Movie Review:
Transformers: Dark of the Moon
By Matthew Huntley
July 7, 2011

Do you think he knows the rules of robotics?

There’s no other way of putting it: Transformers: Dark of the Moon is stupid, loud and pointless. If that sounds like a simple-minded critique, it’s because the movie deserves no better. This is the most mind-numbing action movie since, well, the last two Transformers movies and you’d be wise not to spend your money on it. If it’s mindless entertainment you seek, I believe Fast Five, Thor and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides are still playing. Those at least are mindless without being offensive, and they’re also quite fun. When it comes to Transformers, though, we should all make a collective effort not to throw any more money at it. It’d be nice if this franchise simply died out.

What’s baffling is the movie starts out well enough. During a semi-intriguing prologue, we learn the United States’ mission to the moon wasn’t about discovery or even about beating the Russians to the punch. It was about uncovering the truth behind an unidentified spacecraft that NASA detected eight years earlier. The spacecraft came from Cybertron, the home planet of the Autobots and the Decepticons, who together make up the mechanized race called The Transformers. Piloted by Sentinel Prime (voiced by Leonard Nimoy), the spacecraft, known as the Ark, was transporting pillars that could eventually end the war between the Autobots and Decepticons, allowing the Autobots to claim victory.

In present day, a few years after the last major Transformers battle on Earth, Optimus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen) and his team of Autobots have formed an alliance with the U.S. government in an effort to prevent mankind from destroying themselves. One mission takes them to Russia, where Optimus battles with the snake-like Decepticon known as Shockwave and finds an energy cell from the Ark, which he believes could be used to revive Sentinel and restore Cybertron to working order. Without going too far into the dull specifics of the convoluted plot, this is all a setup by the Decepticons to destroy the Autobots and rebuild Cybertron on Earth, with the intention of using humans as slave labor.

Meanwhile, Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf), the young hero from the first two movies, is living in Washington, D.C. with his incredulously hot girlfriend Carly (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley). After saving the world twice, Sam can’t seem to find a job where he matters. His road-tripping parents (Kevin Dunn and Julie White) won’t get off his back and his Autobot-buddy, Bee, hardly makes time for him anymore. Eventually, with a recommendation from Carly’s suspiciously charming boss, Dylan (Patrick Dempsey), he finds employment under the egomaniacal Bruce Brazos (John Malkovich) and is made privy to the Decepticons’ plans by one of the software engineers (Ken Jeong), who played a key role in the moon mission. Thus begins another battle of good vs. evil with the same characters caught in the middle.

Like the first two Transformers movies, the plot behind Dark of the Moon is way more complicated than it needs to be. In fact, these movies are all about being way more “something” than they need. The writing is way too pedestrian and horrendous; the characters are way too shallow and obnoxious; the special effects are way too prolific and incoherent; the action is way too redundant and inconsequential; and the runtime is way too long. The movie’s climax takes place in downtown Chicago and although I didn’t time it, I think it went on for a good hour. Scene after scene contained the same setup and execution: a building is blown up or on the verge of collapse; thousands of set pieces get destroyed; people scream at the top of their lungs and hang on for dear life. This goes on and on and on. But do we care about any of it? Not one iota. While watching this movie, it dawned on me, yet again, that Michael Bay may be the only action director who can make so much happen on-screen at once but still let it be so boring. He must have a gift.

What angers me is this movie will still go on to gross hundreds of millions of dollars at the box-office. Why? Because Hollywood has convinced people it’s an event picture. They beguile viewers into thinking they must see it if they want to be part of the collective consciousness. But don’t be fooled. This movie will provide you no thrills, excitement or laughs; it will only make you disappointed that you wasted nearly three hours of your life—three hours you will not get back.
Another thing that angers me is that actors Frances McDormand and John Turturro have substantial roles in it. Granted, they do bring a certain level of class and sophistication to the movie, but aside from the usual financial reasons, what were they thinking? Did they actually respond to the material?

I saw Transformers: Dark of the Moon in 2D, even though I was told it’s one of the best 3D presentations since the format was reinvigorated by Avatar. Whether or not that’s true, I think I had an advantage of seeing it in only two dimensions because it stripped the movie down to its core and confirmed just how bad it is on a storytelling level, without all the 3D bells and whistles. It’s loud, over-the-top and dizzying. Some will say it’s supposed to be all these things and that’s why it’s fun or what I should have expected. True, I did expect this movie to be loud and dumb, but even movies of this type, like the ones I mentioned at the beginning of this review, are supposed to be organized and presented in such a way that they’re at least entertaining. Dark of the Moon lacks that essential quality and it’s infuriating to think many people will see it and simply write it off as eye candy. But I wouldn’t even call it that. Candy is supposed to taste good and provide a temporary rush of energy and happiness. Conversely, Dark of the Moon is stale and will likely have detrimental effects on viewers for years to come.