If you saw Transformers 1 or 2, you already know what to expect from this third installment of Michael Bay’s continual injustice against moviegoers. In fact I’d say that if you’ve seen any Michael Bay film before, or even if you’ve simply witnessed a car crash in your lifetime, you’d be better off staying home. Not because it’s an awful movie (it is), but it literally brings nothing new to the table. Practically a re-hash of the last two movies, Dark of the Moon’s only redeeming quality is a surprisingly engaging opening sequence depicting the moon landing, although it quickly propels the plot towards many convoluted twists and turns which culminate in a lackluster finale. Hot girls and even hotter cars appear alongside confusing metal-on-metal Transformer battles, all on a big screen so part of you can still be saying “Awesome!” while the healthy parts of your brain yawn and pretend to care.
And believe me, the hard part is caring. Since every new episode in a series has a purpose, even though we’re presented more of the same we still can look at Transformers 3 separately from its history. Sadly however, it fails with flying colors (red, white and blue of course, because this is a Michael Bay movie dangit! ’Merica!). Too many characters with poorly resolved sub-plots eliminate all sense of emotion the story attempts to conjure in its audience. Even the majority of interlaced humor, a staple of Bay flicks, ends up falling flatter than expected because no audience member knows where or how to focus. And it is here where we reach this series’ greatest flaw: I believe Michael Bay himself still doesn’t know what he’s trying to convey through the Transformer movies.
Consider the series as such. Based on a cartoon with a strong marketing pull, the Transformers are a mixture of building- and pet-sized robotesque aliens that can somehow disguise themselves into popular cars or trucks. Thanks to a series of coincidences, a handful of men and women including an average American boy find themselves at the heart of three major incidences between the colorful, good Autobots and the evil, black and gray Decepticons. Conceptually this entire plotline is a joke, but Bay tries to turn it into a serious, life-threatening battle for humanity. There is no winking at the crowd, no hesitancy or smirk when main characters spout words like “Autobot” or “Cybertron” or “Bumblebee” in awkward dialog. The problem here is again lack of focus, as characters act grim and determined while out of their mouths come silly phrases and their actions are suicidal at best. Transformers 3 becomes tough to take seriously at face value, even for a movie whose beauty is entirely skin deep.
For that matter, I saw it in 3-D, which at this point is fairly mandatory for a movie with one or more explosions, although I’d be hard pressed to recall any defining moment or innovative example where this superfluous dimension added dignity to the experience. In contrast, this 3-D requirement seemed to force the entire movie to forsake wide shots as a whole in order to ensure each shot of Chicago getting decimated or Optimus Prime going sword-crazy on some Decepticons was seen point-blank for optimal 3-D utilization. I won’t go so far as to say Bay is a poor filmmaker, as his realized vision despite this issue certainly displays strong directing skill. But, as with the rest of the film, the presentation seemed forced and more determined by product placement and 3-D conversion than artistic integrity.
TL:DR; Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon is worse for the film industry than the Decepticons were to the entire city of Chicago (hint: it gets practically obliterated for reasons I’m still unsure of). The acting is at best par, the special effects expertly accomplished but used for uninspired fight scenes, and overall it lacks a strong focus. Transformers 2 may have been the worst rated of the franchise, but at least its scene where Optimus returns and goes wild with his double swords out-ranks any part of Dark of the Moon. Save your money. The only thing that would have saved this movie would have been Ken Jeong in a starring role.