Bay’s brainless, adrenaline-filled drivel ensures that even the dimmest members of our society have something to watch.
There is no doubt that a man like Michael Bay is necessary in Hollywood. While as the creator of mindless and shallow male adolescent fantasies he is impeding the progress of filmmaking, his mega-budget, action blockbusters such as Bad Boys and Armageddon satisfy mass audiences’ craving for destruction and explosions when they go see a summer movie. Not every audience member wants both the large-scale action and intelligent storytelling of a film like Christopher Nolan’s Inception. Bay’s brainless, adrenaline-filled drivel ensures that even the dimmest members of our society have something to watch.
After 2009’s Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen was panned by audiences and critics alike, Bay and his production team had a serious faux pas to make up for with the third installment of the series, Transformers: Dark of the Moon. If judged from the standpoint of its being “summer action blockbuster” fodder and assessed using the criteria and expectations of that genre, Dark of the Moon is actually a rather satisfying experience.
If you are not familiar with the Transformers mythology (and a re-cap here would not be appropriate), you can still enjoy Dark of the Moon because very little of its plot relies on the past two films. The movie’s premise is that a spaceship from the Transformers’ home planet of Cybertron crash-landed on the Moon in the 1960s and the space race was intended to explore and claim the object first. The United States has kept this a secret for 50 years, but when the evil Decepticons re-appear on Earth, the secret is exposed.
Meanwhile, Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) has saved the world twice from the Decepticons, but he can’t get a job to save his life. His girlfriend, Carly (Rosie Hunington-Whiteley), is a successful curator and makes more than enough to support both of them, much to Sam’s chagrin. Sam longs for his days fighting with the Autobots, but must settle for a mundane life at an entry-level desk job. Sam’s in for a surprise, though, because of course a battle between the Autobots and the Decepticons erupts and he throws himself in the middle of it.
Bay actually shows some signs of growth in Dark of the Moon, in that he finally slows down both the action and the camera work enough to allow the audience to see what is happening. The special effects team has always done a terrific job making each Transformer unique and impressively detailed, but we hadn’t been able to enjoy it in the first two movies because of Bay’s frenetic cinematography. Here, however, Bay has become less reliant on quick-cut editing and his shots last more than a fraction of a second.
It’s also frustrating to see LaBeouf in these films because his talent is completely wasted. He is one of the most charismatic young actors today and his natural comedic abilities are only briefly glimpsed in the succession of mediocre action pics that he’s chosen to take on. He is clearly capable of handling drama. He would be wise to try a comedy and showcase his other talents.
The running time for Dark of the Moon is an unnecessary 2 hours and 34 minutes. The action sequences, while entertaining and pretty inventive, run far too long. Bay has no idea how to handle scenes of dialogue so he just piles on the action and hopes that will be enough. But there are a few impressively choreographed fight scenes and the script, by Ehren Kruger, actually strives for both complexity and intelligence, a goal that was lacking in the prior installments.
Dark of the Moon is Michael Bay giving his fans exactly what they want. In that respect he succeeds, and to judge him by any other standard would be senseless and a waste of time. | Matthew Newlin