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Overall Rating

Awesome: 2.56%
Worth A Look: 7.69%
Just Average: 2.56%
Pretty Crappy53.85%
Sucks: 33.33%

4 reviews, 15 user ratings

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Transformers: Dark of the Moon
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by Peter Sobczynski

"You're Mucking with the 4G!"
1 stars

Once upon a time, there was a brave and bold filmmaker named Michael Bay who, after having blessed the entertainment world with such contributions to the cultural firmament as "Pearl Harbor," "Bad Boys 2" and "The Island," decreed that there were too many movies out there being based on such bourgeois items as books, plays, comic strips and other movies and not enough of them based on half-remembered toy lines from a couple of decades earlier. Rather than leave such potentially important work in the hands of hacks like Terrence Malick (whose adaptation of "E-Z Bake Oven" continues to languish in development to this day), he bravely stepped into the breech in 2007 with "Transformers," a chamber drama based on the Hasbro toy line of seemingly ordinary cars and trucks that, with the assistance of instruction manuals only slightly less complex than "Gravity's Rainbow," could transform into robots from another world hell-bent on pounding the metallic stuffing out of each other while actors ranging the gamut from old pros like John Turturro and Jon Voight to cheap newcomers like Shia LeBeouf and Megan Fox looked on with varying degrees of incredulousness. The film was a resounding hit with audiences who didn't seem to mind that it was one of the stupidest movies ever produced by allegedly human hands and when critics dared to suggest otherwise, they were met with scorn and derision not only by readers but by Bay himself, who personally wrote a complaint letter to the paper that ran a negative review by a colleague of mine and this was a person hardly at the top of the critical pecking order at the time.

Naturally, with so much potential profit to be had, a sequel was almost inevitable and rather than tempt fate with anything new or different, Bay boldly chose to more less make the exact same movie a second time, only bigger, louder dumber and with shorter hemlines in the hopes of making gold-plated lightning strike in the same place twice. Alas, the resulting film, 2009's "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" was a bit of a mixed bag. On the one hand, it was just as bottomlessly appalling on every possible artistic level and it did go on to gross more money worldwide than the gross national product of many industrialized nations. On the other hand, while critics once again decried it as some especially heinous form of cultural terrorism, their inevitable chorus of jeers was joined by those of many dissatisfied audience members, for whom the film failed to live up to whatever minimum entertainment plateau one might reasonably expect from a sequel to a film based on a line of robot toys, and by none other than Michael Bay himself, who more or less admitted after the fact that the whole thing was a sloppy and confusing mess. (Of course, he made sure to cash all the checks before saying any of this.) Not wanting to leave any money on the table, Bay of course signed on for a third installment but this time was faced with the personal challenge of creating a film that would at the very least be better than that lackluster previous episode--not the most difficult potential accomplishment that one could imagine since there are very few films put there worse than "Transformers 2" and Bay himself has already made at least one of them. The good news is that "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" is indeed better than the last film, mostly because the last hour does provide a few nifty bits of destructive eye candy. The bad news is that the rest of the film is so resoundingly terrible that the slight uptick in quality is barely noticeable. Put it this way--the same day I saw this film, I also watched the latest effort from the infamous Uwe Boll, the man often derided as the worst filmmaker working today, and if I had to choose between watching either one of them again anytime in the foreseeable future, I would pick the work of the good Dr. Boll in a heartbeat because while that is an unholy mess no matter how you look at it, it still maintains a certain degree of energy and coherence that none of Bay's millions were apparently able to buy or even rent.

Despite being the third film in the series--a point at which one might expect that all the necessary preliminary information has already been doled out, thereby allowing the story to proceed almost immediately to the good stuff--"Transformers: Dark of the Moon" opens up with an extended prologue involving enough robot in-fighting and Palin-esque historical revisions to confuse both casual viewers and seventh-grade history students of all stripes. It seems that during the great war between the good Autobots and the evil Decepticons that eventually laid total waste to their home planet of Cybertron, heroic Autobot Sentinel Prime took off with pieces of an important mechanism and eventually crash-landed on our moon. This was in 1961 and, via a combination of doctored archival footage and recreations, President Kennedy launches the space race with the top-secret ulterior motive of investigating the crash remains and acquiring whatever technological gizmos they can find.

In the present day, the Autobots, led by Optimus Prime (voice of Peter Cullen), are now a force patrolling the world and defeating the enemies of the good and righteous--especially the ones with foreign accents--as an automated vigilante group combining the animation of Team America and the humanity of Megaforce. After the malevolent Decepticon Shockwave rears its ugly gears in Moscow, Optimus Prime learns of the moon crash and subsequent cover-up and quickly travels there in order to bring friend and mentor Sentinel (voice of Leonard Nimoy) back to Earth. This turns out to be a big mistake and, through complications too silly and myriad to go into at length, Optimus and his fellow Autobots wind up falling victim to a trap led by astonishingly resilient Decepticon leader Megatron (Hugo Weaving) designed to destroy mankind and allow robots to rule the universe.

