Last night I was up until midnight watching a two and a half hour epic. No, not Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai or Frderico Fellini’s 8 ½ – I finally gave in and spent time of my life that I will never get back watching Michael Bay’s Transformers: Dark of the Moon. I have so much to say so let’s just start at the beginning. The first time I saw a trailer for Dark of the Moon I was actually pretty intrigued. It sounded like a plot with a lot of potential or at least more potential than the first two films, to spin the Transformers into the moon landing and play off conspiracy theories surrounding the moon landing in a different way. I actually enjoyed the first film on that popcorn munching, pure mindless entertainment level. I wasn’t expecting a JFK-esque moon landing drama from Michael Bay but I thought hey this might make Dark of the Moon more than a third installment of robots fighting.
Michael Bay is not known for subtlety. And believe me, I didn’t pop this movie in expecting depth and nuance. I was just keeping my fingers crossed for some good old fashioned American entertainment. That being said, Transformers: Dark of the Moon has to be, without a doubt, his most over the top film to date. Everything is exaggerated to grotesque proportions. Sam Whitwicky’s parents are a great example of this. In the first film they were a little bumbling and motor-mouthy though not as much so as their son. By this film they are just the worst caricatures you’ve ever seen and they’re a little mean spirited too. Every time they opened their mouths I just wanted to throw something at them. And then you have Shia LaBeouf who is chewing scenery like Nicolas Cage on a coke binge – everything out of his mouth is at twice the speed of those around him and he just flies off the handle screaming and hulking out. It’s jaw dropping how out of control he is in this installment.
Something else Michael Bay is not known for are his tasteful portrayals of women. Megan Fox was never more than eye candy which is fine in its own way. It’s nothing new to stick a hot babe in your movie to give the guys something to wag their tongues over. Of course it would be great for Bay’s female characters to be more well-rounded with more to do than wear skimpy outfits and run for their lives. But, at the same turn I appreciate that he doesn’t try to pass off Megan Fox as a rocket scientist ala Denise Richards in The World is Not Enough or Tara Reid in Alone in the Dark. On to my point. I have never seen a woman more disgustingly objectified than Rosie Huntington-Whiteley in this movie. Our first introduction to her character, Carly, is shot in a way that just looking at the lighting etc, is incongruous to the rest of the film. Beyond that it’s shot “upskirt” style minus the skirt as she’s clad only in panties and a button down shirt. It looks 100% like a Victoria’s Secret commercial. When we find out how Sam and Carly met, we get the most disturbing double-entendre in history. Sam has just received a medal from President Obama and as his mother, holding the box the honor came in, walks past Ms. Huntington-Whiteley she observes, “What a gorgeous box”. Gorgeous box. Yep, that happened. After that it’s a little less offensive and just lazy. In the first film Bay was satisfied to just let it go unsaid that Megan Fox was smoking hot. In Dark of the Moon it feels like every single person who comes in contact with Carly has to comment out loud as to how hot she is. Don’t get me wrong, she’s gorgeous. But seriously, you cut all that ogling and commenting out you probably get a half hour shaved off this film.
Going back to that strange shot that belongs in a Victoria’s secret commercial, there’s a few other scenes that just knock you out of the film because they feel so out of tune with everything else that’s going on. First, there are a lot of music video type shots – that is to say, extended, silent scenes set to pop music. I don’t remember there being a song with lyrics in the first film until the Linkin Park song at the end of the film before and as the credits rolled. The scenes with pop music here just feel really unnecessary. This seems nitpicky but this film is TWO AND A HALF HOURS LONG. It’s not Schindler’s List, it’s a movie based off a toy line with robots fighting each other, show some restraint on the runtime. And speaking of robots fighting, there is one really strange shot that literally jarred me so much that I said “Whoa” when it happened. Towards the end of the film there’s a ton of fighting in Chicago. There is one single scene, the only one in the entire movie that is shot video game POV style from the perspective of a soldier on the ground. So in the foreground you see his gun and then of course all the robot mayhem he’s seeing. It’s just so incredibly bizarre. It really doesn’t belong.
Something else that doesn’t belong is the 9/11 imagery. I’ll keep this short because I don’t want to get off on a preachy rant but it just feels wrong and really cheap. SPOILER ALERT – the Decepticons destroy Chicago. They lay waste to it. Literally thousands upon thousands of people are dead. As Sam and a small band of soldiers enter the city you can’t help but think of the terrible video and photographs we all saw in the days after 9/11 of people wandering the streets dazed and terrified covered in ash. Using that kind of imagery to bring a little more emotional weight to your robot movie just seems a little despicable to me.
Finally, it’s been a little while since I’ve seen the first film but I seem to remember Optimus Prime and the Autobots being more about defense than offense. They wanted to protect the human race and they wanted to minimize casualties in any conflicts. The “good guys” in this film are altogether different. They kill wounded and defenseless Decepticons and they do so execution style. They vocally take pleasure in murdering as many Decepticons as possible. One Autobot, I won’t say who, who betrays his fellow “heroes” is wounded on the ground saying that he’s sorry he betrayed them but he did what he thought was right for Cybertron. There are literally no Decpticons left, there’s really no reason to kill him and yet, bam shot in the back of the head. Optimus Prime rips a Megatron’s head and spine out! All of these transformers now “bleed”. When injured they lose red “fluid” profusely. The point is the Autobots in this film are just as gleefully destructive and murderous as the Decepticons! It’s insane! And really, if you can believe it, I’ve saved the best for last. Spoilers for the end of Transformers: Dark of the Moon. The end voice over of the film is provided by Optimus Prime who says something to the effect of, “The day will never come when we will forsake this planet and its people”. What Optimus, our hero, is forgetting is that he and his fellow Autobots faked their death and let the city and people of Chicago be laid to waste by the Decepticons to TEACH THE AMERICAN GOVERNMENT A LESSON. What the hell Optimus Prime?! You’ll never forsake this planet or its people but I mean honestly what’s a few thousand citizens and one city between friends.
This movie destroyed two and half hours of my life that I can never get back. Good lord.