“That’s a lot of robot fighting right there.” My initial reaction upon walking out of Transformers: Dark Of The Moon was probably predictable, but after a truly blockbuster opening to the franchise before a grand mis-step on the sequel, how this trilogy closer faired was going to be anything but a nailed down cinematic success.
With the Cybertronian war again set to rear its ugly head on Earth, the Autobots learn of a decades old discovery of their lost spacecraft, and ex-leader, on the Moon. Though after racing to retrieve its cargo, and revive their fallen comrade, for a final battle against the Decepticons that is shaping up to be the most fearsome yet, whatever secrets the crash-landed ship may hold, it seems Sam Witwicky (LaBeouf) is destined once again to be the difference between victory for the Optimus Prime, or defeat, and the destruction of our planet as we know it.
If Transformers: Dark Of The Moon was produced purely to be an expose of what you can do with CGI in the modern era, it’d get full marks. This is truly is the ultimate showreel for Industrial Light & Magic. But it’s meant to be a film, and sadly it’s not very good at that.
The CGI is hugely impressive but it just doesn’t mean anything if there’s no interest drawn from the story. Dark Of The Moon has no pace to the narrative and no justification for the aimless, and endless, robot-on-robot fighting. Despite all of the crushing action scenes and lavish explosions, the movie is shockingly devoid of visceral thrills, and no slow-motion Transformer transformation can make up for that.
While bar some lovely 3-D lens flare in the opening prelude (J.J. Abrams will have a field day), the extra dimension unsurprisingly adds nothing; this film looks great, but that’s nothing to do toting a pair of silly glasses on your face from start to finish.
Despite Shia LaBeouf’s best efforts there’s little to actually make you feel involved or interested in the story, though his charisma and performance are still commendable. There are A LOT of failed attempts at humour over the two-hour plus runtime but he’s the only actor that manage to pull one or two of them off. Elsewhere Josh Duhamel certainly doesn’t feel like he should have any kind of authority in the army, Frances McDormand is OK if utterly annoying as the US Secretary of Defence, while Patrick Dempsey plays a character pointlessly tied to the plot, John Malkovich is a senseless boss and John Turturro is dreadful as ever.
However it’s Rosie Huntingdon-Whitely that really steals the show when it comes to bad performances; the model-turned-actress sure can’t boast the latter of those God-given talent and she’s truly terrible throughout. While Megan Fox might not have been the most talented on-screen presence in the world, at least she can say lines without sounding like she’s reading them off a script as she goes; Huntingdon-Whitely serves to negate any sort of tension built up each scene, completely taking you out of the movie every time she speaks.
I’d say it was a blessing therefore that the model isn’t given too many lines, but Bay’s other use for her in the movie is even more cringe-worthy. While widely Megan Fox was said to be little more than eye candy in the first two Transformers films, here, how Huntingdon-Whitely is shot on camera and referred to by other characters is quite shocking, so crudely, and repressively objectified, typified no more perfectly than in her first appearance on-screen, where the camera follows the her trouser-less bum as she walks up the stairs to meet a sleeping LaBeouf. You don’t have to be a feminist to be disgusted by the vulgarity and objectification of women and Huntingdon-Whitely by Bay and the script in Transformers: Dark Of The Moon.
Away from the central acting cast, Leonard Nemoy is pleasing as Sentinel Prime, and Alan Tudyk, Ken Jeong and Andrew Daly also come out with their reputations intact, each playing side-roles.
Beyond the issues surrounding Huntingdon-Whitely, at least the racist robots from Revenge Of The Fallen are gone, but an unfathomable number of other Autobots and Decepticons have returned in their place. And like their various inclusions, as a whole, this film is all too complicated and unfocused, when really, nothing much happens from start to finish. Transformers was so great because it felt like it had a structure – generic as it was – but it was always moving somewhere; everyone had their place, everyone knew the score, and it hit all the right notes perfectly. Like in the sequel, Dark Of The Moon tries to do too much, when underneath there’s really very little going on at all.