With Transformers: Dark of the Moon, the third installment in Michael Bay’s big-budget adaptation of the beloved Hasbro toys, you’re desperately hoping to like it after the complete disappointment that was Revenge of the Fallen two years prior, but in the back of your head, you just know it wouldn’t come true.
What’s the Story: Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) and his new girlfriend, Carly (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley), join the fray when the evil Decepticons renew their longstanding war against the Autobots. Optimus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen) believes that resurrecting ancient Transformer Sentinel Prime (voiced by Leonard Nimoy), once the leader of the Autobots, may lead to victory. That decision, however, has devastating consequences; the war appears to tip in favor of the Decepticons, leading to a climactic battle in Chicago.
Transformers: Dark of the Moon had a lot on its shoulders when we found out this was actually going to be a thing. There’s no secret the franchise was still struggling even ten years ago. The original Transformers back in 2007 didn’t please its many fans, and I don’t think it holds up, but some thought it was fun seeing this property come to life in live-action form. But for a ton of us, we were in rage after experiencing the downfall of the 2009 Razzie-winning second installment, Revenge of the Fallen, as it was one of the worst blockbusters in recent memory; it took me the week before this came out to have a brain to realize it was utter trash. So when this was announced, there has to be a possibility that this was going to be good, though, with Michael Bay still attached as the director, you can never think too high. Believe it or not, the trailers definitely hooked me from the looks of it, as it was as though it was going to be serious and action-heavy, not drawing back on the humor and detailing on an impressive storyline this time around. And this proves why I should never get my hopes up so easily and why trailers can’t be misleading in thinking the movie itself can be great, which it wasn’t. We have another Transformers movie failing to live to those expectations.
Despite not expecting a cinematic masterpiece of summer movie sequels, you can see that Bay and Ehren Kruger as the sole screenwriter this time were trying their hardest to make a better sequel that would gain a more positive reception. Yet, that’s also like saying someone who has an “F” in science class and ended the semester within the “D” range showed some sort of improvement, but that’s not enough. That’s what to always think about whenever Dark of the Moon gets brought up in random conversations. We were three movies deep at this point, so I keep wondering how he keeps screwing this franchise up for not just moviegoers, but fans of the cartoon and action figures who just wanted a decent movie for once. The plot surrounding Revenge of the Fallen was very all over the place where you can tell they made up stuff as filming went along, so this was where was something creative that sounded interesting enough in the opening sequences to where the blending of fiction and history come to life where we see how the Autobots crashed on the dark side of the moon and how the Apollo 11 mission of the moon landing in 1969 was to investigate the crash and was kept in secret by President Nixon. That sounds dumb, but it a solid start.
All that said, it’s piled on with boring government involvement that nobody’s interested in and seeing Sam trying to find a job like any college grad would do that made the first two acts very dull and what made people hate about the first two movies. So when it comes down to the problems why I think it’s a bad movie, it’s basically what was in the other films and the script keeps impeding things. The same formulaic structure as before where the Deceptions want to take over the world, except there’s a beam to the sky appearing and predictable stakes around. With a better writer who hasn’t been a trail of misses in their career, they could’ve punched this up in terms of the premise, getting rid of the pointless characters, and made it more thrilling and get an understanding of how this can make people stay with the franchise. There’s nothing humorous in this as it needlessly tries to have the funny moments either between the action. Thankfully, they left out Mudflap & Skids for other generic Autobots nobody will remember, and there’re fewer scenes of Sam’s parents, though they were there for unneeded laughs.
The acting isn’t great either showcasing some poor acting from almost everybody. Shia LaBeouf returning as Sam Witwicky I couldn’t stand in the last film, but aside from the annoying yelling that tells him that’s never funny, he was tolerable enough to make the best use of his time when he wants to be in on the action with the Autobots and matter in life. The thing I don’t see why it was needed in the movie was for his character to have another girlfriend way out of his league with Rosie Huntington-Whiteley as Carly. Since Megan Fox got fired for calling Bay “Hitler”, it seems like they needed to replace her with another model to take her place. And while there’s no denying she’s beautiful and better than Fox, I just didn’t care for her performance because they didn’t give her anything important to do, and the chemistry between her and LaBeouf didn’t work for me. Then you also have Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson, and John Turturro reprising their roles from the last two films as Lennox, Epps, and Simmons, respectively. But this also provides wasted performances from newcomers to the franchise. Patrick Dempsey’s Dylan, who I knew was going to be the unbelievable human villain you could think of; John Malkovich with a tan in a forgettable performance as Sam’s new boss; and one of my favorites, Frances McDormand as the Director of National Intelligence just couldn’t make it worth watching. Even I felt bad for a legend like Buzz Aldrin appearing as himself.
