Movie Review: Transformers: Dark of the Moon
By Jim Van Nest
June 28, 2011

This is like Batman and The Joker  as cyborgs.

In 2007, Michael Bay unleashed his special effects extravaganza The Transformers on us. He introduced a new generation to Optimus Prime and the rest of his Autobot pals. He also introduced most of us to Megan Fox, the sexy female lead opposite Shia LaBeouf. Transformers opened to mixed reviews, but was generally thought of as a fun summer popcorn flick. LaBeouf became a star and Fox became a frequent cover girl of magazines like Maxim.

In 2009, Bay kicked us in the groin with Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. LaBeouf started getting into trouble, Fox proved she was little more than a pretty face and Revenge of the Fallen was one of the worst reviewed films of 2009 and amazingly enough, the worst reviewed film of Bay's career.

It's 2011 and Fox has been canned and replaced by Victoria's Secret model, Rosie Huntington-Whitely. LaBeouf has had a quiet year or so, while Bay is trying to rescue the Transformers series from the toilet with the third and final (yeah, right) installment, Transformers: Dark of the Moon. And dare I say, I actually think he's done it.

Dark of the Moon begins by telling us all that the moon landing in 1969 was all a cover up of a crashed UFO on the moon somewhere around 1961. The UFO in question was a huge ship called The Ark from the planet Cybertron. Knowing that his Autobots were about to lose the planetary civil war with the evil Decepticons, Autobot leader, Sentinel Prime flees his planet with technology that could save his race. After an attack from Starscream, The Ark crash lands on our Moon, apparently killing all inside. President Kennedy escalates the space race to get men on the moon to investigate the downed craft.

Over the years, as we know, the presence of the Autobots and Decepitcons is well known and the Autobots have fit in with humans quite well. Their main man, Sam Witwicky (LaBeouf) is now all grown up. He's graduated college, been dumped by Mikaela (Fox), received a medal from President Obama and despite saving the world twice, can't seem to find himself a job. But that's okay, because he's living with his new flame, Carly Spencer (Huntington-Whitely). Meanwhile, his Autobot pals are now working with the government on covert ops in places like the Middle East. Suffice it to say that despite his heroics in the previous two movies, Sam's life is NOT progressing the way he'd like it to. He spends his days going on interviews and feeling sorry for himself. But, as these things often do, all that is about to change.

Sam finally lands a job working for an overly tanned executive named Bruce, but finds himself relegated to the mailroom - but not for long. As fate would have it, a Decepticon spy gets the order to kill one of Sam's co-workers...but not before said co-worker can warn Sam about the problems on the dark side of the moon. Apparently the technology that was evacuated from Cybertron back in the '60s is still viable today and if it falls into the wrong hands, could spell the end for the human race. Naturally, this results in a race to the moon between the Autobots and Decepticons with the fate of Earth hanging in the balance.

All of our favorite characters return for the three-quel, including John Turturro's even wealthier Simmons and Tyrese Gibson and Josh Duhamel's super soldiers. Added to the mix this time around are John Malkovich in an entertaining (if not bizarre) turn as Sam's boss, Bruce, along with The Hangover's breakout star Ken Jeong as Jerry, Sam's unlucky co-worker, as well as Frances McDormand as the untrusting head of the Secret Service. Also added this time around are Patrick Dempsey as Carly's boss and potential suitor, Alan Tudyk as Simmons' assistant Dutch and Leonard Nimoy, who joins the cast as the voice of Optimus Prime's mentor, Sentinel Prime.

The main difference between Dark of the Moon and its predecessors is that they seem to have put some thought into the plot. This one actually has a story that you can follow and care about. The wit seems to have been put back into the script as there are several laugh out loud moments, most of which come from LaBeouf, at his sarcastic, smart-assed best. Bay seemed to listen to his audience by seriously toning down the two little Autobots that so many accused of being racist characters in Transformers 2. The one down spot is the performance of Huntington-Whitely. While absolutely gorgeous, her performance was pretty wooden, even for a Transformers film. However, dumping Fox was such a piece of addition by subtraction that Huntington-Whitely's shortcomings are a very small blip on the radar.

There are definitely holes in the plot and the movie and there are a couple characters that have a lot of promise and are kind of wasted in the third act. But none of that really matters as the stars of this film are the effects and the 3D treatment. I'm not a huge fan of the new 3D movement. I loved the 3D in Avatar, but hated it in almost everything else. Dark of the Moon goes in the Avatar column. Say what you will about Michael Bay, but he knows his way around the technology department. The 3D in this one really pops off the screen and adds quite a bit to the thrill of the action sequences. And the special effects on this one are top notch. I mean, they absolutely destroy Chicago and it looks so real I expect them to still be cleaning up the next time I visit. A minor complaint for the Cardinal fan...would it have killed you to have the robots take out Wrigley Field?

While there are a handful of "oh come on, there's no way that could have happened" moments, but overall, if you're willing to believe that there are two races of robots (that turn into cars) having a civil war on Earth, I think you can roll with the fact that there's no way Sam should be able to catch his girlfriend and prevent her from falling to her doom.

Also of note in this film are the stunts. Again, they're top notch. From running through buildings that are literally falling in around them to an absolutely breathtaking sequence of several of the servicemen diving out of a helicopter to use their flying "squirrel-suits". This is a very slick technical film all the way around. And even through the sucky second film, the Transformer "sounds" were always cool and they remain every bit as cool as ever.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon is a true summer blockbuster. It's a larger than life, over the top, complete blast of a film and I would think that most anyone checking it out will come out of it feeling entertained. Other than some potential technical awards, no one from the film will be coming onto the Oscar stage to pick up their hardware, but this is just a super fun popcorn flick and you could do a lot worse with your $10 movie ticket money. So put the crapfest that was Transformers 2 out of your mind and check out Transformers 3 and see if you agree with me that it is easily the best of the trilogy.