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This is more or less a pointless film review. I'm not about to talk anyone out of seeing Transformers: Dark of the Moon, and (as you'll soon find out) I'm sure as hell not about to convince anyone to see it. The first two films in this mirthless, lumbering franchise have grossed about a trillion dollars around the world, and there's no indication that the third one will disappoint the accountants at Paramount and Hasbro. Nobody who is DYING to see a third Transformers flick gives a wet slap about what a film critic has to say; the product at hand is, as they say, "critic proof," which means that I'm basically writing this piece for myself.

Which is fine by me.

Transformers 3 is one of the stupidest movies I've seen since Transformers 2. And I don't mean the film fails because the concept is silly. Just this year I've supported movies about post-apocalyptic priests and semi-Norse superheroes, so clearly I have no problem with movies built on a foundation of narrative silliness. Transformers 3 is the kind of stupid that insists that you be stupid too: that you laugh at horribly dumb jokes because they're delivered by a tiny robot with a funny voice; that you cheer at massive displays of kinetic nonsense, just because the musical score soars at the right moment, thereby telling you that the action scene is finished; and that you're so hungry for some sort of onscreen heroics, you'll turn gigantic spurts of eye-straining CGI into heroes and villains worth caring about.

Michael Bay has now made the same rotten action movie three times in a row, never once deviating from the established (see: highly profitable) formula, simply because he's too damn lazy to mess with an obese cash cow. Presented in a merciless 2.5-hour package, Transformers 3 claims to be "better than Part 2," which is sort of like saying a fart from two years ago is better than a recent one. I politely disagree. This is an empty husk of a cinematic entertainment, one that's knee-deep in shiny computer effects but entirely bereft of anything resembling wit or creativity or craftsmanship. It's the world's largest drum kit falling down an eternal flight of stairs. So while, yes, the third act of Transformers 3 does have a "shit ton" of action, the simple truth is that none of it is GOOD action. It's not cohesive or sustained or colorful; the widely-derided GI Joe movie has more personality to its action scenes than this flick does. By the time the fourth mass of metal demolishes the fifth mass of metal, you'll have lost track of which one is a good guy, which one is a bad guy, and (here's the best part) why you should actually give a shit.


In a better film, the dull but violent mega-robots would be flanked by a bunch of cool humans: some that are fun, some that are deep, some that are romantic. You know, people. As in: the reason we're supposed to CARE about anything on screen. But clearly I'm expecting too much from a film franchise based on a line of toys and presided over by a filmmaker who comes off like a neighborhood bully who enjoys burning insects beneath a magnifying glass. Whereas most filmmakers evolve (or devolve) over the years, Michael Bay is steadfast in staying the petulant loudmouth who insists that narrative is unnecessary, that characterization is dead air, that long volleys of ADRed plot exposition pass for plot development, that well-admired character actors humiliate themselves for nice paychecks, and that giant robot vs. giant robot is THE COOLEST THING WE COULD EVER WANT.

For the record, the plot is about a bunch of evil giant robots who want to take over the Earth, much to the chagrin of, well, nobody aside from Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf), his outlandishly hot girlfriend (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley), two soldiers who, despite being introduced in earlier films, refuse to exhibit the slightest bit of personality (Josh Duhamel and Tyrese Gibson), and folks like Frances McDormand, John Malkovich, and John Turturro, who promptly plop themselves down in front of a bank of TV monitors to narrate the action scenes for the audience. Not a bad gig if you can get it.

For a good two hours, Transformers 3 bumbles around like the world's richest alcoholic, offering one or two action scenes amidst the endless plot threads and horrible humor (yes, Sam's parents are back), but then we're supposed to be dazzled by the huge chunk of action stuff that happens in Act III. But aside from a conceptually cool slide through a destroyed skyscraper, this mammoth display of CGI carnage feels bloated, endless, and almost like some weird punishment. For all his mega-nifty stand-alone shots, Michael Bay still has no idea how to cut an action scene together with any sense of cohesive flow, sustained suspense, or simple geography. It's just a bunch of screen-saver bullshit.

So yeah: I didn't like Transformers: Dark of the Moon. I highly recommend you see something else. And with the completion of this review, I will now spend about 12 seconds erasing the memory of this worthless mass from my brain. 

Transformers: Dark of the Moon opens across the universe tonight.


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More about Transformers 3

Ard VijnJune 28, 2011 11:51 AM

I am seeing this Friday night in the best 3D-Imax in The Netherlands and looking forward to it in a major way.

This is mostly because I've also read Harry Knowles' review who liked it a good deal better than you did even though he touches several of the same points. Most of all, Harry says that Bay had to reign in his usual frantic editing for the 3D to be able to work (apparently James cameron was around to slap Bay's wrist when necessary). Now that makes me very curious, especially since you mention nothing is different...

Rest assured I will chime in with my review sometime this weekend. Who will I support, Weinberg or Knowles? Place your bets people!

JimJune 28, 2011 12:18 PM

Harry Knowles loved The Phantom Menace and Sucker Punch. I'm gonna go with the above. Brilliant review by the way Weinberg. Must've been cathartic that.

Niels MatthijsJune 28, 2011 12:44 PM

It's weird, I usually hate these type of films but somehow Transformers 2 (not the first one) turned out a whole deal better than it was supposed to. There's something to like about Bay's ways of forgetting about boring storylines and character development (they suck anyways), and just going for big, well-financed action scenes. you don't get that an awful lot in Hollywood.

