Movie Review: Transformers Dark of the Moon


I'm too old for this crap.

The Transformers franchise is just too much for me to bear anymore. Sure, I liked the first movie, but in a way, I liked it in spite of itself. It's like it tried so hard to be a crappy movie but the cool robotic action sequences were interesting enough to keep it from being completely vacuous. Revenge of the Fallen imploded, although I still dug it when the robots duked it out. So what's the deal with Dark of the Moon?

The movie opens with the ancient Transformer war on Cybertron. Some Transformers, led by Autobot Sentinel Prime, escape Cybertron on the Ark but crash land on Earth's moon in the 1960's. The US government notices the impact, which then becomes the impetus of the Apollo moon missions. The Apollo astronauts check out the Ark and find that all the Cybertronian warriors on the ship have been deactivated. Fast forward to today: the Autobots are unaware of all this, thinking that Sentinel had been killed escaping Cybertron. When they catch wind of the rediscovered Ark, they go to the moon to salvage Sentinel Prime and his top-secret cargo. What happens after that, I'm at a loss. It's all just a tempest of Bayformers blowing up random crap, all filmed on a quickly-cutting motion cam.

Maybe I don't remember much about the storyline because the characters are awful. I don't remember ever seeing a movie with characters that were so insanely grating. Remember in some Star Trek: TNG episodes when Commander Riker would suddenly fly off the handle and become an overbearing jerk? For example, in Time's Arrow Part II, Riker and the senior staff are discussing what to do with Captain Picard being trapped in the past by an alien time portal. The dilemma is whether they should destroy the portal and trap the Captain in the past, or keep the portal open and let the aliens use it to munch the souls of people from that time period. Dr. Crusher gives a reasonable dissenting opinion, when Riker suddenly cuts her off and starts barking orders like a jerk. Finally, Worf tells him to get a grip and Riker comes to his senses. Sam in Dark of the Moon is like Jerk Riker, but there isn't a Worf equivalent to make him get ahold of himself. He just keeps going.

But that isn't the only character type in Dark of the Moon. The Twins (Skids and Mudflap) aren't in this movie, but they might as well have been as the doofy robot role they left vacant is taken up by a couple of mini-bots with a Jar Jar Binks complex. There are many other robots, like the Wreckers, that are similarly goofy.

So you have a movie full of Jerk Rikers and Jar Jar Binkses. Swell.

Secondary characters flit in and out of existence with no purpose: John Malkovich plays some random shmoe for about 15 minutes, then he's gone, never to be seen again. The main characters don't fare much better. Optimus Prime is a shallow nothing of a character, existing solely to kick Decepticon ass (he's so good at it you start to wonder why he even needs the other Autobots) and spout pompous and presumptuous moralistic nonsense. Sentinel Prime's motivations are just plain irrational. The coolest character is Shockwave, because he just strikes a pose and keeps his mouth shut.

I wish all the Transformers took Shockwave's cue. For some reason, they had cheesy-sounding voices that only served to increase the absurdity of the characters, like they were in some cheap 80's cartoon. Soundwave bears special mention here. My friend Jason mentioned that Soundwave was voiced by Frank Welker, the same dude who voiced Dr. Claw from the old Inspector Gadget cartoons. And he sounds exactly the same. So instead of Soundwave sounding like this, he sounds like this.

No matter how cool the robots look (and some of them do look awesome), all this makes the characters, human or robot, so bad that the first half of the movie is unbearable. The only thing that kept me from bailing was the fact that a co-worker, who knows I'm obsessed with Star Trek, mentioned that there was a quote from Sentinel Prime that would get my ire, and I was curious what it was. Without spoiling the quote, I'll say that the movie was such an utter fail up to that point that the corny self-serving quote didn't bother me all that much.

The movie picks up as the action replaces the character development with the Decepticons invading Chicago. I'm a sucker for alien invasion movies and this was impressive... if you can get past the military movie clichés that pepper the scenes, that is. Remember those horrible clichés in Independence Day that were old and tired even back in the 90's? Well, Dark of the Moon has plenty of those, and then some. But there is also a "disaster movie" scene in which the humans find themselves fighting in a falling building that is pretty cool. The robot fighting action in Chicago is okay, but there's nothing here that is particularly impressive or innovative compared with the previous two movies.

SPOILERS!
But then, during the invasion, our heroes take a disturbing turn as Optimus Prime and the Autobots inexplicably become morally bereft. Optimus executes an opposing Transformer (wounded in battle to the point of being helpless, by the way) by shooting him in the back of the head. The Wreckers brutally tear a Decepticon prisoner of war apart, all the while gleefully boasting how painful it must be to the guy. People would be horrified if Superman killed Lex Luthor this way. Hell, Anakin Skywalker similarly executed a helpless Dooku, which was a big step to him becoming the most evil dude in the universe. But we're supposed to believe that Optimus Prime, literally mimicking Darth Vader, is all crazy heroic?

In fact, there's a scene in which Soundwave executes a captured Autobot, with Bumblebee to be next. The scene is played to make Soundwave seem cruel as Bumblebee submissively kneels awaiting his execution, even though Optimus and his gang are executing POWs too. Regardless, the scene quickly descends into irrationality, as a random explosion distracts Soundwave and Bumblebee leaps into action, wiping out all his captors in a few swoops of his blaster. But the explosion wasn't that much of a distraction, so it makes one wonder why Bumblebee didn't do anything in time to at least give his comrade a fighting chance.
END SPOILERS.

I'll say that one good thing about the movie is that I didn't see it in 3D. If I did, they'd be cleaning my eyeballs off the floor after they exploded out of their sockets. Sometimes Internet reviewers use hyperbole like that to compliment the movie, but I want to be clear that is not the case here.

Overall: 

Transformers: Dark of the Moon is easily the worst of the Transformers movies. Never before have characters elicited such a feeling of abject repulsion in me. But maybe my distaste of the movie is also because I'm not impressed by the Bayformers anymore. It's just the same old robots, with the same old look, fighting the same old way. If I didn't hate all the characters, maybe I'd care. But as it is, it's a waste.

WE'LL FINISH WITH ANOTHER SPOILER.
There was a scene in which the Autobots hop aboard a Space Shuttle to leave Earth. When I saw it, I thought how cool it would be if the Space Shuttle transformed into a robot. My first thought was "Jetfire"! But no, Jetfire had already been summarily ruined in the previous movie, depicted as a sad decrepit robot. What about Omega Supreme? Sure, that would work, but do I really want to see yet another classic Transformer bastardized as a Bayformer? Omega Supreme would likely transform into a clumsy oaf or something. I could just picture him accidentally backing into a building and saying "Excuse me!" while the audience roars with laughter. No, I eventually decided it would be best for the Shuttle to not transform considering the irrevocable damage that would be done to whatever character it transforms into.

And there you go. That's Dark of the Moon.

DISCLAIMER: All items reviewed on Dork Dimension were purchased by the reviewer unless otherwise noted. The opinions expressed on Dork Dimension are solely those of the author and are presented for entertainment purposes only.