By Mike Richardson
I used to love Transformers: a truck that was also a robot, a robot that was also a plane – brilliant! Two toys in one! Really what’s not to love? That was back in the mid-eighties, when Transformers were the coolest thing on the shelves. They even had their own theme song, TV show and comic book. Armed with just imagination and an incomplete set of toys, hours (possibly days) were happily lost to play. It’s now a quarter-century later, and Transformers are onto their third blockbuster film (in the requisite 3D). Welcome back man-child Shia LaBeouf with newcomer Rosie Huntington-Whiteley providing the love interest, plus Optimus Prime, Ironhide, Ratchet and Bumblebee rounding out the robotic cast.
The plot sees an ancient Transformer crash land on the moon, which is then taken by the US Military and locked up in a vault. The good Transformers have formed an alliance with the US and the bad Transformers are planning evil deeds involving the ancient Transformer. Who can save the world from these Decepticons? That’s right, the annoying babe magnet, Sam Witwicky (LaBeouf) with the talking car and the illegally hot girlfriend, who saved the world last time (and the time before that too). Since the last film he’s graduated college and been dumped by Mikaela Banes (Megan Fox), hooked up with Carly Spencer (actress and lingerie model Huntington-Whiteley) and is suffering the effects of the recession by being unable to find steady employment. On a global level the Autobots must recover the Cybertronian spacecraft that might save their planet Cybertron, before the Decepticons find it and use it for their nefarious earth-threatening deeds. The stage is set for an all-out spectacular confrontation (the reason we all bought tickets in the first place) as the Transformers take to the streets of Chicago to duke it out, much like the first and second films. However, I do feel that even my 10-year-old self would have conjured up a more sophisticated narrative than Bay & Spielberg manage in this film. Much as highbrow critics might pooh-pooh it, it really is too big (and noisy) to fail. US box office takings for Transformers: Dark of the Moon reached $97.4 million in its opening weekend and that’s not counting Independence Day, which the film’s opening was planned around.
The plot isn’t important; the story makes The Rock (1996) and Con Air (1997) look like The 400 Blows (1959) and Wings of Desire (1987). The acting also isn’t important (otherwise Megan Fox would have been replaced by Judi Dench), but there’s plenty of bang for your buck. The film is presented in regular 2D, RealD 3D and features Dolby Surround 7.1 sound. This means that the film is rammed down your throat as it shouts, screams, points and swipes at you in a manner that it resembles nothing you’ve ever seen before (outside of the theatre, in the real world).
So just swap your intelligence for some popcorn and sit back and enjoy the fireworks. There are plenty of charmless, typically Bay-ified set pieces as things blow up, fly, transform, smash, burn, fight and collapse until your senses are numbed. It may well be the best Transformers film yet, but the bar was set pretty low on that one. If you want a brash and noisy film dictated and directed by the whims of American adolescents, strap yourself in and enjoy.