I have no excuse to be angry for wasting my money to see TRANSFORMERS 3: DARK OF THE MOON. The second TRANSFORMERS film was a horrendous mess that tested my endurance to sit through the entirety of that dreck. After that film, I vowed to never watch another TRANSFORMERS movie. But here I am now, having just seen the latest installment of Michael Bay’s ludicrously successful robot franchise and I’m not the better for it. So why, you may ask, would I put myself through such misery when I perfectly know I won’t gain any satisfaction from seeing this film? I hate to sound shallow, but I must admit that the trailers won me over (thank you deceptive Paramount marketing department). Also, Shia LaBeouf’s praise for TRANSFORMERS 3 after publicly deriding the previous sequel gave me additional hope that maybe, just maybe, Michael Bay finally learned how to make a movie. It never entered my mind that when someone gets paid millions of dollars to star in a movie, its in his very best (contractual) interest to not engage in trash talking. Admittedly, TRANSFORMERS 3 is a better effort than TRANSFORMERS 2, but that’s not saying anything when TRANSFORMERS 2 was bottom of the barrel awful. And although the third film is better, the improvements are negligible.

The first sign of trouble for this film was when Paramount hired the overrated and overpaid Ehren Kruger (SCREAM 3, THE RING films, and TRANSFORMERS 2) to pen the screenplay. What Paramount should have done after the indecipherable narrative of the second film was to rehire the original screenwriters of the first film, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman. But why turn shit into gold when that shit already made you a ton of money? Anyway, this film is about the Autobots (the good robots) discovering the existence of a spaceship from Cybertron (the Transformers home planet) that crash landed on Earth’s moon. The U.S. learned about this spaceship back in the early 60s and so JFK decided to send the first humans to the moon to find the ship (not to explore the moon as history would have us know). Now it’s the present and we learn the Decepticons (the bad robots), with the help of a few bad humans (Patrick Dempsey being one of them) have retrieved hundreds of pill-shaped capsules from the spaceship. Once activated, these capsules will create a bridge that will transport the planet Cybertron to Earth. However, the Decepticons are short 5 capsules and they con the Autobots into bringing those back to Earth so the Decepticons can steal them and activate the bridge.

The plot of TRANSFORMERS 3 is an improvement over the confusion of the second film. I was able to mostly follow what was going on and the plot was more in following with the sort of storytelling found in the 1980’s cartoon and comic book series. The film’s initial setup involving the U.S. moon landing and discovery of the spaceship drew me in. X-MEN: FIRST CLASS also recently incorporated a historical event (the Cuban Missile Crisis) into its plot and with TRANSFORMERS 3 doing the same, I hope it’s a trend we see more of. I was even engaged during the first few scenes of the first act when we’re taken back to the present. It was nice to see the filmmakers incorporate current events by showing Sam Witwicky’s (Shia LaBeouf) struggles in finding a job. Unfortunately, any enjoyment I got from these early moments of the film were thoroughly dashed by everything that follows. Michael Bay has no inkling of how to pace his story or build upon the characters, situations, and relationships in his movie in order to pay them off later. Instead, he frantically moves from one scene to the next in a manic style, introducing us to over-the-top and/or one-dimensional characters and situations that don’t really lend anything to the overall storyline. Why did we need to be introduced to John Malkovich’s or Ken Jeong’s characters (as funny as they are) other than to offer comic relief? Even more pointless is the decision to bring back Sam’s parents. Unless I missed something from the second film, I didn’t get the whole living-in-an-RV thing. Although I appreciate Bay, Spielberg, & Co.’s efforts to fashion a better story, it’s a sloppy one that is full of obvious plot holes. I gathered from the first act that Sam and his girlfriend are living in Washington, D.C. The robots also seem to live in D.C. So explain to me why we ever go to Chicago? During much of the film, I couldn’t tell whether we were in D.C. or Chicago. What’s more, when the Decepticons enter through the transportation thingie, they are shown to be laying waste to both Chicago and D.C. However, we are shown D.C.’s destruction for a few minutes before the rest of the film remains in Chicago. Why even bother showing D.C. getting destroyed and what’s the point? The film contains many moments like this that are either not setup or don’t payoff. I didn’t even know Decepticons are scattered throughout the world (so that they could launch the capsules to transport Cybertron to Earth) until we are shown a few seconds of them launching the capsules. Apparently, Chicago is supposed to be ground zero for the Decepticons, which makes absolutely no sense. The Decepticons were already in D.C. when we see Megatron sit on the chair previously occupied by a statute of President Lincoln. Doesn’t it just make more sense for D.C. to be ground zero given how it’s the nation’s capitol? Finally, wouldn’t you think that after two movies, the humans would realize that firing guns at robots doesn’t do shit?

