DVD Review: Transformers: Dark of the Moon director Michael Bay is like your Bad-News Older Cousin. He swears at family dinners, drives a muscle car with a trunk full of illegal fireworks, and brags about scoring with tube-topped girls in jean shorts. He’s a hyperactive bonehead, but you have to admit it’s a blast hearing his wild tales.
Make no mistake, Transformers: Dark of the Moon is a Michael Bay movie. There are sci-fi vistas of staggering size and scope, with giant gun ships and slo-mo robot-battle tableaus that’d look right at home on a Greco-Roman mural.
There are human heroes striding heroically to triumphant-yet-mournful French horns. There’s a history retro-fit of the ’60s Space Race (hence the Floydian sub-title), and cool new Decepticons to stand around on the top of buildings to discuss their plans for yet another secret weapon.
We learn that Autobots have to go to meetings–not even being able to fold yourself into the latest hot-model Chevy gets you out of attending bureaucratic debriefings. Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen) solemnly delivers more lofty aphorisms about freedom, liberty, tyranny, honor, and courage that he read off his own bumper. (“We were a peaceful race,” intones Optimus. Uh huh, then Michael Bay showed up?)
We still have pervy little Transformers hanging around (Bay still seems to think they’re funny), but this time they (and we) are ogling Rosie Huntington-Whiteley instead of Megan Fox–different accent, different hair color, same purpose as Sam’s girlfriend: stand around looking at things while being looked at.
Bay introduces his newest eye candy with a shot of her underwear-clad butt going up the stairs. Because he is Michael Bay, incorrigible scamp, and this sort of misogynistic objectification of women is just how he does. Bay World, after all, perpetually exists in the super-reality of a 14-year-old boy. These movies are not made for kids—they’re made for adults who never grew up.
Meanwhile Shia LaBeouf seems to be undergoing a real-life breakdown right in front of us—his character Sam spends most of the film either in a nervous panic or in primal-scream mania as he tries to get a job and rescue the girl. Lots of other real actors show up to share a bite of the gleaming chrome scenery–John Turturro, Josh Duhamel, and Tyrese Gibson are all back, plus the always welcome Kevin Dunn and Julie White as Sam’s parents.
New faces include Frances McDormand, a pumpkin-hued John Malkovich in a subplot that was accidentally chopped in half, Patrick Dempsey using all his aw-shucks looks and charm for sleaze, and the genuinely funny Ken Jeong and Alan Tudyk. And Leonard Nimoy swings by to do a little growly voice work as one of those always-grumpy old Transformers with stuff hanging off their faces.
Dark of the Moon still has plenty of stupid, but the plot is marginally more sensical than Revenge of the Fallen. (Though it still skips around as if Bay and screenwriter Ehren Kruger just said “eh, screw it,” and yanked huge chunks out to get to the ‘splosions.)
Bay has, however, listened to his critics and slowed the editing pace down and expanded the framing enough so that normal, Ritalin-free humans can follow the action. Dark of the Moon remains overlong and stuffed with narrative head-scratchers (the heroic Autobots played possum while an entire American city died, just to petulantly prove they’re needed?), but happily the childish slapstick and locker-room crudities are taken down a notch this time.
And once we get to Chicago, who cares? The last third of the movie is devoted to the awesome destruction of the Windy City, and this parade of epic chaos is where Bay can swing his big camera lens with daunting arrogance.
Over-sized robot action, gunships, and giant robo-space-worms fill the “Mountains of the Midwest,” but interestingly the best set pieces are human-centric. The Autobots are on the sidelines for much of the Battle of Wacker Drive (Optimus spends it tangled up in high wires, like a Transformer Don Knotts), and fittingly in a post-OBL world, it’s the U.S. Military’s Special Ops teams that pull off most of the heroics, including spectacular base-jumping sequences and a bravo bit with an entire skyscraper tipping over (whoopsies!) with our main characters inside.
Kinetically you have a better sense of what’s going on in the middle of this big pile of “hell yeah!” (the “why”s are still dicey), but even when you aren’t sure, it still looks freakin’ amazing. That Battle of Chicago is just about everything you’d ever want from a mindless opera of summer-escapist destruction, orchestrated by an idiot-savant maestro. And this time the boom-boom-crash payoff is well worth sitting through the rest of 14-year-old Bay’s playground posturing.
Transformers: Dark of the Moon is available on DVD and Blu-ray from redbox.
Transformers and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen are also both available from redbox.
You can rent the new video game Transformers: Dark of the Moon from redbox for Xbox 360, Wii, and PS3