Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Josh Duhamel and John Turturro
As a long time fan of the Transformers, WGTB was looking forward to Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon. The first film, Transformers (2007) was reasonably good, and it was great seeing the old toys on the big screen. Then came along the fiasco of Revenge of the Fallen (2009) with its truckloads of plot holes and gratuitous, over-the-top nonsense, including that memorable scene where a group of Americans are allowed to enter Egypt sans passports simply because one is wearing a New York Yankees cap. Thankfully, Michael Bay admitted it was terrible film and left us with the impression that number three would be a genuine effort to salvage the franchise.
It did not.
That said, there are some positives which is where we'll begin. The best part of this film are the visuals. If you’ve ever wanted to see a city take a beating or Special Forces operatives use squirrel suits to fly around Chicago, this is your movie. And while many Decepticons resemble machines from the Matrix or later Terminator films, the Autobots look better than in previous instalments. They are more recognizable and details such as Optimus Prime’s mouth guard finally make an appearance.
If you like cars, you’ll LOVE this film. It appears General Motors no longer has an exclusive deal for equipment and we get to see what a Transformer looks like as a Ferrari, Mercedes Benz or NASCAR racer, which is actually quite impressive.
But other than that the film is weak. The plot is terrible and we honestly can’t write a synopsis because it’s too convoluted. Furthermore, anyone with basic knowledge of U.S. geography will cringe when they see cruise missiles launched from undisclosed locations, yet arriving at precisely the proper time or the notion that Florida, Washington DC and Chicago must all exist within 60 miles of each other given the short time it takes for characters to drive between locations.
Logic went out the window with the back story as well. Apparently nobody has a problem with Autobots working with humans (read: Americans) and involving themselves in Earth affairs. In one scene the Autobots and US Special Forces raid an “Illegal Nuclear Weapons Site” by approaching the barricade disguised as Iranians. Again, this may seem nitpicky, but it erodes the suspension of disbelieve because it’s such a massive and insulting intrusion into the very freedoms Optimus Prime is always espousing. Optimus Prime also partakes in the summary execution of a Transformer POW and this, in our books, makes him a war criminal.
Other character development is downright ugly. Women are portrayed as either condescending witches or coveted sex objects and newly introduced Transformers are weak too. Soundwave finally makes a genuine appearance, but this is a complete disappointment as he isn't the synthesized, third-person using lieutenant we all were hoping for. Shockwave, another memorable character from the animated series has become a monster-touting psycho who shows up on occasions which is another failure to use a good established character.
Indeed, virtually all of the Decepticons are ghoulish monsters, which is the exact opposite of what a good villain should be. WGTB always felt Soundwave and Shockwave were great in the cartoon because they garnered genuine interest. Both worked for Megatron, but were not evil like him and this left the door open to actually liking them. Contrast Bay's one-dimensional ghouls with two of the greatest movie villains of all time and you’ll understand our point. Darth Vader and Hannibal Lecter are two of cinema’s best because they invoke genuine conflict. Indeed, Vader turned good at the end of Return of the Jedi, and Lecter would rather cut off his hand than hurt Agent Starling. Great villains make one ask “could this be me?” and this film has nothing of the sort. Characters in Dark of the Moon are mere caricatures and leave little room for any development.
(Shockwave as featured by Marvel Comics)
(Soundwave as featured by Marvel Comics)
To conclude, by giving Peter Cullen such a prominent role in these films, Bay forged a direct link between them and the animated stories. Unfortunately, he didn’t go all the way, and by keeping one foot in the Transformers world of the 1980s and the other in this new one, we were given a disappointing hybrid superimposed over an orgy of violence and technology. Cullen was the voice, but he was not enough to save this trilogy. Some of its actors have tried to disguise its goofiness by remarking that it’s “darker than the previous two”. This is simply Star Wars-style nonsense and means nothing. Michael Bay had an opportunity to salvage his Transformer films and make at least one worthwhile.
He did not.