You can’t say Michael Bay doesn’t try to give you your money’s worth in “Transformers: Dark of the Moon.” With a running time of two and a half hours the third part of the Hasbro saga has a story epic enough to hold up to Bay’s overblown style. It’s loud and proud filmmaking and for the first time in the series, it really works.
Set three years after the last movie Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) has an Ivy League education under his belt and a new girl on his arm. A new job for a multinational company places Sam, once again, smack dab in the middle of a showdown between the nasty Decepticons and the heroic Autobots. The former are the bad guys, the latter are the white hats, other than that, you’re on your own. There’s a lot going on here, including an ulterior motive for JFK’s space race, Chernobyl and an almost Shakespearean double cross.
While it is unsettling to see good actors like Frances McDormand grab a paycheque for acting opposite giant robots, “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” is the most satisfying blockbuster of the year. Its heavy metal filmmaking, all bluster and bee stung lips (more on that later).
Bay has never been known for his restraint and in the past his overblown ascetic has gotten in the way of his storytelling. This time out he reigns in the story and yet pulls it off. It’s jammed packed—the long prologue plays like a “Forest Gump” tribute, featuring everyone from JFK to Nixon to Walter Cronkite—and likely the subplots with Sam’s parents and John Malkovich as a horrible boss could have been cut to save on time, but the movie’s relentless pace ensures it never drags. By amping up the action and playing down the story Bay greases the wheels and has created a satisfying summer movie.
Bay has also finally figured out how to shoot the frenetic action scenes so the clashing robots are no longer just blurs of glinting metal but clearly defined warriors. The action scenes, particularly the extended battle that eats up the film’s last forty minutes, are exciting in a visceral way. There’s not a lot of substance here, but who cares, it’s the movie’s silly season and nobody blows things up like Bay.
People go see “Transformers” for the robots—and their transformation scenes remain the coolest thing about the series—but it should be noted that Megan Fox’s is not missed. Her replacement, former Victoria’s Secret model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, has a mouth that redefines the term “bee stung lips” and is confident enough to allow Bay’s camera to assess every inch of her body as she makes her debut as Sam’s latest fling.
In “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” Bay shifts into third gear and delivers the best robot porn yet.