If you hated the first two Transformers films and are pre-disposed to already dislike this one then you will definitely want to skip this. If, however you are up for a big summer action flick then you won’t find any bigger than Transformers: Dark of the Moon. I’m certainly no Michael Bay apologist as there are a few of films I don’t really care for, but I don’t really understand the intense hatred anyone has for the Transformers films, especially site unseen. Dark of the Moon is not a deeply intellectual or emotional film by any means, but if you go in expecting that in a movie that starts with the name Transformers then I say the fault is with you. Despite what you may have heard elsewhere, there is plenty of story here and it is lacking the rumored Optimus Prime sized plot holes. The action is more intense, the stakes are higher and seldom has it been more fun.
The story begins by expanding on the long ago war on Cybertron between the Autobots and Decepticons. The Autobot leader, Sentinal Prime, attempts to escape but his ship is damaged. Many years later, Sentinel Prime’s ship crashes on the far side of Earth’s moon, an event which spurs John F. Kennedy to push the US space program to get men to the moon. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin run a secondary mission on the moon the investigate the ship and find all the Autobots deactivated. In the present day we see that NEST, lead by Lt. Colonel William Lennox (Josh Duhamel) is still active, with the Autobots and US special ops soldiers running missions together. However, since the Decepticons have gone underground the missions are against those that oppose the US. On a more covert mission to Chernobyl, the team discovers Shockwave and a very old piece of Cybertronian technology. This leads to the Secretary of Defense (Frances McDormand) to declassify the documents regarding Sentinel Prime’s crashed ship and the Autobots to plan a mission to the moon.
Meanwhile, we catch up with Sam Witwicky (Shia LeBeouf). Sam is living with his new girlfriend, Carly (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley). He’s graduated from college, is looking for work and trying to find his place in the world. He’s saved the planet twice, but can never talk about it and simply wants to make a difference again. After several unsuccessful job interviews he finally lands a mailroom job working for Bruce Brazos (John Malkovich). Sam also meets Carly’s boss ,the debonaire Dylan Gould (Patrick Dempsey). Dylan seems to both have his eye on Carly and also helping Sam as he implies he was the one that got Sam his job. Of course, all is not as it seems and as the Autobots simultaneously revive Sentinel Prime and discover something aboard his ship, Sam is given information that leads him to discover that the Decepticons may not be as underground as thought. All is definitely not as it seems as the destinies of the Autobots and Sam Witwicky once again collide. It’s more or less at this point that the explosions start and the action goes through the roof.
The story is simple enough and easy to follow and provides an excellent backbone to what we really want to see in a Transformers movie, that being giant robots beating the snot out of each other. That being said, if you pay attention the plot does have a few intricate layers that greatly expands the Transformers movie mythology. I like how it shows that humans and robots were intertwined long before the events of the first film and in more subtle ways than what the second film showed. And yes, if you don’t actually listen to the dialogue or watch what is happening on the screen there will be things that don’t make sense. Isn’t that true of any film?
There are two things that make me really like this film. First, much like the first two films, I really appreciate the way in which Bay depicts the soldier characters. They never rely solely on the Autobots to defeat the Decepticons, instead the humans are always in the thick of the battle, even when it seems overwhelmingly against them. Government officials are sometimes shown as as shady or incompetent, but the soldiers doing the fighting are always heroic and self-sacrificing. The second best part of this film is the cameo by the real Buzz Aldrin. Aldrin has been a hero of mine since my childhood and seeing hi make an appearance with the towering Optimus Prime essentially being in awe of him was an especially nice touch. It’s possibly these two touches that veer the story into “America, F*ck Yeah!” territory, but, really, I don’t care. There’s nothing wrong with flawlessly heroic heroes, real or fictional.
I also really like Sam’s journey in this film. He’s saved the world twice and can never talk about nor can he use it to change his lot in life. At the end of the day he is still just another college graduate looking for a job. For someone who has fought beside the best of the best, human and robot, and has seen the things he has, he inderstandably feels left out and left behind. As his mother points out, even his car has a job and Sam knows that it is a job making a difference. This definitely informs how he behaves in the second half of the film and ultimately makes Sam as much of a hero as the soldiers. Sam is just a regular guy, yet when faced with deat hand destruction he doesn’t hesitate to step up and do what’s needed. Faced with the scale of the Decepticon’s rampage no one would fault him for sitting this one out. Thankfully, he doesn’t. It isn’t a question of him being the only one who can possibly save us. Quite the contrary as there are highly trained soldiers on the case who could also win the day. It’s the fact that Sam decides he won’t back down and won’t stay beaten down that elevates him to the level of the heroes around him.
Again, if you hated the first two films, then Transformers: Dark of the Moon is not the film for you and, really, if that is the case then I don’t understand why you’d read any reviews of it, much less pay to sit angrily in a theater. If, however, you are not pre-disposed to hate a film before you actually see it and you are looking for a big, bombastic popcorn flick, get yourself to the theater immediately for this. It is a summer action movie and never wants to be more than that. Get a tub of popcorn and enjoy!