With Transformers: Age of Extinction hitting theaters tonight at 9 p.m. and because I haven't done this segment in ages I present to you the latest installment of The Netflix Files! Today, I'm looking back at the last chapter in Michael Bay's bloated Hasbro commercial, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, but in order to tell this story, I'll need to touch back on 2009's infamous Revenge of the Fallen.
See, despite the first Trasnformers sequel making over $400 million in the U.S., the film received a thrashing by the critics: a 19% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, a score of 35 on Metacritic, winning top honors at the Razzies, and a few publications naming the sequel as one of the worst ever made. Even star Shia LeBeouf and Bay himself admitted the second Trasnformers outing wasn't particularly good and promised that the next one would be better.
Well, they did keep their promise. Dark of the Moon is better than the hideous Revenge of the Fallen. For starters, the opening sequence is pretty dazzling, as it highlights the war on Cybertron, home to the Autobots. The sequence then shifts to Bay playing around with the space race of the 60's between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, using a crashed alien vehicle as the basis for the two nations to reach the moon first. The sequence highlights the aspect lost in the second film and briefly gained in this one: a sly playfulness; a movie that's self-aware of how silly this whole thing is, and decides to have fun using it's premise to toy with important historical dates, like the launch of Sputnik by the Soviets, and the landing on the moon by American astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. There's a funny sequence where Sam Witwicky (LeBeouf) is job-hunting and tries to flaunt his Presidential Medal of Freedom to several companies. And there's a huge climatic battle set in Chicago that's actually fun to watch (including the sequence where Lazerbeak, Soundwave's henchbot, wraps his snake-like body around the Sears Tower), and it damn-near levels the city.
Having said that, Dark of the Moon isn't a good movie. It's still too damn long (this one runs a few ticks over 2 1/2 hours), the action scenes become dull and repetitive after a while, and the acting is as bland as ever, particularly from Rosie Huntington-Whitley as Sam's new love interest, who is introduced as a pointless waking ass-shot to let everyone in the audience know that she's hot. You're wondering, 'what the hell happened to Megan Fox's Mikela?' Well, she and Bay had a falling out, with Fox calling the director Adolf Hitler, and executive producer Steven Spielberg wanting her off the project. Whitley took her place as Carly, and after her watching her try to act, I wished Fox hadn't opened her stupid mouth. There's other characters, like Patrick Dempsey of TV's Grey's Anatomy fame as a slimeball millionaire working with the Decipitcons; John Malcovich, Ken Jeong as Bay's trademark "wacky" comic releif; Oscar-winning actress Frances McDormand as the director of National Intelligence, as well as returning cast members Tyreese Gibson and Josh Duhamel as Master Sergeant Epps and Lt. Colonel Lennox respectively; and John Tuturro as Simmons. You can already spot another problem with this movie: too many characters are in here and none of them are given much to work with beyond what they already did in the first two movies and/or don't interact much with the other characters.
Transformers: Dark of the Moon isn't awful like it's predecessor, but neither is it anywhere near as fun and exciting as the original film that came out in the summer of 2007. It's more of the same robot-on-robot CG carnage, but with 3D slapped on it, and no Skids and Mudflap, thank Christ, and frankly, it's become boring to watch. But since studios think with box office returns (this made over $1 billion worldwide), another sequel had to be green-lighted. With a new cast and the appearance of the Dinobots, here's hoping Bay reverts to the same self-awareness the last two films lacked.