‘Transformers: Dark of the Moon’ Is Not a Very Good Movie
At its heart, Transformers: Dark of the Moon is a movie that makes no sense about a bunch of a**hole robots and their a**hole friend.Admittedly, there’s a small part of the movie not making sense that’s as much my fault as anyone else’s. I was never really a Transformers fan even when I was a kid, and as a person who only sees terrible movies when I’m getting paid for it, I didn’t bother with the first two. I mean, I am familiar with the basic premise thanks to the one bit of Transformers I actually do like (Autobots wage their battle to destroy the evil forces of… the Decepticons), and I was pretty sure that I wouldn’t be all that confused by the plot of a Michael Bay movie made for children starring Leonard Nimoy as a firetruck.
But as someone unfamiliar with the franchise, I was left with a handful of questions. Take Bumblebee, for instance. Is he the Autobots’ pet or something? Because he can’t really talk (except for apparently playing clips from movies and old TV shows like Get Smart over a radio), and he seems clumsy and dumb even by their standards. So is he like a dog that turns into a Camaro, or what?
Also, people know that the Transformers exist in this world, right? There’s a clip where Bill O’Reilly talks about them, and they’re covered by the news in the movie and nobody’s really surprised by it, so I assume they do, and since they are alien robots from space, I have to imagine that this would be the biggest news story in the history of the world. And even though they’re supposed to be robots in disguise — which I was under the impression was the actual entire deal of the franchise — but the cars they transform into are really distinctive. I always thought that part of the fun of the original toys was that Optimus Prime was just a red truck, so that as a kid, you could pretend that any red truck you saw could turn into a robot. But in the movie, he’s got this really distinctive flame detailing and all of the Autobots are really super-expensive, flashy sports cars that, at least in their car forms, are really recognizable.
So how in the hell are they doing covert ops missions for the government? In the sequence near the beginning of the movie where a bunch of Autobots show up to massacre a handful of Arab terrorist stereotypes, why don’t those guys start shooting the second they see a bright yellow Camaro and a red and blue truck with flames on it?
But those are minor problems that, on the whole, are completely forgivable. The same goes with the scene where a robot gives Shia LeBeouf a grappling-hook glove that he says is “useful for climbing buildings,” and then goes directly into a fifteen-minute sequence where LeBeouf and a bunch of other people climb a building, almost falling to their deaths, during which the grappling glove is never seen. I’ll even forgive the fact that when it does come out, it’s so that LeBeouf can latch onto one of the Decepticons’ eyes — I think it’s Starscream, but only because he kind of sounds like Cobra Commander; they all look so much alike and I care so little that there’s really no way to tell — and get jerked around like a tetherball, which for some reason doesn’t tear his arm off even when another guy jumps on him to add another couple hundred pounds.
That’s how much credit I’m willing to give this movie right off the bat. Just by virtue of walking into a theater to see a movie called Transformers, I’m fully agreeing with just dispensing with a the laws of physics and accepting that nobody can tell which $200,000 car is a Transformer, for the same reason that James Bond is a secret agent who tells everyone his full name and drives around in the flashiest car he can. The problem is that it doesn’t stop there. The movie brings things up as major plot points that are immediately contradicted, and even the internal logic of a movie about giant robots from space isn’t consistent.
There’s one scene where two Autobots and two Decepticons all have guns on each other, and after declaring it to be a Mexican standoff, they all agree to put their guns down and go their separate ways. But the bad guys have extra guns, but then the good guys just rip their heads off and kill them, and one of them says “Class dismissed.” There’s no setup for this line. There’s no “we’ll teach you a lesson” or “time to go to school.” There’s nothing that makes this line work at all. Just “Class dismissed,” out of nowhere. This does not make sense.
