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With Jim Sabatini


Transformers - Dark of the Moon

Transformers - Dark of the Moon
Starring:
Shia LaBeouf, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, John Malkovich, Patrick Dempsey, Tyrese Gibson, Frances McDomand and John Turturro


Rated: PG-13  
Reviewed by: Jim  
Release date: June 29, 2011 Released by: Paramount Pictures Corporation

In his third installment of a hugely successful mechanized movie machine (now in nifty, yet unnecessary 3D), Michael Bay again finds a way to project mass destruction and cool robotic aliens with bloodless ultra violence. Of course, at the expense of its human characters and under plotting utilizing the Hasbro figures to the hilt.
 
To the umber-director and producer's credit in Transformers: Dark of the Moon, there is something more coherent (though quite clamorous) in the threadbare narrative by scribe Ehren Kruger (see Arlington Road) and some exciting action sequences than the vapid, empty-headed, globe-trotting predecessor Revenge of the Fallen.
 
An opportunity to make good on silly sensory overload still becomes too chilly and convoluted, except for the more devoted fans. Yes, the set-pieces deliver more thrills especially in the last third as Bay seems to have escalated the stakes of the Autobots (for freedom) and Decepticons (for oppression)  very high with extinction (or slavery at best) imminent for the human race.
 
Shia LaBeouf presumably got his big break with Bay in Transformers after building up his resume with small-scale fare like Disturbia. At this point in his career, it's clear he knows that his attempts at motivating a character like Sam Witwicky is pointless in an impersonal nature of an enterprise trusting more in the visuals and computer-generated-imagery.
 
After a somewhat intriguing prologue about the intent of the Apollo 11 mission (with 21 minutes of additional work for Buzz Aldrin-actually appearing later as himself- and Neil Armstrong), the fate of mankind hangs in the balance from an "Ark" of a spacecraft. The science-fiction conspiracy premise (like X-Men: First Class) includes varying and actual JFK footage about the Space Race (not the Cuban Missile Crisis) before getting Sam back in with the Autobots who happen to be at the mercy of the Decepticons, again.
 
Sam is your average college grad, boasting about his commendation from Pres. Obama, trying to show his (early-arriving) parents and new, very attractive girlfriend Carly (Victoria's Secret model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Jason Statham's off-screen girlfriend) that he's working really hard to be gainfully employed.

He'll somehow "impress" one Bruce Brazos, a funny John Malkovich of Red, to get his foot in the right door. It won't matter for long as Sam will be interacting with Optimus Prime (voiced again by Peter Cullen). It also is a way to find out more about the smarmy classic luxury auto boss (and ex-beau) of Carly, Dylan (Patrick Dempsey, remembered most from the Grey's Anatomy Seattle-based TV show).
 
The tale becomes more aggressive (especially from its elaborate sound design) and attention to destruction as there are "pillars" to be activated. Most of the elongated  sequences in Chicago gives its edifices and landmarks precedence over oft-used metropolises in pics like Independence Day and, recently, Battle: Los Angeles.
 
Among the familiar human characters, Sgt. Epps (Tyrese Gibson) of the military's NEST comes on later when the enormity of the spectacle has already flattened out the narrative's impact. Josh Duhamel's multitasking Capt. Lennox is under the command of Frances McDormand's ineffectual National Intelligence official. Making more of a comedic impression (even in asides) are John Turturro back as Sam's confidante, Seymour, and Alan Tudyk (a scene-stealer in the British Death at a Funeral) as the serviceable, deadpan Dutch. Ken Jeong (The Hangover 2) also serves as a narrative device and cautionary device for Sam as a nervy office drone.
 
Alas, the "actors" have raise their voices with the little dialogue that especially makes up the latter passages where Optimus and Sentinel Prime (voiced by Leonard Nimoy with one line from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and even an early nod to the Gene Roddenberry series) and tinier, mischievous Autobots put a sizable, if generic stamp on the outcome (which may leave the franchise in tatters at least for awhile).
 
Dark of the Moon (whose title is taken from the time before the beginning of a new lunar cycle) has some needed arbitrary wit reminiscent of characters popping up conveniently, but this jingoistic, right-wing Cold War escapade is gussied for the military and big-budgeted bloatedness (with Bay's rapid-fire editing prevalent). Making it live-action  just goes to show how difficult this elite kind technological extravaganza is to hone dramatically . But, then there wouldn't have been a massive, manipulating sensory overload lacking a human touch most expressive in the long-time popular genre when it comes to a collapsing skyscraper and skydiving.  

  Frank Chris Jim Nina Sam Howard Jennifer Kathleen  Avg. 
Transformers - Dark of the Moon  B      D+            B-      C+ 

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