Kurt HalfyardJune 28, 2011 2:25 PM

"It's the world's largest drum kit falling down an eternal flight of stairs."

Best summation of Michael Bay's career I've ever read.

huffy08June 28, 2011 4:16 PM

"giant robot vs. giant robot is THE COOLEST THING WE COULD EVER WANT."

Well duh. Don't you know that crap like "plot" and "character development" are for intellectuals and fags?

In all seriousness you'd think that at some point Spielberg would step in and give the project some guidance. I understand that Bay wants to have the final say on how many explosions are in frame at once but at least fix the awful humor and terrible characters. Sam Witwicky has to be the most unappealing lead character in the history of Hollywood blockbuster.

Peter GalvinJune 28, 2011 5:01 PM

Even though I left the last one with the same grumbles as this review, I must admit that the first thing I did after reading was buy a ticket for tonight.


Ard VijnJune 28, 2011 6:07 PM

That "drum kit" quote gets better every time I read it.

Even if I turn out to be disagreeing with you (and I'm not saying I do yet until I've seen this thing myself) that is just classic writing. If we had a "quote of the day" section this would be IT for the whole week!

Major_RagerJune 28, 2011 9:09 PM

I havent seen the 2nd one so please humour me.... I assume Megan Fox isn't in this third one. Does that have anything to do with the fact that she said Transformers wasn't about acting, and Michael Bay lost his shit? Did they really replace her with a blonde who looks nothing like her?

huffy08June 29, 2011 12:25 AM

Basically Fox didn't like Bay's "curt" style of direction and compared him to Hitler during an interview. According to Bay he thought it was amusing but Spielberg (the executive producer) got pissed off and wanted her gone. Who knows if this is the whole story.
As for the replacement, she's an entirely new character (yes, we're supposed to believe that there are actually two 10's who would go crazy over Shia LaBeouf). I'm assuming they hired an underwear model as opposed to one of the many gorgeous actresses in Hollywood because she wouldn't get offended by Bay's briskness.

SaltonerJune 29, 2011 1:17 AM

I like reading reviews to get a sense of what other people think, NEVER do they sway my intention of seeing, or not seeing a movie. TF3 is loaded with flaws, inconsistencies, bad editing and never properly follows the true nature of these iconic characters. It very much is, 2.5 hours of robotic carnage with a lot of flash in-between, and you know what... that's fucking fine by me. Cause while I was bored stiff with TF2, I never once looked at my watch during the screening of TF3. It's for sure shallow, but for a summer movie, it is pretty damn cool.

SaltonerJune 29, 2011 1:24 AM

Most unappealing blockbuster character goes to Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible, or any mutant in X-Men, or Anakin in the new Star Wars, or Twilight, or...

HKFanaticJune 29, 2011 2:41 AM

You know, I thought Revenge of the Fallen was one of the worst movies I've ever seen in my life, and yet I still can't wait to see this sucker in IMAX 3-D this week. Go figure. Hollywood wins, my IQ loses.

arturoJune 29, 2011 8:00 AM

Most critics always give Michael Bay a hard time, but at the end of the day he is just a popcorn filmmaker and the audience loves popcorn movies, so like all his films i will be checking this out in the cinema because Michael Bay knows how to blow shit up real good, and i think everyone knows what there gonna get....Boom followed by a bigger BOOM

https://www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawlRab290HRszG_GOp3wiZGEVn9xnRxae8YJune 29, 2011 10:01 AM

I was not a big fan of 1 or 2... they were just OK. But I must admit, seeing the trailer for 3 at the theater in 3D.... it seemed very impressive in a big dumb action way.

PwSheltonJune 30, 2011 3:41 AM

One of the funniest rants I've read here, Mr. Weinberg. The "drum kit" quote IS pure gold. It will be shared.

James MarshJune 30, 2011 4:05 AM

I put off reading this review until I had completed mine (sadly to be published elsewhere) but I am relieved to say we are in total agreement, Scott. I left the theatre feeling physically violated and even after walking 2 miles through the rain I could not clear my head from the deadening it had received at the hands of Michael Bay. I had foolishly taken Bay at his word this time out, that he was going for something darker, that the infantile comedy robots & superfluous caricatures would be gone, but oh no - they are back and bigger than ever. When John Malkovich plays a character who is being bullied around onscreen by Shia LaBoeuf you know narrative plausibility was not a factor anybody took into consideration. It's one of the dumbest movies I've seen in a very long time and made me feel stupid just for having watched it. I pity the fools who part with hard earned cash to see this. It's a toddler marching round the house on saturday morning bashing pot lids together when you're hungover. It's the worst kind of monotonous cacophony imaginable - and it seems to go on forever.

Ard VijnJune 30, 2011 4:21 AM

Well, I've been swayed a couple of times when someone I trusted (or at least knew where they were coming from) made a surprising remark about a movie I had initially no intention of seeing.

Not for this one tough: I got a free ticket by happy accident.
It's the "looking forward to it" part which was affected. I know Harry's hyperbole by now and have a pretty good idea when to believe him and when not. He just got me more curious than I was, that's all.

sitenoiseJuly 2, 2011 11:26 AM

I love it when a review is more entertaining than the movie.