Review: Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon


When the original Transformers came out it was an almost perfect cacophony of giant robots, stupid human storylines, terrible one-liners made great by the simple fact that they were uttered by Optimus Prime and Michael Bay explosions. Then Transformers 2 came along and somehow they did the impossible. They made giant, alien, transforming robots suck.

Part of me actually wanted to applaud Bay and company for accomplishing a task I thought wasn’t possible, but most of me just wanted the third film to come out so we could forget about the second. I mean, there was no way they could mess up giant, alien, transforming robots two times in a row, right? Right? Anybody?

Read on to find out.

Telling you that Transformers 3 is better than Transformers 2 would shed about as much light on its actual quality as commenting on the quality of a steak by saying its better than eating a pile of shit. But I’m going to state it anyway since that is definitely the biggest concern about the film. Transformers 3 is light years better than the second film in the series, but not as good as the original. However, if you think that Michael Bay’s brand of action-porn is what’s destroying all of cinema and find no joy in the sight of Optimus Prime kicking ass, then enjoying this movie isn’t something you’re going to do so just stop reading now.

Still with me? Then you’ll appreciate it when I say that Transformers 3 might be the most Michael Bay film Michael Bay has ever made. Crammed with more action, scantily clad babes, bad lines and massive plot holes than almost any other Bay film I’ve ever seen, the entire thing is practically a thesis on how Bay makes films, and as such it works wonderfully as a Michael Bay film, but fails miserably as anything else. There is a lot to harp on for sure, and I’m definitely getting to that, but when you tune into Bay you tune in for a film directed at 10-year-old boys (or the 10-year-old boy inside us) and as a film for them Transformers 3 is a resounding success. This is especially true when it comes to its nearly 40 minute long concluding action sequence in Chicago, which must feature more exploding set pieces and flipping cars than every other movie ever shot in that city combined.

If you absolutely must know about the movie’s plot, it’s pretty much the same as the other two films except without Megan Fox and with more Autobots fighting Decepticons. The movie’s structure is almost exactly the same: start of with everything OK, Autobots look like they’re going to lose, massive battle in the downtown of some city. This time though the filmmakers heard loud and clear that no one gave a crap about the human stories that dominated the second film and wisely (possibly unintentionally) tucked them into the background by making them both incredibly stupid and so packed full of action that even expository dialog has explosions going on during it. All your “favorite” characters are back once again except for Megan Fox who has been replaced by Megan Fox Rosie Huntington-Whiteley as Shia LaBeouf’s love interest. All of the surviving Autobots are back as well along with a few new ones who get to pull off some cool stunts, but don’t actually add much else.

This time around Sam Witwicky (LaBeouf) finds himself out of work and looking for a job while his incredibly hot girlfriend Carly (Huntington-Whiteley) works for some millionaire. Separated from his transforming pals since they now do top-secret missions for the government, Sam feels like life sucks and he whines a bit and then some other stuff happens to the human beings in the movie. More importantly (if you care about the plot, that is) is the fact that an Autobot spaceship crashed on the moon in the 1960s and has been kept secret from most of the Autobots by the US government. On that ship is a powerful weapon and the lost leader of the Autobots, Sentinel Prime. After the ship is discovered Optimus Prime rescues Sentinel Prime and brings him back to earth along with the ultimate weapon, which turns out to be a teleportation device. Megatron, who is still alive, wants it as well.

There are about 50 other side stories, and ten million more characters in this two and half hour blockbuster, but all you really need to know is that more than half the film is action sequences. The screenplay must have been the length of an hour long TV show with the text “cars blowing up” appearing quite often. The screenplay is also mind-numbingly dumb. There are gaps in logic in this film that would cause a continuity checker to shoot themselves. It’s easy to see someone coming up to Michael Bay and telling him a scene doesn’t make sense when you think about the laws of physics or logical thinking and Bay turning and simply saying, “So what?”

Subtlety and complexity are nowhere to be seen here, instead replaced by all-out bravado. For the most part, it’s an all out bombardment of stupidity that truly tests the viewer’s limits of being able to shut their mind off. However, in the case of Optimus Prime, who spews more cheesy lines about freedom and the American Autobot way than you’d think you can handle, it actually comes off really well. Peter Cullen (voice of Optimus Prime) can deliver those horrible lines like no other, and when Prime starts coming in and kicking ass and then knocks a one-liner out the park like Babe Ruth you can’t help but get excited. Just turn your thoughts down and your patriotism way up (talking jingoism levels here) and you’ll be applauding like a seal by the time Optimus Prime rolls up and gives a speech on killing every Decepticon on earth so that freedom can reign.

As for the human element throughout the the film, it’s pretty much what you’ve come to expect. There are a bunch of comic relief characters including the return of Agent Simmons (John Turturro) despite his joke being played out even before the first film concluded. Huntington-Whiteley is almost entirely useless except as some eye candy for Micahel Bay’s camera to glide over pervishly (not complaining), and the film’s lame attempt to actually make her seem useful at the end is beyond stupid (complaining). LaBeouf might be more annoying than in any of the other Transformers as he spends a solid chunk of the film complaining about things a man with a girlfriend that hot has no right to complain about. The always awesome Alan Tudyk has a scene stealing minor character introduced this time around, but it’s far from enough to make up for the plethora of other useless cameos. Thankfully, almost every character stops talking during action sequences, and the Autobots and Decepticons are allowed to do their thing.

And man, are those action sequences worth it. While the film definitely runs very long, sitting through any scenes not involving fighting robots is well worth the wait. Bay just simply blows things up amazingly well, and there are moments in this movie where the action absolutely blew me away, a feat that is getting harder and harder to accomplish. It’s just plain awesome to watch the action sequences and wonder at how Bay can pull them all together into a giant, exploding, nonsensical whole. While his films might be dumb as dirt, especially this one, you just can’t not be impressed by his skill with action and the amount of work it takes to put it together.

As with all movies that land in 3D I feel compelled to at least prompt you in one direction or another since it does cost more. This film is no slouch in 3D, and if you’re willing to lay down the extra change the 3D action will not disappointing. However, calling it a necessity in this case would be an overstatement. Bay’s action works with the added depth or without it, and there was never a moment where I thought something had to be seen in 3D to really stand out. No matter what way you view the film, there’s no way it won’t be visually stunning.

Transformers 3 will be exactly what you expect it to be. If you’re going in thinking of Michael Bay as everything that is wrong with cinema then you’re going to be appalled. It’s incredibly dumb, incredibly obvious and so crammed full of bad humor and obvious patriotism that it would be easy to call this a terrible film. If you’re going in thinking of Michael Bay as an action superstar then you’re going to enjoy the hell out of it. It’s got action sequences galore, impressive stunts, and a concluding sequence which seems to go on forever (in the good way). This is a Michael Bay movie, and you already know if you’re going to like that or not.

Matthew Razak
Matthew Razak is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Flixist. He has worked as a critic for more than a decade, reviewing and talking about movies, TV shows, and videogames. He will talk your ear off about James Bond movies, Doctor Who, Zelda, and Star Trek.