There is a specific event which almost every person who has lived in a city has dealt with at least once. You’re walking down the street, and a mentally-ill homeless person stops you and, without warning, starts screaming nonsense in your face. A shot of adrenaline hits your brain, and suddenly you’re taken from your normal life and set in a dangerous, unpleasant and surreal world. You stand there, unable to move for a moment, before you snap back to yourself, and walk carefully past the person accosting you.
Watching “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” is like that. Only you’re not allowed to walk away. You have to sit there as it goes on. And on. For two and a half hours.
This would not be so awful if not for the fact that listening to someone scream at you for so long is also apparently incredibly boring.
Written by: Ehren Kruger
Starring: Shia LeBeouf, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, John Turturro
Everything, and yet somehow nothing, happens in this movie. To start with, director Michael Bay and writer Ehren Kruger re-imagine the moon landing as a top-secret investigation of the crash of an alien ship. This allows Bay to include such nuggets as a computer-animated JFK, a Richard Nixon look-alike, and Neil Armstrong exclaiming “My God, it’s some kind of giant metal face!”
The rest of the plot would take too long to explain, and would require I expound on the history of ethnic cleansing of Autobots by the evil Decepticons, and the continuation of their civil war on Earth. Frankly having to do that would make me die a little inside. Suffice it to say the movie has Chernobyl, anonymous terrorists in the Middle East, Russian cosmonauts and gangsters. There’s a hot babe named Rosie Huntington-Whiteley (a Victoria’s Secret model!) who is dating Shia LaBeouf instead of Megan Fox, who apparently was fired for being a bitch. There are character actors like John Turturro, Frances McDormand and John Malkovich gnawing scenery in the background, and Patrick Dempsey and his hair being evil in the foreground. There are all sorts of robots- geek robots, ghetto robots, anonymous steampunk evil robots, and what sound like Irish bruiser robots. And they all turn into designer cars. And explosions!! Thousands of explosions! Explosions everywhere, forever! And it’s all in 3D- even Whiteley’s ass!
The result of all these ingredients is both a cinematic manifestation of a 14-year-old boy’s psyche, and a love letter to American militarism and excess. There is crane shot after crane shot of muscle cars rolling down highways in a convoy; the camera luxuriates over the curves of a BMW, or the image of a fighter jet, more lovingly than anything else in the movie. The whole thing literally ends with a bunch of overgrown Hasbro toys posing majestically over a destroyed downtown Chicago, a battered American flag still waving behind them.
If this all seems pretty bad ass, it is- for about 20 minutes. But there’s just so much of it- endless battle scenes, rampant commercialism, gratuitous, yet bloodless violence- it becomes monotonous. How many times can a person watch a computer-animated machine triumphantly return from certain death and attack in slow-motion? Because it happens about a dozen times in this movie, and by the third time I could feel the people around me checking their watches.
In the effort of fairness, it’s important to mention that much of the 3D-filming is actually pretty terrific. The scenes in space are particularly lovely to look at, offering kaleidoscopic landscapes of stars and planets that shape the scene and give it a sense of flight. However, Bay isn’t content to just make the showpiece scenes 3-dimensional; even throwaway scenes of two guys sitting in a room has to be made bigger, larger, in your face. After all 157 minutes, my head was pounding, my eyes were weak, and I needed to pause at the door to re-adjust to a world where John Malkovich’s forehead isn’t 14 feet high and coming right at me.
What else can I say to make you not see this movie? Because I really don’t want you to pay good money, that you earned with your hard work in a poor economy, to reward this bloated, monstrous Frankenstein. Believe me, I love a good movie where shit blows up; in fact, I really liked the first “Transformers,” which had sun-drenched cinematography, a rapier wit and a healthy dose of irony.
But as the axiom goes, just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should. I have a feeling that through the entire course of filming this behemoth, Michael Bay never once heard, “No, Michael, we’re not doing that. That’s a bad idea and it’s stupid.” Everyone needs to hear that once in a while, even guys who make a lucrative career of visually attacking us in movie theaters. Bay’s movie might have given me a good shot of adrenaline. But in the end I just wanted to be able to walk on by.