The good news is that Dark of the Moon is nowhere near as disappointing as Mr Bay’s last giant robot instalment, and in fact he may have learnt from some of his past mistakes. SOME of them.
This sequel has some fun with history, referencing the Space Race and the Apollo missions. Exactly what is on the dark side of the moon is of supreme importance to the plot, and pretty soon Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) and his latest bee-stung lipped walking coathanger, Carly Spencer (Rosie Huntington-Whitely), are running around a lot whilst giant robots destroy perfectly good architecture.
And boy, does Sam run. I’ve maintained all along that LaBeouf is the best part of the Transformers franchise, and that continues to be the case here. Effortlessly shifting from slapstick to sincere, he certainly makes for a likeable everyman. Megan Fox’s replacement, Huntington-Whitely, is less impressive, and seeing Bay in his Victoria’s Secret mode is always embarrassing, more so when he’s not actually shooting a commercial but has put one of their ‘angels’ in his film anyway.
Bay’s tradition of filming at the Golden Hour continues, though his obsession with it leads to some distracting continuity errors. One particular scene had the actors’ shadows continually lengthening, shortening then disappearing, as we switched from sunset to midday to somewhere in between, over and over again. It may sound like nitpicking, but it’s ridiculous to sacrifice consistency in an attempt to get everyone’s skin to a golden hue.
The film feels a little rushed also. One particularly huge event about two thirds of the way through the film was heralded by three random shots that apparently cover hours and hours of action we never see. It’s as if a) the were some scenes that were cut out, or b) they ran out of time to shoot them in the first place.
So exactly what does Bay get right this time around? First off, it seems someone paid attention to the complaints regarding the disorienting action scenes of the first two instalments. Dark of the Moon actually pays attention to the traditional rules of editing – we have some wide establishing shots, close-ups of the important elements and fewer wacky camera angles – which means we comprehend exactly how the giant robots are beating the nuts and bolts off each other. There’s one particularly good extended action scene for the humans too. Set on a massive scale, it’s an amalgamation of similar scenes in Mission: Impossible III, Cloverfield and Inception, and it does the job admirably.
Transformers: Dark of the Moon is still two and a half hours of noise, but at least the last 40 minutes manage to be quite exciting. Up until that point, we have rather simple plotting that we all know will point towards some sort of Armageddon, but funnily enough, watching Sam undergo a series of job interviews is much more entertaining than all that. We get a wonderfully madcap performance by John Malkovich, and an enjoyable turn by Frances McDormand that’s slightly less successful because she never seems comfortable staring at what was probably a tennis ball on a stick (but would later be a 50 foot tall robot).
The most exciting stuff in this flick doesn’t involve the robots. Whenever the film slows so that Optimus Prime can deliver some dialogue, we’re reminded of the fact that this is a silly endeavour. A film should be able to provoke admiration, pride or gratitude without needing a slow motion US flag um… flagging such moments. That’s just lazy storytelling.
For those who enjoyed the first film but were disappointed by the second, then rest assured that Dark of the Moon is much better than Revenge of the Fallen. It mightn’t be worth rushing out to the cinema for, however.Rating: