Before today, I would never have equated Michael Bay’s directorial style with the soothing effect of a lullaby but that was before seeing TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON. It’s not that the barrage of intergalactic explosions of metal and mayhem that make up the majority of the third entry in the franchise would necessarily put you to sleep; it’s just that after sitting through Bay’s interpretation of the TRANSFORMERS universe three times now has lulled me into a state of semi-acceptance. I’ve never loved his vision for their world, which was a favorite of mine growing up, but I’ve now recognized that it is what it is and it isn’t about to change either. This shift allowed for me to see the latest installment as also the greatest.
Keep in mind that being called the best TRANSFORMERS movie to date is hardly a compliment given the history. Many of the essentials from the past make their inevitable returns this time out. Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) is back as friend to the Autobots and general all-around neurotic player with a giant chip in his shoulder. He now feels, like most of his youthful colleagues coming out of college, that he is entitled to great things right now with no dues to pay. Of course, he already has great things like doting parents (Kevin Dunn and Julie White) and an impossibly attractive new girlfriend, Carly (model, Rosie Huntingdon-Whitely, in her first and hopefully last acting role) but if he doesn’t have the fancy car and hot shot job to go with, then he might as well announce to the world that he is in fact not an actual man. Having saved the world twice already only serves to exacerbate his ego driven anxiety. Sam is stunted but that isn’t surprising given who the direction is coming from.
Part of the reason TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON works better is because it is more solidly grounded in reality from the start. Writer, Ehren Kruger (who also co-wrote REVENGE OF THE FALLEN) integrates Cybertronian lore into actual human history, having an Autobot vessel crash on the moon in the early 1960’s. The space race is then rewritten as a means to get to that ship first, which of course the Americans do. He then follows that up with some reasonably compelling betrayals amongst the Transformer ranks that will certainly appeal to longtime fans. Unfortunately, he fills the rest of the space with the usual misogynistic boyhood fantasies that Bay gets off on so bad. What you’re left with is a slightly more elevated and enjoyable experience that stems from a simple numbing of the senses. And when you wake from the dream, you may still long for what it could have been.
Like, since when is Shockwave not a clunker of a boom box?