Of course, most people going into "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" will presumably have little to no interest in any of those pesky, time-consuming robots and their amazing abilities--they are clearly more interested in the personal and professional misadventures of Sam Witwicky (Shia LeBoeuf), the whiny twerp who became the key liaison between humans and robots after inadvertently acquiring one as his first car several installments earlier. Despite having assisted in saving the world no less than two times in the past, things are not good with Sam--having been dumped by his hottie girlfriend from the previous episodes, presumably because she finally tired of his whining and her living in constant danger of being crushed by giant machines, and unable to find a job immediately after graduating from college, he is now forced to live in Washington D.C. in an apartment the size of an airplane hanger and share his bed with Carly (former Victoria's Secret model Rosie Huntington-Whitely in what could technically be called her acting debut), a mega-babe who is also being pursued by her super-rich boss (Patrick Dempsey), who we can instantly tell is no good because his name is Dylan, a moniker used in movies only by the adorable offspring of idealistic parents or sleazy jerks created by writers who want to get back at them damn hippie types once and for all. Anyway, to make a long story short (something that the film itself can't seem to do, clocking in at 154 minutes), everything goes gunny and there is a final battle royale on the streets of Chicago with the fate of mankind in the balance. Beyond Sam and Carly, who manages to remain salon-perfect throughout all the carnage, humanity is further represented at various points by such familiar faces from the earlier films as Josh Duhamel as the square-jawed soldier leading his men into battle off the sides of skyscrapers, Tyrese Gibson as another brave sort who gathers his homies and whatnot to also enter the fray and John Turturro as the mad conspiracy buff who knows too much about some things and not nearly enough about others. Also joining in the fray at various points are such newcomers to the saga as Frances McDormand as the director of National Intelligence, John Malkovich as Sam's weirdo boss and Ken Jeong as the inevitable Asian stereotype. Memo to movie producers everywhere: If you are trying to illustrate the essential goodness and decency of humanity in order to prove that it should be allowed to survive, do not bring out Ken Jeong as one such representative because his very presence is enough to make most people lean towards the position that the robots are right and that mankind must be destroyed after all.

Look, I fully realize and understand that dissecting a film along the lines of "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" for its deep and meaningful artistic qualities is akin to parsing the Katy Perry songbook for its profundities--both are large-scale pop entertainments designed to be consumed and enjoyed with as little effort on the part of the consumer as possible. The difference is that Perry's songs, as essentially silly and meaningless as they are, deliver the goods in such a clean, efficient and catchy manner that even the biggest cynics and grumps can't help but get caught up in the cotton-candy high that they invoke. "Transformers," on the other hand, seems to go out of its way to take what should be as basic and elemental an entertainment premise as possible--giant robots pounding the crap out of each other--and suck all the fun out of it by larding things with a combination of convoluted plotting, unappealing characters and a surprising number awesomely ridiculous moments before finally getting around to the good stuff. The screenplay by Ehren Krueger, the hack whose efforts on such epics as "Scream 3," "The Skeleton Key," the American remake of 'The Ring" and the previous "Transformers" film have made his name one to fear when it pops up in the credits, is such a mess of demented conspiracy theories and hardware fetishization that it feels like what might have resulted if Lyndon LaRouche ran Radio Shack. For example, it spends an inordinate amount of screen time on the prologue designed to set up many of the secrets and then winds up repeating all of that exact same information a couple of scenes later, perhaps as a sop to those who complained that they couldn't make any sense out of "Revenge of the Fallen." The screenplay also spends an inordinate amount of time dealing with Sam and his pesky personal problems, an approach that might have been problematic if anyone cared about him or said problems and which definitely is so here since he remains one of the most singularly unappealing and unmemorable character to ever stand front and center in a screen trilogy of the magnitude. Apparently because so much energy and screen time was deployed on such nonsense, little things like plot development and continuity were forced to the wayside and some of the transitions are so jarring, such as the bit where the action inexplicably shifts from Washington to Chicago, that it almost feels as if the film itself just suffered a stroke.

The weirdest aspect about the screenplay is the way that it tries to invoke certain historical events, either by rewriting history or utilizing blatant visual clues, in order to move things along. Some of them are innocuous enough, I suppose, though the sight of an alien shooting a blaster at the head of the Lincoln Memorial seems a bit tacky. (I am also willing to admit that the bit in which Dylan goes electric was more a coincidence than anything else because that would suggest a level of cleverness that is otherwise in short supply here.) However, the story also tries to suggest that the Chernobyl disaster was actually the work of Decepticon-related nonsense and later blows up a space shuttle in such a way as to directly invoke memories of the Challenger disaster. In a serious-minded movie, such moves would come across as awesomely tacky but in the service of something as silly as this, it leaves a bad taste in the mouth and elsewhere. However, the most jaw-dropping, eye-rubbing bit of lunacy comes when the entire history of the cover-up involving the moon crash is related to Optimus Prime by none other than Buzz Aldrin himself! I have to admit, while there are certain things that I might have legitimately expected from a Transformers movie but the sight of Buzz Aldrin--a legitimate American hero and a man who actually walked on the damn moon--sharing the screen with a giant CGI robot and announcing "I am honored to meet you" was not one of them.

