Apologies all 'round that it took me this long to post a review of Transformers: Dark of the Moon. You see, I ran right out to see it when it opened three days ago, and it just now ended.

At 157 minutes, Dark of the Moon is the longest of the now-three Transformers pictures - thirteen minutes longer than Transformers back in 2007 and seven minutes longer than Michael Bay Rubs His Sweaty Balls In Your Face for Two and a Motherfucking Half Hours in 2009 - and only about 20 of those minutes are completely awesome; but then again, that is fully 18 minutes more than the first two movies managed to add up between them, which makes Dark of the Moon cozily the best film in the series, proving maybe that longer is better, which is why I hope that the next one is, I don't know, maybe four hours long, just so the extra hour and a half is all good stuff. It can be the god-damned Jacques Rivette film of movies about cars that turn into gigantic humanoid robots and beat the crap out of each other. Celine and Julie Go 'Sploding, or something like that.

Dark of the Moon starts in 1961, in a sequence that needlessly insults the memory of John F. Kennedy, Neil Armstrong, Walter Cronkite, and even Richard M. Nixon, by suggesting that the whole of the Apollo space program was inspired by the discovery of an alien vessel crash-landing on the dark side of the moon, which the Apollo 11 astronauts were sent to investigate (Buzz Aldrin, who cameos as himself, does not get to claim insult). From there, the movie progresses in real time to the present day, where Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf), the main character of the two preceding adventures, can't get a job and is full of misery and self-loathing in the spacious Washington D.C. apartment where he lives off of his girlfriend Carly (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley), who has replaced Megan Fox's Mikaela after that actress mouthed off in the press about how godawful it was to work under Michael Bay. This happened late in the game, and I imagine the fix went something like this:
MICHAEL BAY: "Megan is out. We need a new female lead."

EHREN KRUGER, SCREENWRITER: "Okay." [Enters Find & Replace, changes 'Mikaela' to 'Carly'] "Done."

BAY: "We better explain what happened to her, someplace."

KRUGER: "No problem, I'll have some minor supporting characters mention how he screwed it up last time, just tack it right on to the backside of some other scene."

BAY: "You are so awesome."

Sam eventually gets a job with a crazy entrepreneur played by John Malkovich, who runs laps around every other actor in the movie and is clearly having the time of his life not giving any kind of a shit whatsoever. "It is a visual and therefore a visceral betrayal" he says, in the most unapologetically Queen Bitch tones, about someone who dares to use a red coffee cup on the yellow floor of the building, and in that moment, John Malkovich saves Dark of the Moon, the Transformers franchise, and the very concept of the effects-driven summer movie, but he is sadly only in the film for about ten minutes.

The real plot involves a government group led by intelligence director Charlotte Mearning (Frances McDormand, who does not allow herself to have any fun whatsoever) that learns about the old Autobot crash on the moon - the Autobots are the good Transformers, do please try to keep up - and gets into snotty fights with Autobot leader Optimus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen) about authority and this and that. Eventually, the Autobots try to salvage the magic weapon on the moon, as well as the defunct Autobot warrior Sentinel Prime (Leonard Nimoy), and it all just keeps going and going on and on for like, an hour and forty-five minutes in which we see only little cock-teases of robots-blowing-shit up action, but it's not half as putrescent as the similar wheel-spinning that goes on in Revenge of the Fallen. Eventually, the humans shew the Autobots away and try to make nice with the evil Transformers, the Decepticons, apparently failing to notice that they fucking call themselves Decepticons.

