Despite the cop out of every film that by being a pretty little snowflake, the said individuality retains some special little sanctuary for it to be good in the eyes of the beholder, Transformers: Dark of the Moon is a terrible, terrible movie. It’s an example of the prima donna ego placement that has raked the big budget capitalism of the modern summer movie. Think of the medieval papacy: a group of individuals sitting on history and technique looking to tweak something under their own name for hope of power and/or recognition. The movie fails on all fronts, from story to CGI, to such a degree that not only is it a detriment to filmdom, you’ll be less intelligent for its viewing.
In its simplest form the plot is: humans and good robots fight the bad robots who wish to enslave them to rebuild the Transformers’ world. Why are the bad robots in control of the world? Because there’s more of them. How do you know of this plight during the 2 hours preceding the final 40 minutes of mind slaughtering action? Because one of the good guys escaped with a bunch of homemade teleporter supertron thing-a-doodles that may or may not be related to a spoiler alert and the moniker Decepticon. At this point, one imagines the production crew sitting around full of enthusiasm because it all does sound pretty good. But how does Sam-the-protagonist tie in? HE DOESN’T. And right here, the house of cards falls and all the trademarks of a bad movie so closely associated with the bigger names of late get injected into the movie like stuffing into a turkey on a late night infomercial.
Before going on, it’s necessary to note that the structure of this movie isn’t any different than any of Michael Bay’s other’s so that it can be seen that I’m not frothing about the genericism amongst his oeuvre of contracts any more than the failure of this project. In all of Bay’s movies, the protagonist wakes up and goes to work (chemical engineer, oil drillers, soldier, etc.). Along the way, he meets up with the character that serves to explain the instinctive motivations the protagonist must possess to will his way to victory at the end of the movie (think of Cage holding flares so that he can see his baby’s birth). The conflict is introduced separately, a kind of “let’s see what’s happening over here”. The protagonist then meets the character most important to his growth in the film (Sean Connery, Bruce Willis, Optimus Prime). This second character is crucial to the movie because he is always the bedstone, stalwart, physically impressive and assertive type that the protagonist follows in drift and provides an innocent nature of man and his morality for. Connery becomes less calloused from knowing Cage. Optimus sees the good in humanity through Sam. This is weakly balanced against the huge confrontation at the end of the movie and filled in with either crass or moderately dark humor (“What do you want me to do, kill him again?” “I’m directly underneath the enemy scrotum.” “Who wants chicken dinner now?!”). The good guy wins and everyone learns a lesson.
This structure is so important to Bay when he makes his movies that the first hour of TDotM‘s focused hyperaggression of all male characters of power, as an accidental allegory to the surface deep emotions of Sam, is completely dependent on his lack of interaction with radio-voiced Bumblebee. Bumblebee, the “Sam” of the Transformers. Little fish in a pool of sharks. If Sam cannot handle the unfocused chaos of the social structure and needs a more intimate drive, then we need to see him find catharsis before anything major erupts; Sam must find Bumblebee. And that is the core of the most personal aspect that serves as the counterpoint for the action later on. Were all of Bay’s movies literally sequels to eachother, Joe Hero would show us here that without the nurturance of an external model, his lack of practical abilities would cause him to collapse. But as the individual Sam Witwicky, the illusion that he has a role and purpose different, greater, *better* than he could if he had these abilities is more manageably veiled.
Another weakness of the series has always been its proclivity to senseless humor. Back when Tom Green made Freddy Got Fingered he gave an interview in which he said that to gross someone out is the same to him as making them laugh. It’s natural to think of good humor as being quick witted, unusual, or clever, but as the inextinguishable and dominating nature of humans instinctually tells us, it’s really just the presentation. Laughter is a quick spasm against uncontrollable stimulus. One person laughs at a knock-knock joke. The next laughs while gunning down civilians. So what do you do when you’re told to entertain someone? Make ‘em laugh. Or else provide that stimulus. And really, it’s quite a bit simpler to get a rise out of another by getting in their face than it is to say something they haven’t thought of. That’s what charisma is, right? Good gestures? No, what Bay does is give us the strangled smile of the chihuahua from Ren & Stimpy with such mania that we laugh to be agreeable. It’s quite a bit more invasive than the hapless side kick of yesteryear. This humor isn’t by rights his either. He will steal anything and anyone he can including … Ken Jeong? Yep, the gimmick from the Hangover’s here, doing exactly what he did before, exactly as he was intended. It’s not showcasing when the director shuts down everything in the movie so that you can focus on one character’s unrelated derision. Like sleep apnea: breathe breathe *choke* breathe. The lame plot would probably be pretty average, but it’s insisted that you’re as amped as a nun watching a horror movie.
