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.