Transformers: Dark of the Moon, the third in the Earth-destroying series, delivers the goods, plain and simple. Correcting many of the mistakes from its immediate predecessor, Transformers 3 is an epic, exciting popcorn film whose last hour is so relentless and visually breathtaking that all-out sensory overload is a foregone conclusion. This is summer entertainment of the biggest scale in years, and director Michael Bay has delivered a fun, mindless action flick that takes great joy in leveling most of Chicago.
This time around, our hero, Sam (LaBeouf), is looking for his first job and some professional responsibility. He’s living with his girlfriend, Carly (Huntington-Whiteley), who’s experiencing more success and making Sam feel inferior in the eyes of his parents. Things seem calm, but that changes in a hurry once it’s discovered that Sentinel Prime (voiced by Leonard Nimoy) has been located on the moon after an escape-gone-awry from Cybertron. The Autobots race to rescue, while the Decepticons are formulating their own plan for intergalactic domination.
Bay has never been known for nuance, and here he cranks it up a few more levels in both scale and audacity. The cars are cooler, the transformations quicker, and the explosions nearly nonstop. Say what you will, but the man knows how to destroy a city onscreen. Unlike the nonsensical and poorly conceived action sequences of the second film, Bay pans out and lets the action happen on a grander plane. We can actually tell what is happening, particularly during a breathtaking highway chase. The final hour is Armageddon, both figuratively and literally. This is what we have come to expect from this series.
Much like the previous two films, the script takes a backseat to Industrial Light & Magic’s truly amazing visual effects. Ehren Kruger’s screenplay is pretty flimsy, but it does make fun use of a moon landing conspiracy and the government’s endless efforts to hide the existence of aliens. At over two and a half hours, it is padded with cringe-worthy scenes involving Sam’s parents and two miniature Autobots whose sole purpose is largely unfunny comic relief. Trim the fat, take off twenty minutes, and it’d be even better.
It’s far past time in this series to expect Bay to make it more character-driven or invest a lot of time in plot intricacies. These films are about setting up battles, watching machines crush a city and themselves, preachy, patriotic speeches, and flag-waving. The recipe has resulted in mixed results in the past, but Transformers 3 gets it pretty much right and delivers the kind of crowd-pleasing money shots the fans are looking for. It’s big, it’s dumb, and it’s Bay – but it’s also a visual feast, damn exciting, and delivers everything you could ask for in a film about CGI machines causing mass mayhem.
Studio: Paramount Pictures
Length: 157 Minutes
Rating: PG-13 for intense prolonged sequences of sci-fi action violence, mayhem and destruction, and for language, some sexuality and innuendo.
Theatrical Release: June 29, 2011
Directed by: Michael Bay
Written by: Ehren Kruger
Cast: Shia LaBeouf, Josh Duhamel, John Turturro, Tyrese Gibson, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley