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Transformers: Dark of the Moon: Bay of pigs

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Stating that Transformers: Dark of the Moon is better than 2009's infamous Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is a futile declaration best left for mathematicians to ponder, as only they might care to take the time to calculate the minuscule percentage that was necessary for this to emerge, uh, superior to its predecessor.

2007's Transformers contained enough flashes of warmth, emotion and workable humor to catch many critics off guard, but all that goodwill dissipated with the release of the first sequel, which one scribe — oh, yeah, me — described as "the filmic equivalent of a 150-minute waterboarding session." This latest franchise filler is just as soulless, cynical and stupid (and five minutes longer!), with director Michael Bay no longer even pretending to care about anything but breaking his own box office records.

Featuring the summer's second rewriting of U.S. history (the concept was better handled with X-Men: First Class's Cuban Missile Crisis episode), this film reveals that the real reason the astronauts landed on the moon back in 1969 was to check out an alien construct (hence the title) that turned out to be tied into the long-running intergalactic battle between the Autobots (good Transformers) and Decepticons (bad Transformers). After much exposition (culminating in a sellout appearance by Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin), the plot carries us to the present day, where the nerdy Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) again has an only-in-the-movies supermodel-esque girlfriend, Carly (played by Victoria's Secret supermodel Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, replacing Megan Fox as the requisite sex object). Sam's mother (Julie White) creepily surmises that her son must have a big schlong in order to land such hot girlfriends, while his father (Kevin Dunn) is concerned that he has no job. He finally acquires one, working for an eccentric CEO (John Malkovich); Carly, meanwhile, is employed by a wealthy slug (Patrick Dempsey) whose mere presence makes Sam jealous. But our hero has no time for such high-school hijinks, as he soon discovers that the Decepticons have returned with another plan to take over our world. Before long, Sam soon finds himself fighting alongside other returning characters (Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson, John Turturro) plus one newcomer (Frances "Are you fucking kidding me?" McDormand), as well as the Autobots: Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, Ratchet, Ironhide, Sleepy, Bashful and Dopey.

Bay's fascistic tendencies aren't quite as pronounced as in the last installment (though there is an appearance by Fox a-hole Bill O'Reilly as himself), but there isn't anything this man won't do for the sake of arousing himself, be it an establishing shot of Carly that solely captures her 3-D-enhanced ass or a scene in which a little girl unknowingly plays tea party with a disguised Decepticon who then leaps up and murders her mom and dad. From start to finish, it's a miserable viewing experience, and the robot slugfests are once again incoherent and endless.

So why is Dark of the Moon better than Revenge of the Fallen? Two reasons. First, there's an Inception-like sequence (right down to similar music) involving a folded building that's pretty cool. And second, unlike its predecessor, there are no shots of Transformer testicles.

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