by Ryan Hill
Two things are clear in the opening minutes of “Transformers: Dark of the Moon.” First, Michael Bay, Shia LaBeouf & co. are trying their best to make amends for the franchise’s previous installment, the putrid, unforgivable “Revenge of the Fallen.” Second, the 3-D in this movie is, unlike most other movies, good.
Director Michael Bay worked closely with James Cameron on the post-production 3-D conversion as seen in “Clash of the Titans,” and not only did they solve the dark picture problem by increasing the brightness of the projector lights, but the 3-D is the best since “Tron: Legacy,” which actually was shot in 3-D.
The plot – not that it matters in a Michael Bay film – concerns the discovery of an abandoned Autobot spacecraft on the moon that carries with it the ability to transport objects, from machines to planets, from one place to another. Also locked away in the ship is Sentinel Prime, Optimus Prime’s predecessor as leader of the Autobots and keeper of the secrets that lie within the ship.
LaBeouf returns as Sam Witwicky, whose main purpose is to make sure the movie isn’t just about robots. He’s joined by a new girlfriend, Carly (Rosie Huntington-Whitely, a replacement for and upgrade from Megan Fox).
But a Transformers movie isn’t about the humans in it, it’s about the robots. And explosions. And “Dark of the Moon,” while taking its time trying to build up a coherent story to make up for “Revenge of the Fallen,” spends the last hour of the film destroying the city of Chicago.
Chicago is the largest playground Bay has ever tackled and it’s almost impossible not to hear his villainous laugh echo throughout each explosion and robot fight during the entire sequence. Bay hasn’t staged action sequences this large since “Pearl Harbor,” and while it’s a spectacle to behold, it sadly amounts to nothing more than eye candy and lacks the smarts and gravity of its superior summer competitors “X-Men: First Class” and “Super 8.”
While “Dark of the Moon” may be far and away the best of the franchise, it’s almost a backhanded compliment. Bay again tries to stage cheesy comedic moments between robotic fighting, and while the cast this time has much more pedigree with returning co-stars Josh Duhamal, John Turturro and Tyrese Gibson joining newcomers John Malkovich, Frances McDormand, Patrick Dempsey and Ken Jeong, “Dark of the Moon” is ultimately still just a movie about toys.
Bay has made a career of trying to top himself with the action in his movies, and “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” is the biggest action film he’s ever made. How he can ever hope to top himself after this one is a mystery unto itself.
Grade: 2.5/4 stars