frodo factor. I never really felt that Labeouf, Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson and the rest of the human crew were ever accomplishing anything. I wondered why they didn’t just get out of the way and let the Autobots handle it. I won’t spoil anything, but suffice it to say that the Organic All-Stars get in the action and actually contribute in Dark of the Moon.
I had issues with some pointless inconsistencies at times. For instance, a robot is awoken on Earth who has never had contact with humans, yet he quickly explains to Labeouf and others that the technology he has in his possession doesn’t follow our laws of physics. How would someone who has never been here know what our laws of physics are? Dumb. Also, without giving away too much, the Decepticon’s most recent maniacal plot has some glaring logistical issues.
Dark of the Moon is everything I’ve come to expect from a summer blockbuster, particularly those helmed by Bay. He overcompensates with explosions, but the formula is undeniably entertaining. Switch off the critical thinking lobe of your brain as you don your 3D glasses, and you’re sure to enjoy your time among the Transformers. The two and a half hour length is a little extreme, and Apocalypse Chicago could have been a movie of its own. But nobody does robot explosions better than Bay, and the visual effects make Dark of the Moon a theatre must-see, if you choose to see it at all. Wait until the DVD release and you’re doing the film an injustice, unless you have a worthy hi-def TV/surround sound system.