I don’t say this often but I’ll say it here: Michael Bay I apologize.
I’ve enjoyed many of his films but always had a problem with the fact that, with the exception of “Armageddon,” as a director he paid more attention to the action on screen then to the characters. One of the greatest “money shots” in film is the dropping torpedo in “Pearl Harbor.” And it’s that shot, and others, that I think of when I hear that film being mentioned. I had no interest in what happened to Ben Affleck or Josh Hartnet (though now that I mention his name, what the hell did happen to Josh Hartnet?). I enjoyed the first “Transformer” film but found the second one to be nothing but loud and overlong. Now Michael Bay gives us “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” and guess what? To me it’s the “Armageddon” of “Transformer” movies!
1959. As the battle rages on Cybertron between the Autobots and Decepticons, a ship carrying the Autobots last hope for peace heads out into space.
1961. While secretly monitoring the surface of the moon, the good folks at NASA hear a loud clunk. Something has landed. Armed with this evidence, President Kennedy (who, with “X-Men: First Class” already under his belt is having quite a summer at the box office) declares that it’s time to send a man to the moon. Of course, that man (men) are Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. Once the Eagle lands the pair wander over to the dark side of the planet, away from the reach of the television cameras. There they box up their findings and splash down happily.
2011. Even though he has saved the world twice and even has a nice medal from President Obama, Sam Witwicky can’t seem to find a job. Living in Washington D.C. with his new girlfriend Carly (Huntington-Whiteley), he hopes to have employment before his parents (the always funny Kevin Dunn and Julie White) arrive for a planned visit. He finally nails an entry level job in the mail room of a scientific company run by the eccentric Bruce Brazos (the great John Malkovich). While in the rest room one day Sam finds himself cornered by a company scientist (Ken Jeong) who seems to know more about Sam’s past then he should. When a new mission to the moon led by Optimus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen) discovers the long lost Sentinel Prime (voiced majestically by Leonard Nimoy), the final pieces of what will be the last battle are finally put into place.
Credit to Michael Bay for stocking this film with top rate actors. By now LeBeouf could sleepwalk through his role and fans wouldn’t care. But he gives a strong performance, one full of both humor and heart. Returning stars like Duhamel, John Turturro and Tyrese Gibson also deliver. Newcomer to the series Huntington-Whiteley is a welcome replacement for Megan Fox while Malkovich and Frances McDormand bring their considerable talents along. Heck, throw Turturro into the mix and you’ve got a Coen Brothers movie with cool robots! Nimoy, his voice full of gravitas, commands the screen each time his character appears while the real Buzz Aldrin even lends a hand on screen.
Now let’s get to those Transformers. As amazed as I was by the effects in the first two films, I will go on record now and say that the special effects Oscar next year goes to this film. Not only are the Autobots and Decepticons well represented, there is a major battle in a major city unlike any I’ve ever seen before. Ever see a skyscraper fold in half and topple to the ground? You will here. And I urge you to see it in 3-D. And if you can check it out in IMAX 3-D even better. Bay has always been a visual director first and foremost and he doesn’t disappoint here. Couple that keen eye with a script full of humor and, more important, characters you care about, and you’ve got the best “Transformers” film yet!