The third Transformers film has some of the best action you will ever see on the big screen, its a shame then that it’s plot is weak, it’s characters lifeless, and it’s dialogue terrible. Strangely however, I still enjoyed it. It’s not as bad as the second film, but it lacks the mystery and awe of the first.
Shia Labouf returns as Sam Witwicky, out of university, shacked up with his new girlfriend Carly (Rosie Huntington-Whitely), and looking for a job. Meanwhile his Autobot friends discover Autobot technology here on earth while hunting Decepticons in Chernobyl. It turns out an old Auotbot ship named the Arc crashed into the Moon in 1961, and the space race was nothing more than a race to get to that ship first. This ship contained the original leader of the Autobots, Sentinel Prime (voiced by Leneoard Nemoy) and a weapon that was supposed to end the war with the Decepticons.
Perhaps it’s because the film spells everything out in an excessively lengthy prologue, leaving nothing to discover in it’s overly long two and half hour running time, but it all felt a little underwhelming. Most action films have thin plots, it’s a given, and the first Transformers was no exception. However the way you tell the story, the way you drip feed essential information, and the way you develop the characters often make something seemingly shallow feel terribly entertaining. Think of the first Die Hard movie, a film about a simple robbery, certainly it’s not the plot that makes it great.
Plot concerns aside, Transformers is largely about robots beating the hell out of each other, and in that department Dark of the Moon delivers! Director Michael Bay is certainly a master of cutting edge action, even if he has yet to master the art of story telling. His work is exceptional, he creates the feeling of an Alien invasion film without falling into the many traps that many have done so in the past. There is a clever sense of realism in the designs of the various alien machines involved, and the camera work is exquisite. One of the more memorable sequences involves a giant worm like robot toppling a building with our human heroes inside. It’s bold, epic, and good enough to suspend our disbelief. The movie also looks crisp and exciting in 3D, there is a genuine effort here to make the 3D component a spectacle and it works. It’s just a shame that kind of effort doesn’t extend to the character work.
Bay has a strong tendency to make all of his characters limited stereotypes with almost no depth and no emotion. That makes discussing the acting in the film a moot point, and while Labouf puts in his strongest performance of the three films, the truth is no one here gets any material to work with. Even the presence of Frances McDormand, John Malkovich, and Patrick Dempsey, really does nothing, and you can blame the Director because everyone is doing their job, they’re just not being asked to do much.
Even the machines themselves who had some genuine personality in the first films are left spouting clichéd lines, devoid of any feeling. Fan favourites such as Soundwave get almost no screen time, and newcomers like Shockwave are given almost nothing to do outside of being a means to an end in some epic action sequence. It’s a real shame to say that the cartoon has more character development than this multi-million dollar production.
But my harshest criticism is reserved for the film’s staging and editing, which are woeful and border line amateur. There is no pacing in this film, constantly slowing down for redundant scenes that add almost nothing, and sometimes skipping around as if sections of the film had been cut. The action toward the end of the film might be fantastic, but you have no sense of where things are, how things are coming together, and frankly how some scenarios manifested. There is one scene that had me feeling like I must have fallen asleep or something, I honestly have no idea how some events came to pass.
In the end however, what you cannot fault is that you will get exactly what this film has promised you. This is a film many critics will pan, and they’re missing the point to some degree. A lot of people want to go and see some good action, good special effects, and a spectacle worth the price of admission. If you’re a Transformers fan, or an action junkie, you will not want to miss this on the big screen.