There’s a scene where Ken Jeong as Senor Chang as a guy named Wang (hilarious) is secretly giving LeBeouf’s character, Sam Witwicki, information about the Decepticons’ impending attack. A bird robot that can apparently turn into anything shows up in his office and kills him, pushing him out of a window so that it looks like a suicide. But then, not five minutes later, the same robot stops pretending to be a copy machine and starts chasing people around the office. So why did they bother making it look like a suicide? This does not make sense.
After this, Sam takes the plans for the Decepticon attack to the secret government headquarters of the Autobots, but they don’t let him in, and deny that it’s even the right place so that Sam can have an action-packed reunion with Bumblebee. You’d think a government office devoted to one thing would at least let a guy who showed up yelling about that exact thing into the door to talk to someone. I mean, if there was a secret anti-terrorist task force office meant to look like an abandoned Burger King, and someone showed up and started yelling about how he knew about an impending terrorist attack, and he was also the guy who ran the task force’s best friend who had helped him fight terrorists on two separate, well-known, well-documented occasions for which he had been decorated by the President, they would probably let him in. But they don’t. This does not make sense.
Optimus Prime brings his predecessor, Sentinel Prime, back to life. Sentinel Prime, incidentally, is a firetruck played by Leonard Nimoy in a role that allows him to quote himself from Star Trek II, which was the exact moment I took the Lord’s name in vain out loud in the theater. But that’s beside the point. The point is that Optimus offers Sentinel the Matrix of Leadership, which I gather is some super-powerful artifact, since it allows him to bring back a mostly-dead robot. Sentinel refuses because Optimus is the Autobots’ leader now. Except that later, in the most unsurprising heel turn of all time, it’s revealed that Sentinel has been working with the Decepticons all along. So why didn’t he take Optimus up on his offer to give him something that would make him stronger and weaken his enemies? This does not make sense.
Then the Decepticons take over Chicago, and set up a perimeter around the city that they explicitly say airplanes can’t get through. They even show a couple of fighter jets being blown up by robot airplanes, which are being flown by robots that I’m pretty sure can turn into airplanes. But then, suddenly they decide that they need to send some army guys in there, so “no planes can get in” becomes “well I guess these five slow-moving planes can get in long enough to let off these guys in the H.A.W.K. suits from Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.” And then, all the army guys meet up with Sam and his pal Tyrese Gibson, who literally just walked into the city on foot, a clever plan that neither the Decepticons nor the United States army had thought up before, and then they go to a military command post where there are other army guys just hanging. Where the hell did those guys come from? Were they on other planes that made it through while we were watching John Tuturro talk about how impenetrable the Decepticon defenses were? This does not make sense.
Then, they finally reveal the Decepticons’ plan: They’re going to use these McGuffin teleportation rods from space to bring the entire planet Cybertron to Earth, so that they can use humans — who are smaller and weaker than robots — as a slave labor force to rebuild it. And when I say they’re going to bring Cyberton to Earth, I mean that they are actually going to physically move the planet. At one point it shows up in orbit, and appears to be about three times bigger than Earth. So their plan is, what, to crash Cybertron into Earth? Just have it sitting there, shooting Earth-slaves up to it on space shuttles every now and then? Why not just use their massive new Decepticon army — which shows up out of nowhere — to take over Earth and use humans to rebuild it the way they want it? This, the entire plot of this movie, does not make sense.
Also, for a movie that centers on secret McGuffins buried on the dark side of the moon that is actually called “Dark of the Moon,” that place sure is lit up pretty bright.
So nothing makes sense, and even if it did, that doesn’t address the slightly more pressing flaw of the movie, which is that every single character is a massive dick.
To start with, we have Sam, who spends the opening of the movie whining about how he has to go look for a job because he’s been frozen out of working with the Autobots by the Government. This is a pretty big plot point of the movie — at least in that it leads to Sam getting a job working for John Malkovich, which the movie starts ignoring about halfway through so we can get an hour’s worth of ‘splosions — but the reasoning here is never explained. If these giant, super-powerful space robots are working with the government and there’s one human that they really trust, who has helped them save the world twice, then why wouldn’t they want to have him be part of the team? Why wouldn’t they at least try to make him happy in order to win the trust of his giant super-powerful space robot friends?
