Michael Bay is one of those directors that is focused on the industry side of cinema. His rebuttal to the claims that his last film wasn’t the ‘worst ever made’ because it made so much money make that clear for all to see. We knew that he was an awful film maker, the depths of which we couldn’t dare to imagine pre-Transformers. I don’t think anybody was pessimistic enough to anticipate Transformers 2 and the venomous bile that various elements of the press spewed in its presence. The biggest of all the summer blockbusters returns in 2011 with Transformers: Dark of the Moon.
In Transformers 3 the world has become peaceful especially for Sam Whitwicky (Shia LaBeouf) who is living with his new girlfriend in his flashy home. He broke up with Mikaela (Megan Fox), conveniently, between films and also found himself in a new relationship, with the similarly vacuous Carly (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley). He is also looking struggling to find work even though he “saved the world twice” and got a medal from the president. Meanwhile the Autobots are covertly working for the American government as intergalactic political assassins whilst waiting for the inevitable return of the Decepticons. Everybody’s world is about to be shaken with the return of the Decepticons with a plot arc that dates back to the first moon landing and the space race and their hidden meanings.
It starts positively enough stock footage of the first man on the moon, it starts falling down pretty early when it can’t be decided if they have cast someone who looks like JFK or someone who sounds like him. Regardless of poor continuity of these early scenes, dark of the moon does start well. Nevertheless it’s almost impossible to talk about this film without commenting on how bad it is. Take the cast it’s much better than it deserves to be for a script so bad. John Turturro, John Malkovich and Frances McDormand are better than this, even Ken Jeong in his latest racist Asian guy role is better than this. The main characters played by Shia LeBouef and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley are less exemplary. LeBouef puts in another example of why he is in such demand by showing his range which alternates between screaming histrionics and the stereotypical American arse hole and Huntington-Whiteley, well at least she’s beautiful. Which is a good thing as it seems acting is an alien concept as her only contribution to the film is to pout every now and again. As ever the best characters in any of these films are Bumble-Bee and Optimus Prime, even if they both have little screen time.
True to Michael Bay’s work this is both sexist and racist. It’s sexist because of how the female roles have been written, Carly is the pretty eye candy and Frances McDormand’s character (Mearing) is the stern ball-breaker stereotype. Not only does it offend women with the very small number of poorly drawn female characters, it also offends the Irish and English. There is a comic book cockney and Irish autobot, you could tell it was one of those occasions where the film tried to be funny by being wacky but on this occasion it was just awkward to watch.
Dark of the Moon is 2hr 40mins long and it feels every last second of it which wore me down more than any film in recent memory. Then there is the story which may play second fiddle to the robots knocking bits of each other even so whenever the humans took centre stage we experience a load of rubbish. Whether it is the relationship between Sam and his new girlfriend or his rivalry with Dylan (Patrick Dempsey), it is all surplus to requirements.
It’s not all bad though. The last hour may take an age to come around but when it does the sheer chaos and enormity of the battle does everything that it should for a film whose main appeal is Robots fighting. What did shock me was just how violent some of the scenes are. There is one scene in which two robots gang up on another just to pull his arms and legs off and then there is another occasion when someone’s robotic spine is pulled out. It’s extremely violent for a 12A. It’s in these scenes that Michael Bay’s greatest strength is played on and that is the construction of chaotic fight scenes. If the series played on the only reason people go to see these films about robots fighting then these films would be immeasurably better. It may be big and stupid, but at least the last hour entertains which is infinitely more than can be said about the remaining 100 minutes.
Transformers might be the biggest Billy brass balls of all the summer blockbusters, it also might have the biggest set pieces money can buy but when the film is so long and protracted that by the time the film kicks off you are too tired to care. A badly made, acted, directed and produced film, however it could have been worse. It’s all irrelevant at the end of the day because whether it is good, bad or ugly it will still be a massive success at the box-office.