Michael Bay doesn’t do things by half, and neither does OneMetal. Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon doesn’t get just one review – we despatched two of our bravest souls to tackle its terrifying magnificence. With apologies to Roger Hart for stealing his gag for the main image.
Towards the end of Transformers: Dark of the Moon, there a scene in a collapsing office building, as the heroes try to get to the ground floor before the tower is torn down around them. In theory, this should be a fine set-piece, and it would be, if it didn’t cut to lingering shots of office supplies with disturbing frequency. A whole Viking catalogue of name-brand tat hurtles past our protagonists in stunning 3D, giving you a good chance to note the name and catalogue number, should you want one of those fine-looking swivel chairs that came so close to stoving in Shia LeBeouf’s head. If there’s a good way to do something, and a crass way of doing it, Michael Bay will pick the crass one, even to the detriment of an already very stupid film.
The plot is almost exactly the same as Revenge of the Fallen with the two sets of giant robots racing to find a MacGuffin that will destroy the Earth or somesuch. Why the Decepticons put so much effort into their previous MacGuffins is now desperately unclear, as it turns out they were planning this all along. I don’t want to spoil too much of the plot – Michael Bay has done that already – but suffice it to say that this is not a bright or witty film.
The cast are a strange mixture of people who cannot act at all, crude racial stereotypes, and actors far too good to be in this film at all, who seem to be passing the time until the Coen brothers call. Megan Fox is out, having apparently had enough of Michael Bay’s shenanigans (Bay, ever classy, has one of the Autobots say “We never liked that bitch”). Her replacement is Rosie Huntington-Wheatley. I don’t know anything about Rosie Huntington-Wheatley, so let’s assume that she’s only playing a moron. A passive, expressionless mannequin. The sort of person so devoid of intellect that they envy the sparkling wit and piercing insight afforded those who keep their intake of delicious lead-based paint to under two tins a day.
Shia LeBeouf is Shia LeBeouf. You already know if you can cope with this or not. I find it challenging. John Malkovich, John Turturro and Frances McDormand are paying the mortgage, with Malkovich coming off worst as a slimy boss character. To be fair to him, he doesn’t seem to be trying. In fact, with his ridiculous tan, swept-back hair and outbursts of petty lunacy, I have a quiet hope that he’s channeling Michael Bay in his performance. Saddest of all is a cameo from Buzz Aldrin, one of the first men on the moon. It sums up the cheap, exploitative sensation given off by what is actually a very expensive exploitative film.
Let me be clear – this isn’t as bad as Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. But then, I’ve had minor surgeries that were a lot more enjoyable than that film. It is slightly more coherent, which is not to say it’s coherent. It’s slightly less racist, which is not to say it’s not racist. It’s precisely as sexist, which is to say it is entirely sexist. The main advantage this film has over its predecessor is that, by being shot in 3D, the shots have to be far longer so you can actually see what’s happening some of the time. The downside is that there are several occasions throughout where Shia Lebeouf will appear to be hurtling straight at your head, and nobody wants that. Some of the action sequences are really quite impressive, but the first hour of the film is slow and leaden, and the whole thing feels like it was put together by a focus group of 14 year-old FHM readers and marketing executives.
This review of Transformers 3 was written a couple of days before I actually saw it. All I knew at this point was that the film looked fucking ghastly, had Michael Bay directing and had Shia LaBeouf as its lead. This is what I wrote:
The plot of Transformers: Dark of the Moon makes absolutely no sense, possibly because no one who goes to see a Transformers movie gives a damn about motivation or logic but even by the standards of Hollywood blockbusters this is some fucking inane drivel. Giant robots smashing the shit out of each other has never needed to be so overcomplicated and of course the requirements of each sequel to ramp up the adrenaline means that Transformers 4 will probably involve Optimus Prime fighting with God Almighty over a handful of magic beans that have the power to explode galaxies. As it is, the discovery of an all powerful super Transformer on the dark side of the moon plunges the giant robots into a conflict in which almost nothing makes sense and forces the Autobots and Decepticons to work together, albeit briefly, against a common foe. Watch out for the wildly obvious twist which still manages to make no earthly sense.
The cast act with all the charm of drugged-up cattle on their way to the slaughterhouse. Shia LaBeouf is once again grotesquely miscast as a human being and the female lead, whose name and species eludes me, exhibits all the raw sexuality of a fire hydrant with a speculum sellotaped to it. Any chance of these feckless degenerates developing any on screen chemistry is utterly ruined by a script that plain hates women and wants you to view the female lead as little more than wank fodder for teenage boys, draining the poor cow of anything approximating to personality within moments of her first appearance. Some of supporting cast are giving it their best shot but with a script filled with cliché and the vast amounts of exposition necessary to explain why the Autobots and the Decepticons should be fighting this week.
The special effects are of course spectacular but they’re that special kind of spectacular that Michael Bay does which always leaves you feeling like you’ve just watched two vast tribes of apes fling their shit at each other for a solid two hours. Everything is just far too big, too brutal and executed with all the subtlety of a Wayne Rooney post match interview. Its like someone exploded right in front of you and then all the little bits exploded as well whilst a maniac swung you round in circles at dizzying speeds until you feel both sick and very bored of things exploding.
The robot cast are business as usual for this sort of thing, science fiction ciphers who exist only to intone portentously about mystical nonsense, shout at each other like Gerard Butler arguing with a town cryer or smash things. Obviously Bumblebee gets the kind of on screen witticisms that make you think that the writer probably thought 70s James Bond movies underplayed the funny stuff. Overall this is a hateful voyage into a world where only stupidity can survive, a movie that hates you the viewer almost as much as it hates its own cast. The only thing this movie cares about are explosions and serving up some exciting new merchandising opportunities. More care and thought went into the trailer than into the final viewing experience.
Having seen the movie I was sadly accurate for the most part, pretty much everything you have just read is a fair summation of the film. I can reveal however that I made a few mistakes in my precognitive review. Firstly I said that Bumblebee would get all the cheese infused one liners. This turned out to be an error, everyone in this goddamn film spews nonsensical, hateful gibberish in a misguided attempt to be funny all the goddamn time. Secondly the misogyny is even worse than I predicted, with the ex-underwear model playing the female lead fawning desperately over Shia LaBeouf with the desperation of a crack whore trying to get a freebie out of her pimp. Thirdly I hadn’t realised that Leonard Nimoy would be using his role to try and destroy any and all positive memories anyone might have regarding his body of work. Finally, the product placement in this movie achieves a new level of blatantness as Shia takes a rare break from spouting surrealist zingers to deliver a stirring and impassioned monologue on the benefits of a certain brand of high end car. The fourth wall has utterly collapsed and behind it lies only the screaming insatiable greed of marketing executives who are to be congratulated on achieving the almost impossible by sullying this movie. Congratulations, there is literally nothing so bad that marketing executives can’t make it worse. Congratulations on making everything you touch much, much worse.
Transformers: Dark of the Moon is exactly the kind of movie you think it is. Whatever you think about it, especially if the thought makes you curl up a little inside, is bang on the money. This is entertainment reduced to a commodity whose sole purpose is to facilitate the sale of other, equally hollow commercial entertainment products, a ghastly Oroboros serpent of self-cannibalising horror. This is the face of entertainment, countless millions spent in the pursuit of billions with the actual product a mere afterthought. Enjoy, and don’t forget to buy a new fucking car.