As to be expected from this kind of film, the performances are fairly terrible all across the board. LaBoeuf is so stridently annoying throughout that I kept hoping and praying that he would get squished into a pulp in virtually every scene, regardless of whether there were marauding robots or not. Newcomer Huntington-Whitely is drop-dead gorgeous to be sure (and her initial entrance in all its 3D glory is bound to be fetishized for decades to come) but she is such a bad actress that Megan Fox is likely to get the best reviews of her career from critics remarking about how much better she was than her replacement--her dramatic range, consisting almost entirely a Kathy Ireland-like look of dull surprise, is even shorter than her skirts and there is one strangely extended shot in which she just stands slack-jawed amidst the carnage that is so egregiously awful that it feels as if Bay left it in there just to be vindictive. Among the performers on display here who actually can act, they all go through the motions of earning huge paychecks for doing things that they probably never dreamed they would ever find themselves enacting in the pursuit of their craft. John Malkovich gets to do a scene in a bathroom in which he is shaken down and threatened by Ken Jeong, Frances McDormand gets to be dressed down by Rosie Huntington-Whitely (Sorry, I just love writing that name and it isn't as if she is ever going to be hired for another movie anytime soon based on her work here) and John Turturro gets verbally smacked around by Bill O'Reilly. McDormand and Turturro are, of course, well-known for their various collaborations with the Coen Brothers and I must admit that among the list of movie previews I wish I could have attended, I must now add this film, provided that I could sit right behind the Coens throughout to gauge their reactions.

"Transformers: Dark of the Moon" is a loud, stupid and lousy monstrosity from top to bottom but as I said before, credit must go to Bay for making a better film than "Revenge of the Fallen," as tiny as the difference between the two might be. Possibly as a result of the additional technical aspects that he took on, he has eased off on the trademark whiplash editing style that has rendered so many of his previous set-pieces into cinematic mush--everything is still as noisy and inexplicable as ever but at least the action beats unfold in a slightly more coherent manner than what he usually delivers. The 3D cinematography is reasonably effective throughout--arguably the best to hit the screen since "Avatar"--and offers up a few vertiginous thrills during the finale that are queerly exciting. Finally, as someone who has called Chicago home for his entire life, I got a perverse kick out of seeing good chunks of the city summarily leveled during the extended hour-long climax, especially when it is revealed that the meeting place for all the bad guys, human and robot alike, is none other than Trump Tower. (That said, on the grand scale of movies shot in Chicago in which the top titles include the likes of "The Untouchables," "The Blues Brothers" and "The Dark Knight," this one comes closer to the one where Gary Coleman played the adorable orphan who lived in a locker at Union Station and had the ability to magically pick winners at the track. Amusingly enough, the area where much of the carnage occurs just happens to be where the screening room that my colleagues and I view all the new releases is located. In fact, I kept hoping that there would be a shot taken inside the room in which all of us were crushed, broken and fried by giant robots just as we were about to start watching "Tree of Life." Oh well, I guess there is always the deleted scenes section of the Blu-ray.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=20584&reviewer=389
originally posted: 06/28/11 13:27:10
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User Comments

8/28/12 Croweater888 2.5 hours long, felt twice that long. 2 stars
7/20/12 Sean Harrison Not great at all, but still better than the second one. 2 stars
1/27/12 Kathryn Martinez Okay for kids who don't expect much from the plot and only want lots of action! 3 stars
11/07/11 Chris. American war propaganda. Fucking bullshit, and it would never end. 1 stars
10/29/11 Meep An atrocious film, TF2 was far better despite that films excessive faults, Bay despicable 1 stars
10/18/11 Magic The best movie of the Transformers franchise. What a low bar that is. 2 stars
10/15/11 mr.mike Not bad , tho the climactic battle goes on for an eternity. 4 stars
10/09/11 ashley rexrode i thought it was great!!! alot of action, great story line!!!! 5 stars
9/10/11 Captain00Kirk Good 3D and action, fun for what it is. www.youtube.com/Captain00Kirk 4 stars
7/10/11 The Big D Comic-book style is one thing; this is just stupid. 1 stars
7/10/11 KingNeutron A bit long, and dont expect char development, but very enjoyable - the 3D is worth it! 4 stars
7/10/11 Derek People who made this movie should be sentenced to death. 1 stars
7/04/11 Darkstar Officially the first movie i've ever walked out of. 1 stars
7/01/11 Rhys Why do people pay money to see this S***? 1 stars
6/30/11 Bob Dog Almost as bad as TF2. 1 stars
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  28-Jun-2011 (PG-13)
  DVD: 30-Sep-2011


  DVD: 30-Sep-2011

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