By Malice Intended for Planet Ill

During the Kennedy administration, the president authorizes the first ever attempt at a lunar landing in order to make contact with a downed alien spacecraft. Flash forward to the present day, and the Cybertronian wars have been raging on earth for quite some time. Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) must now join the workforce and attempt to live a normal life as Bumblebee performs his duties as an Autobot warrior. Meanwhile, Megatron (Hugo Weaving) plots a comeback of epic proportions that involves valuable equipment that must be recovered from the wreckage of the ship that crash landed on earth’s moon. Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen) mobilizes the Autobots into action to intercept the prize, as it will surely spell doom for planet Earth.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon is the third and final entry in Michael Bay’s much maligned adaptation of the enduringly popular toy line. It is fittingly being marketed as a final chapter of sorts and it does indeed feature some of the largest scale battles yet seen in the franchise. Much to the chagrin of critics and fans, it also contains many of Bay’s usual indulgences. In some ways it is considerably more reigned in than the poorly received Revenge of the Fallen. In other ways it is even less restrained than that supposed debacle. Bay publicly acknowledged the poor quality of that film, but doesn’t seem to have taken the lessons learned to heart. The result is a movie that nearly defies critique.

Michael Bay has always had a signature style, which in other hands might be considered the mark of a true visionary. He’s always used it the marriage of image and sound to bludgeon audiences into submission. Transformers: Dark of the Moon offers him his biggest toy box and largest playground to date. The action is bigger, louder, longer and more violent. Bay shows a bit more restraint this time out, though not much. He doesn’t mush the lens of the camera into the action as to render everything a mess of mechanical parts. The transformers move with a bit more grace. Alas, the action is so over the top and goes on for such a long time that it has a numbing effect. The entire last hour of the film is an extended alien invasion that revels in the destruction of Chicago. It seems to go on indefinitely.

The special FX, which have always been the highlight of the Transformers films, are as good as one could hope for. The armies of Optimus Prime and Megatron truly seem to inhabit the same space as the human characters. They are crisp and detailed, though hindered quite a bit by the overly busy character designs. The fact that the FX are so lovingly and painstakingly rendered gives an indication as to where all of the films resources were focused. It surely wasn’t the screenplay, as the film is tonally schizophrenic. The humor is as broad as the day is long, and only occasionally works. Though Skids and Mudflap aren’t present for this go around, there is still an ample amount of stereotyping and caricature. Some Autobots speak in cockney accents and other stereotypical dialects.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon is way too problematic to be considered a good film. It’s overlong, tonally inconsistent, messily plotted, and hasn’t a truly engaging character in its cast. Yet, I suspect it will still be popular with a sizable portion of the audience that has come to see only one thing: giant transforming robots battling it out in grand fashion. Michael Bay delivers the goods in spades, but weighs the film down with his wretched indulgences. There is a truly good and transcendent film lurking within the train wreck that is Transformers: Dark of the Moon. Every so often, it peaks it head out and captures the viewer in its spell. For a hardcore Transformers nut like me, that will suffice. For the rest of the movie going public, it will serve as a tasty frosting on an appetizing cake. 2.75 out of 5

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