The only reason the movie offers for this is that the Government lady in charge of dealing with the Transformers (Frances McDormand) is a total dick herself who hates Sam for no reason, right up until the part where the script requires her to suddenly, inexplicably trust him with every secret she knows. Also, I have to say that McDormand probably wasn’t the right choice for the role. Not because she’s bad — far from it — but because her scenes with John Tuturro just made me wish that the Coen Brothers had gotten the Transformers franchise instead of Bay.
Sam comes off as an has-been shut out of something he should be a part of throughout the first half of the movie, but his interactions with his girlfriend Carly (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, who has the second-most British name in the world after Benedict Cumberbatch) make him come off as less sympathetic and more embittered and horrible. He’s constantly yelling at her for smiling at her boss, grabbing her by the arm and demanding that they talk privately. He sets off more abusive boyfriend signals than Edward Cullen, something that will stand the test of time as this movie’s most impressive achievement.
He also hates her boss with a jealousy and passion that drives him to violently stomp on the engine of his car, which is a pretty standard movie cliche. Except that he constantly suspects the guy’s evil, despite having absolutely no reason to. The guy even goes so far as to give Sam a job to help ameliorate the fact that he’s an utter failure, and LeBeouf just stares daggers at him the whole time.
Except that it turns out, of course, that he’s actually right, and the guy’s working with the Decepticons all along, something that Sam could only have a reason to suspect if he had been given a copy of the script beforehand. But when he finds out, he immediately drags his girlfriend outside and — in a movie about ROBOTS THAT CAN TURN INTO CARS, at a time when he has JUST FIGURED OUT THAT THIS GUY WORKS FOR THE EVIL ROBOTS — gets into the super-expensive sports car that the boss gave to Carly. Even though he presumably drove there in his own car. And surprise! It turns out to be a Decepticon!
Seriously: If there is anyone in this dumb movie who should know what it means when someone working for the evil robots that can turn into cars has a fancy new car, it should be Sam, the guy who’s been hanging out with Transformers for four years. So not only is he a dick, he’s a monumentally stupid dick.
He’s also the character the audience is meant to identify with. So, you know. There’s that.
The biggest a**holes, though, are the Autobots.
There’s a part of the movie where the Decepticons demand that the Earth exile the Autobots to space or else they’ll kill everyone — which everyone knows is their plan anyway, but at this point, f*** it, who cares — so all the Autobots get in a space ship and leave. And then the space ship blows up, seemingly killing all of them (SPOILER WARNING: It doesn’t).
So while the Autobots are “dead,” the Decepticons pretty much destroy Chicago. This is the focus of a good chunk of the movie — the entire second half of the movie is just one mind-numbing explosion after another with no real reason to care about any of it as they’re just toppling buildings and tearing up streets. They even chase people down and shoot them with guns that make them pop like party balloons, a series of bloodless explosions designed so that this movie can show wholesale slaughter and still keep its PG-13 rating.
Then the Autobots show up and talk about how they weren’t really dead, they just had to show humanity that the Decepticons can’t be reasoned with, and give a speech about how now they’re going to fight for freedom! So Optimus Prime’s solution is to teach us all a lesson by letting the bad guys kill thousands of people.
Then, at the end, after another nonsense fight scene in which Megatron saves Optimus from getting killed for no reason, Optimus beats the bad guys by picking up a giant shotgun and shooting Leonard Nimoy the Firetruck in the head while he’s crawling away, like Gary Oldman in The Professional. Our Hero, everybody!
And that’s the movie. You can make every allowance for it, you can talk about how it’s about giant robots so it doesn’t have to have logic or how it’s for kids and they’re dumb anyway, and you’re still left with the core problem. Nothing makes sense, even from one scene to the next, and everyone’s an a**hole, so there’s no reason to be interested or to care who lives or who dies.