Michael Bay is back for another installment of “VH1’s Behind the Music: Tawney Kitaen”… er, I mean Transformers. While not as abysmally horrible as its predecessor, little has improved.
The Autobots Bumblebee, Ratchet, Ironhide and Sideswipe, led by Optimus Prime, are back in action, taking on the evil Decepticons, who are determined to avenge their previous defeats. The Autobots and Decepticons become involved in a perilous space race between the U.S. and Russia, and once again human Sam Witwicky has to come to the aid of his robot friends. (courtesy of IMDB)
Michael Bay does not possess a soft spot in any critic’s heart for his cinematic endeavors, but he does manage to play to his strengths here. Those strengths: explosions, scantily-clad female leads, and intense action sequences. The weaknesses: everything else. It is a movie about giant robots fighting each other, but still manages to crap all over everything taught in screenwriting seminars. More on that in a minute, but for now let’s accentuate the positive.
The action sequences are done better than those in either of the previous two films. Bay finally slows the action down during key scenes to allow the transformations to be fully shown, creating a visually amazing effect. One particular scene is reminiscent of the highway chase scene from “The Matrix Reloaded.” Dare I say it even surpasses that scene? The 3D adds to the action and in only one scene does Bay fall back into the “leaping out of the screen!” trap. Apparently he didn’t read my review of “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” before vetting the 3D shots.
The opening sequences showing the behind-the-scenes crash of the Transformers’ ship and the subsequent space race are well done. Splicing historic film footage with a special guest appearance by Buzz Aldrin gave great hope that this was going to be a major improvement from the last film. Boy, was that wrong!
It’s hard to know where to start pointing out the movie’s flaws, due to the sheer volume of them. Do you attack the overtly racial stereotyping of every non-white American male? The scenes of Rosie Huntington-Whiteley staring off screen like a barely-dressed waif as explosions light up behind her? The incessant middle school humor that completely destroys any attempt to care about Shia LaBeouf’s character? The fact that it is, in essence, the exact same film as “The Revenge of the Fallen,” despite even Shia publicly taking shots at how terrible it was? Or is it worse that Bay apparently learned nothing from his major star telling the world that the second movie was a giant turd? That it plays out with the emotional attachment of watching your little brother play “Call of Duty?” Whew. Ok. Breathe. Exorcise the demons!
Maybe it’s a cheap shot, but if Michael Bay can get away with this, so can I. Can someone explain how Rosie Huntington-Whiteley got this job? While the five years working on the “Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show” actually probably is the best preparation for being a female lead in a Bay movie, Megan Fox she is not. Granted, she does just well enough to not get caught on fire, spit out a few lines, and wear increasingly lower cut dresses and higher heels. Someone help her up onto Whitesnake’s car before the hood gets cold. One cannot expect too much.
I imagine that if you took a school full of 11- to 13-year-old boys and told them to write a movie, they would come up with something disturbingly close to “Dark of the Moon.” Or something classier, like 1981’s “Heavy Metal.” The fact that Bay and Kruger boiled the script down to something of that caliber (again) is the most egregious of the film’s flaws. There are moments where the audience begins to care about Sam and his place in the world. Those moments are completely destroyed seconds later by having someone make a dick joke. What’s left is a flaccid, dispassionate attempt at making us care that the world is being destroyed. It’s that bad—the entire world is ending and you still won’t care.
Part of the problem is that a solid hour of the movie should have been left on the cutting room floor. The running time is one minute shorter than “Tree of Life,” and one quantum leap from being as good. Apparently part of the plot structure is to continually circle back and re-hash plot points that didn’t need explaining in the first place. Even the vaguest attempts at actual plot structure and writing are repeated two or three times. In case you didn’t get it, the robots are going to fight other robots. Thankfully, that at least was worth seeing.
“See It/ Rent It/ Skip It”: Skip it. Save yourself a few bucks by making a homemade cardboard box robot costume and stage mock battles with your friends at the Bel Air Fourth of July fireworks spectacular.
ONE AND A HALF STARS out of four.
Directed by Michael Bay. Written by Ehren Kruger.
Rated PG-13 for intense prolonged sequences of sci-fi action violence, mayhem and destruction, and for language, some sexuality and innuendo.
Runtime: 2 hour and 17 minutes