One of the biggest issues I have had with the whole TRANSFORMERS series is its failure to bridge the gap between the real world and the world of the robots; the plausible and the fantastic. This isn’t a knock on the excellent VFX work done by the artists, but I’ve never been convinced that the robots inhabit the real world. There never appears to be a reaction from humans when a robot shows up. When shit gets destroyed, everything is always deserted. That was immediately apparent in the Chicago destruction scenes. Aside from a few shots of people running for their lives and a commuter train with dead bodies in it, Chicago is completely deserted when the Autobots and Decepticons battle it out. Sure, people will get the hell out of dodge when alien robots lay waste to their city, but are you going to tell me that there will be no dead bodies scattered all over the place? I know this film is intended for kids, but some realism would have been nice. Overall, there is a disconnect between the fantasy elements of the movie (the robots and their mission) and the world of the humans. There is no sense of immersion and, consequently, I wasn’t emotionally engaged by any of it. Worse, I was bored 20 minutes into the movie.

Contributing to my emotional disengagement is the piss poor character development. Its not like Michael Bay has ever created two-dimensional characters so there really wasn’t any reason for me to expect him to do so here. On the other hand, just because a director fails to dimensionalize his characters doesn’t excuse his failure. The characters, as usual, are saddled with clichéd and uninspired dialogue. The dialogue of the robots is worse than the humans. Part of the problem was bad robot design. Fortunately, we don’t have the two robots from the second film that stirred up a whole bunch of controversy. Instead, we have an Albert Einstein robot that is just a waste of space and a couple of miniature robots that live with Sam and that provide the film’s comic relief. I for one couldn’t understand a word coming out of their mouths so I can’t really say whether or not their comedy was funny. Optimus Prime is joined this time by Sentinel Prime (voiced by Leonard Nimoy) and both spew the usual inspirational leadership bullshit lines that you can predict before they even say the first word of their sentence. And lets also not talk about the recurring problem of differentiating between Megatron, Starscream, Ironside, etc. It doesn’t much matter anyway because none of the robots have any character development to speak of.

The elephant in the room in TRANSFORMERS 3 is Rosie Huntington-Whiteley as Sam’s girlfriend. First, lets just put aside the STRONG IMPLAUSIBLITY of someone like Sam landing a supermodel looking girlfriend. No way in hell. Second, although Huntington-Whiteley truly is a supermodel and not an actress, it would have been nice if she put a little effort into saying her lines. Huntington-Whiteley was hired to replace Megan Fox after Fox badmouthed Michael Bay and the TRANSFORMERS. Fox is also a very beautiful actress, but not in a supermodel way. Fox has a trashy, whorish sexiness that makes her relationship with Sam believable. They met when Sam was still a normal high school kid and Fox was a hot bad girl. What’s more, Megan Fox can act. Not well, but good acting isn’t really required from a Michael Bay production. Huntington-Whiteley can’t even pull off looking scared. There is one hilarious shot in the movie where she’s standing amid all the chaos going on around her in Chicago and she’s supposed to have this shellshocked look on her face. That was perhaps the easiest task required of the “actress” and she couldn’t even pull that off. You might also notice, if you have the unfortunate chore of seeing this movie, that she runs around Chicago wearing high heels and tight jeans. Dumb blond checklist: CHECK!

TRANSFORMERS 3 is a 2 ½ hour shitfest that deserves an episode of Mystery Science Theater. Its Michael Bay at his absolute unrestrained, inept self. It’s a ripoff of every previous Bay movie along with elements of other more successful films. By the way, for you film score fans, you might notice the familiarity of the music during the scene where the humans fly through the air with bat-like wings. That’s because its almost a complete ripoff of “Mind Heist,” which was used in the INCEPTION trailer. Anyway, enough ranting.

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