The Herald Bulletin

June 30, 2011

Review: Third 'Transformers' film beautiful but brainless

By Heather Bremer
The Herald Bulletin

— Though “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” is beautifully shot and the effects are perfectly rendered, the third film in the franchise once again fails to be more than meets the eye.

BACKGROUND: The Transformers began life in the mid-1980s as a Hasbro toy line centered on two warring factions of alien robots, the Autobots and Decepticons.

The first live-action Transformers feature film, directed by Michael Bay and produced by Steven Spielberg, debuted on July 3, 2007. The movie, starring Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox and Josh Duhamel, grossed $70 million its opening weekend and raked in $709 million during its worldwide run.

The first film’s success quickly led to a sequel, “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen,” which debuted on June 24, 2009. Despite receiving a critical lashing, the sequel surpassed its predecessor’s opening weekend ($108 million) and international total ($836 million).

Which brings us to “Transformers: Dark of the Moon.” Bay and Spielberg are back again. So are LaBeouf and Duhamel. But Fox is gone, replaced by Rosie Huntington-Whiteley. The film opened Wednesday and earned $13.5 million in midnight screenings.

SYNOPSIS: Having saved the world from the Decipticons yet again, the Autobots have earned the trust of the American government and continue to assist humanity in resolving its conflicts. But when the Autobots learn that humans weren’t totally forthcoming with how much they knew about the alien machines, the Autobots race to the moon — where, in the 1960s, Americans discovered a crashed ship from Cybertron, the Transformers’ home planet. And the Decepticons are hot on their tailpipes.

THE GOOD, THE BAD & THE UGLY: This franchise is built on the images of vehicles transforming into giant robots and then battling other giant transforming robots. If that’s what you want, that’s what you’ll get plenty of in “Dark of the Moon.” And you’ll enjoy the heck of it.

The action sequences are intense and masterfully executed. The robots are one with the scenery, even if it’s a major U.S. city.  And it’s easier to tell the good guys from the bad guys, something that was difficult in the previous two films.

All the stunning beauty of the battles almost makes up for inept storytelling. Almost.

It’s as though “Transformers” can’t decide what kind of film it wants to be. On one hand, you have an effects-driven action flick. On the other, you want moviegoers to care about Sam’s new girlfriend and inability to find a job.

Here, the two things don’t mesh well. An action bent would have been more cohesive ... and it wouldn’t have taken 90 minutes to get to the good stuff.

THE FINAL SCORE: While filled with a cavalcade of mind-blowing effects, “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” once again relies on those effects to make you forget the movie is supposed to be telling a story — and a better one than the first hour is mired by.

That being said, it’s perfect for children who loved the first two films (though parents may want to exercise caution with kids sensitive to violence) and adults looking for a film they don’t have to think through.

EXTRAS: Several big league guest stars have secondary roles in the film, including Alan Tudyk, Ken Jeong and John Malkovich.