Speaking of unrelated, what is Spielberg’s and Bay’s aim politically? We all saw from Eagle Eye that Steven he has no qualms with taking partisan themes and aligning them with morality and nobility in his productions, but the intelligence he feels exudes is about as sophisticated as the gay rape jokes of Le Beouf and Jeong. In a job interview, Sam boasts as a qualification that he was awarded a medal from Obama. The interviewer replies, “Well, we’re mostly Republican here, so … ” and Le Beouf is subsequently dismissed. Later on, Turturro’s character is introduced in a mock interview with O’Reilly who gives him the trademark “pinhead”. O’Reilly’s a controversial enough right wing character as it is, but Turturro sounds like a genuine idiot so the favor is really for Bill, right? See, this is the kind of childish assertions you now have to sit through when watching something as basic as robots with guns. Look at the subtitle: Dark of the Moon. The first thing the story does is place the Transformers universe right in the middle of history, horribly rendered past presidents and all (this is familiar territory to Bay, who, if you remember, had Cage see “who really killed JFK”, and other mysteries, on a developed photo reel at the end of The Rock).
Aside from shallow propaganda, the use of the current president’s name to show via parallelism his importance in making tomorrow’s history today, again yanking us back into reality, slaps on a very ominous expiration date.. Do either the producer or the director remotely care about the story or is this an attempt to make it all more believable? From what I’ve seen in the last two films, I’d say neither (considering this is the first of the three to try it). If you don’t believe me, look at the issue with Megan Fox. She got fired way back for saying in an interview that Bay acted like Hitler. This decision came from Spielberg, who’s a Jew. When asked about it, he acknowledged two things: the comparison and her unprofessionalism (noting that she’s always on her Blackberry). The replacement is introduced taking pictures of herself with a cell phone while two sidekick robots repeat how mean the previous girlfriend was. The real world similarities of Bay and Spielberg are just flaunts of egotism. The lower this movie sinks the higher the potential for “humor”. But hey, the everpresent U.S.A. Amayrican flag and platitudes denoting our global standing and strive for acceptance strongly resembling other current and near current events at ol’ Capitol Hill will undoubtedly neutralize any suspicion of ulterior motives, right?
It’s pretty well established by now that this is one of the worst movies I’ve seen, at least this year. But I have to give Spielberg and Bay credit. They know progress. Why sink alone if you can bring others down, too? From the recent Blu Ray releases and from Abrams’s restart, Star Trek: The Original Series has seen a recent jump in popularity. So should it; it’s a great franchise. And in TDotM, you see a clip of the show, hear a reference to the U.S.S. Enterprise, and watch a world implode exactly like the new Spock’s. It probably has nothing to do with the quintessential quote of TDotM‘s essence during the movie’s climax being that which our favorite science officer said as he died during the second installment of the original films (also the most famous ST quote of all time). “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few” says Optimus Prime as he shows up to save the day. Or the obvious attempt throughout the movie to be as trendy as possible. It’s probably just ’cause Spielberg, who produced Abrams’s Super 8, thought it would be fun as he creates the oligarchy in charge of the inferno we call Hollywood.
When you see a movie, you can feel how fun it was to make, or effortless, or boring. You get this little piece of the creator, especially the director, in there. TDotM is weighed down in the saturation of pressure and bitterness and spite. It’s a negative movie, through and through. You can see all the big decision makers behind the movie and their new role as the Hollywood hard ass in the decaying satire of John Malkovich, Ken Jeong, Frances McDormand, and Patrick Dempsey. It’s like throwing a grenade into a Chip n Dale concert. The few attempts it makes to further the plots or characters’ roles (i.e. Sam’s messenger/soldier dilemma) also fail miserably, with the rest ripping off better franchises, or asserting petty “inside” jokes, or views. Poor editing, poor acting, poor fools. This movie should be destroyed.