There’s nothing to say about Peter Cullen voicing Optimus Prime because we let him do what he pleases. The biggest support in helping the voice cast out was the late Leonard Nimoy as Sentinel Prime since he also voiced Galvatron in Transformers: The Movie. Still, it doesn’t help it was very obvious he ended up being the main villain Decepticon, and there wasn’t a reason they had to shoehorn a Wrath of Khan quote since it wasn’t clear enough to the audience Spock was in the movie? It’s another movie where there wasn’t enough focus on the robots rather for us to care too little about the human characters. I wouldn’t mind seeing more time with Optimus and Sentinel. As for Bumblebee and the other Autobots, you don’t necessarily care about them. I kept forgetting Megatron (voiced by Hugo Weaving) was in this since he doesn’t do much, as well as Shockwave (voiced by Frank Welker), who was just an underwhelming villain.
It also doesn’t help with its 154-minute runtime making the film even longer than it sounds. If they were to cut the dumb humor and government exposition, and slow-motion, it would be a solid 120 minutes. Speaking of the action, it’s what you expect and it doesn’t change a thing. If you’ve ever seen a Michael Bay movie where the action is the centerpiece of it all and the visuals are talking, that’s what you’re expecting. Incredible isn’t the right word to describe what it showed throughout, but it’s only there to get reactions. But even when it was tough getting through the first half, it’s when the final battle in Chicago providing the most action where you’re just watching the city get destroyed. Fun Fact: For my 15th birthday, my family and I went to Chicago just because I knew they filmed it there; I believe I saw it at the AMC 600 North Michigan 9. Then I thought sitting in a theater for almost three hours, barely finding it entertaining, was the stupidest way to begin my birthday. You know I stopped caring about the movie when all I could think about was how cool the trailers for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 and Mission: Impossible- Ghost Protocol were.
As much as I know I still was going negative with the movie and even when it wasn’t carrying any amount of emotions towards any character, I won’t lie if I thought the 30 minutes wasn’t kind of exciting and it was all I wanted throughout this, filled with the typical Michael Bay explosions and so much CGI to fill the screen. Some dumb moments, sure, but it ended up being a better climax than the first movie’s. There was a stupid moment I laughed at where Huntington-Whiteley was just standing while things are exploding behind her. That said, it ended too quickly where they knew it was a long movie and wanted to get to the end credits without a second thought. It would be nice if Bay learned from his mistakes from before and really put the effort into directing a coherent film that can be enjoyable to make up for the second. But he relied on the things he’s known for this series and makes it dumber for audiences everywhere, which also means shooting at a low angle in almost every freakin’ scene.
Similar to what I’ve complimented about these movies, even if they’re terrible, Steve Jablonsky’s score has always been the first positive to think of since he delivers another exciting musical score to get through it. Even though some of his pieces sound too familiar with music from composer Zack Hemsey I noticed during my first viewing, it’s still listenable, especially the track “It’s Our Fight” that admittedly epic and when Optimus stays down with his gun and sword. What a shame it’s not available on Spotify. Of course, you can’t have a Transformers movie without some Linkin Park to close it out. This time around, the song of choice was “Iridescent” off their divided album A Thousand Suns. To be fair, it is the weakest song from them to be associated with the franchise, but it grows on you as time goes on. The rest of the soundtrack is more of a disappointment that had fewer hits besides Paramore’s underrated song “Monster” and Biffy Clyro’s “Many of Horror” on the deluxe edition of the soundtrack.
Though its critical reception received mixed reviews from critics, it, somehow, became 2011’s second highest-grossing movie domestically and worldwide, the first installment in the series to reach a billion (Why). And with its accolade circuit, I don’t understand how it received Oscar nominations for Best Visual Effects, Sound Mixing, and Sound Editing (All lost to Hugo), while it earned eight Razzie nominations, including Worst Picture, Director, and Screenplay (All lost to Jack & Jill). I think when it comes to Transformers: Dark of the Moon, it’s probably the most watchable sequel Bay has done, though that really isn’t saying much, I can see how some can attribute it as being a “guilty pleasure.” And the idea of seeing it in 3D probably wouldn’t change a thing.
Final Thoughts: Transformers: Dark of the Moon might be better than its predecessor sequel in some retrospect. However, it delves into the same problems by being a noisy and overblown addition to the disappointing franchise promising little fun. Besides the visuals and certain spectacles of the action, there’s little to recommend. Though I won’t call this my least favorite in the franchise since the worst was yet to come.
Transformers Franchise Ranked: