Transformers: Dark of the Moon (12A/PG-13, 154 mins)
Director: Michael Bay
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
As a piece of storytelling, the Transformers well has long since run dry, leaving us with a franchise kept on life support by the power of the dollar. Though we had some fun with the first movie in 2007, we got punished by its unendurable sequel two years later, one whose success made a further instalment inevitable.
Now we come to the third go around with the robots in disguise, the good Autobots who keep earth safe from the nasty Decepticons. Rewriting its own mythology yet again, we learn that the during the first Apollo moon landing, the astronauts discovered that the Autobots were already there, leading to a four decade cover-up to keep the news hidden.
Meanwhile at Chernobyl, a part from a long lost Autobot ship has been found, and their leader Optimus Prime wants to get to the technology before the Decepticons, who are plotting to get their hands on it to help them win the age-old war that has been raging between them.
LaBeouf has an undeniable star quality, but as a character Sam is nothing but a lot of running and shouting. With Megan Fox out of the picture, his new squeeze is Carly (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, making Fox look like Meryl Streep), while also new to the party are the likes of John Malkovich in a showy yet thankless turn as Sam’s boss, and Frances McDormand as a CIA goon.
Pare it back, amputate the ridiculous amounts of unnecessary flab, and you’re still left with absolute galloping nonsense, just as idiotic as what we were put through in the second film. But while it’s not quite the gruelling assault that was Transformers 2, it is every bit as mind-alteringly tedious.
The first hour and a half is the gift that keeps on taking, and though there are a few scenes of robots talking or shape-shifting, it’s light on action and long on explanation. There’s so much to irritate, from the quips coming from the heavily accented ‘bots, to director Michael Bay’s unquenchable penchant for soft rock and scenes set in the golden glow of sundown.
The first major rumble is a freeway chase-and-hit, and it’s undeniably impressive. But don’t even try to follow the machinations of the ropiest of plots and you might just survive to the final reckoning, wherein the streets and buildings of Chicago become a battleground for the robots’ decisive encounter.
Visually, its equal may never have been seen, but it’s entirely investment free. It’s a graceless, grinding, exploding cacophony of computer generated metal and noise, and never in the history of cinema has a film been more geared towards mere spectacle than coherent and involving storytelling.