In a certain regard, Dark of the Moon is exactly the same thing as the other two Transformers movies: lots of sexism, lots of fetishised acts of PG-13 violence that result in the death of at least hundreds of innocent bystanders, lots of product placement so over-the-top it verges on self-parody, it takes for-goddamn-ever for anything to happen that is even remotely like "building-sized robots wailing on each other like ginormous fucking metal sumo wrestlers" as most of the ticket-buyers ostensibly showed up to see, and most of the wheel-spinning takes the form of terrible comedy, though at least in this movie none of it comes across as particularly racist, mostly because all of the stereotypically black shape-shifting alien robots are dead now. Instead, and delightfully, the humor is mostly of an inexplicably warped variety, like Bay simply could not convince himself to care even a tiny bit, and just let the actors do whatever it took to amuse themselves, which is why we have Malkovich and John Turturro, back for yet another go-round as an ex-intelligence paranoiac, acting like they had a private bet to see who could devour more of the set in any given scene, while LaBeouf catalogues every different way that a human being can shriek and squeak and scream. The plot, meanwhile, dies, I mean, flat-out drops dead of loneliness and starvation, and though I and my sore ass are both quite aware that the movie is over two and a half hours long, I cannot begin to tell you what events transpired to fill more than, oh, a third of that time.

All throughout this, things are terrifyingly ugly: I had it in my head that the scourge of post-production orange and teal color correction had begun to die away, but this film brings it back in glory, while the much-pimped 3-D effects look like shit, particularly in the first shot where the infinity of outer space appears to be projected onto a lumpy black blanket, and none of the battle scenes use the gimmick in any sort of remotely innovative way. Though, God bless, Bay was obliged to tone down the editing to keep from being people seizures on account of having to re-adjust to 15 new shots in 3-D every second, and the results are practically stately, they are so long - why, I even counted a couple of shots lasting longer than ten seconds, I did! - so unlike the other Transformerses, it is actually possible to follow the action as it unfolds. Other than the small handful of actors who are simply going nuts, the cast is mostly just game to shuffle around and react to things that aren't there. I must give special notice to Huntington-Whiteley, a Victoria's Secret model making her debut in motion pictures* whose main function is flare her ass and allow Bay and DP Amir M. Mokri to frame her as only slightly more sexualised than the great many cars that they are product-placing this time around, and who does not appear to be a native speaker of English. Or a speaker of anything. Without question, hers is the worst performance I have seen in a movie in years, since at least Camilla Bell's turn in the remake of When a Stranger Calls, which till now has been the unquestioned low-point of acting I've seen in all my days as a blogger. But I will not blame Ms.Huntington-Whiteley, because her director absolutely and undoubtedly did not give a fuck about her performance.

Eventually, then, the film sets up in Chicago for the big roboty climax, I guess because they'd already done Los Angeles, and we've all seen New York blown up enough times, and probably also because Bay and executive producer Steven Spielberg both liked The Dark Knight. The movie gets a little bit cool at that point, finally showcasing for the first time in this besotted series the fact that the Transformers can transform, and it can be awfully cool if they do so in combat situations; other flat-out bizarre exercises in doing things up as big as they can get away with, including a sequence of people just up and skydiving into a post-apocalyptic Chicago. "Rendezvous at Willis Tower", says the leader, and I mutter, "Now and forever, the SEARS Tower, fuck you Joshua Jackson." And then I realise that it's actually Josh Duhamel, and he's been in all three movies now, and I can't remember a damn thing about him. But still: sky-diving. It's crazy enough to be awesome, or at least awesomely stupid.

All this blowing-shit-up coming as it does at the end of so much insane don't-give-a-shit anti-direction, I will allow that Dark of the Moon is at least watchable in a "oh my God what the fuck" register, which is more than the trudging brutality of the other films can claim. Though, I must admit to a certain personal thrill at seeing so many of my beloved Chicago landmarks turned into ash, and certainly the fact that this was the very first movie I watched in a theater after I moved out of Chicago didn't hurt matters. But I think I know a better-than-decent big-screen action extravaganza when it's rattling my seat with the hurricane fury of 7.1 channels of Michael Bay fucking me in both ears. And that is the very least I can say about Dark of the Moon: it is well and truly fuckalicious.

Reviews in this series
Transformers (Bay, 2007)
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (Bay, 2009)
Transformers: Dark of the Moon (Bay, 2011)
Transformers: Age of Extinction (Bay, 2014)
Transformers: The Last Knight (Bay, 2017)