At this late date, is there a point to getting upset at anything in a Michael Bay film? Set aside the fact that the new Transformers movie couldn’t possibly be worse than the last, it’s been obvious for a decade that Bay could never make a movie dumber, or more grotesquely offensive, than Pearl Harbor. Are there homophobic and/or racially insensitive jokes? Of course. Are there gratuitous close-ups of a Victoria’s Secret model’s ass? Of course. Do good actors speak lousy dialogue? Hell yes.
What’s new about Transformers: Dark of the Moon is how desultory almost everything seems. The plot doesn’t build on the earlier films, it just adds new implausibilities. (I know, I’m talking “implausibilities” in a film about giant shape-shifting robots from outer space—work with me.) Everyone knew that when Quentin Tarantino blew up history in Inglourious Basterds, the mainstream meatheads would follow suit; here, the “entire space program of the 1960s,” as intoned by the film’s chief spook, Frances McDormand, is just a reaction to, well, robots from outer space. Apollo astronaut Buzz Aldrin shows up as part of the joke. When superbot Optimus Prime intones that it’s an honor to meet Aldrin, I wanted to call bullshit; why would an awesome robot be impressed by a puny human who kicked a few moon rocks and pissed on himself for a week? Chernobyl, the worst nuclear disaster we know about, is—you guessed it—just a result of mistakes caused by messing around with technology imported by robots from outer space. Even when the filmmakers have a good idea, like finally finding something for those loathsome minibots to do, it’s executed halfheartedly.
The whole experience would have been sleep-inducing, except—recall the “almost everything” at the beginning of the last paragraph?—the multimillion dollar 3D special effects are jaw-droppingly convincing. The robots, sorry, I mean the “Autobots” and “Decepticons,” are terrific. Even though all the ideas are cribbed from The Terminator, The Matrix and other, better movies, the achievement here is worth noting. And seeing on a big screen: The effects are also worth paying the 3D prices, even the excessive IMAX surcharge, to see.
Bigger, louder, faster in movies is the unchangeable law. It would be nice if this could be amended to include “better,” too.