My girlfriend and I watched the second Transformers film last week, which was so miserable that I just couldn’t bring myself to attend this week’s screening of the third installment. In my place I sent my friend/fellow former T.L.A. Video employee Chris Ludovici, who is the only person I know that owns the first two Transformers films on Blu-ray. Here’s his review…
Transformers: Dark of the Moon, the third film in the hilariously epic Transformers series, is easily the best and most consistent of the three films. Whether or not the previous sentence means anything to you pretty much determines if you will enjoy it or not. The plot involves the evil Decepticons’ final assault on planet Earth and the emergence of long lost Sentinel Prime, the pre-Optimus leader of the heroic Autobots. It’s goofy, of course, and makes little sense, but it sort of holds up while you’re watching it, which is a quantum leap beyond the second movie.
But it’s not really like plot matters in a Transformers movie, it’s all about action, and there’s plenty of it. Early scenes of Decepticons stalking and killing various key humans are actually pretty menacing and scary, as is a chase scene on the highway halfway through the film where Bumblebee and Sam (Shia LaBeouf) are ambushed by Decepticons on the highway. These movies work best when they take on a sort of Godzilla quality of giant things fighting in populated areas and those early sequences are as well executed as any in the series.
The last third of the movie is a sustained attack on Chicago that’s at times breathtaking (Soundwave attacking a collapsing building that contains our human heroes) and at others confusing. Characters disappear and reappear with no explanation of where they were or what they’ve been doing. Eventually the whole thing becomes overwhelming and ultimately tiresome though any single sequence on its own is pretty brilliant.
Franchise director Michael Bay tones down, but doesn’t entirely remove, the broad comedic beats that worked to varying degrees of success in the first two movies. Gone are the inexplicable, jaw-dropping racist caricatures that were the robot twins. Still around are the wacky parents and John Turturro’s nutty secret agent, joined this time by John Malkovich as a sort of Donald Trump pseudo-tough guy billionaire and Ken Jeong doing the usual weirdo thing that he does. If you enjoyed Turturro in the first two then you’ll like Malkovich and Jeong.
Bottom line: this movie isn’t going to change how you feel about Michael Bay and his series. Everyone involved seems determined to make the best live-action-robot-soldiers-from-space-that-turn-into-cars-and-hate-each-other movie they could, and for the most part they’ve succeeded.
Transformers: Dark of the Moon opens in Philly-area theaters today.