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The Cynical Optimist on Transformers : Dark of the Moon

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”Transformers: Dark of the Moon”, directed by Michael Bay, begins with an epic battle sequence on the world of Cybertron, where the fabled war between the Autobots and Decepticons rages on.

With defeat imminent, the Autobots’ leader, Sentinel Prime (Leonard Nimoy), pilots a spacecraft containing technology that could save his kind.

Attacked by the Decepticons, it crashes on the dark side of Earth’s moon in 1961. This mysterious event ignites the Space Race, as President John F. Kennedy makes his promise to the nation to put a man on the moon.

In classic ”Transformers” fashion, the 1969 NASA moon landing is actually an investigation of the wrecked spacecraft — looping and twisting the complicated past between Earth and Cybertron further.

Fast-forward to the present, where the Autobots and Decepticons are engaged in their own Space Race to unlock the secrets of the Ark. Sentinel Prime possesses a Space Bridge, an advanced teleportation technology that the Decepticons would exploit as a means of invading and enslaving Earth.

Meanwhile, Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) is searching for purpose in his own mundane existence. His robot companions are off on secret missions, saving the world, while he’s graduating college and struggling to find a job. Luckily he’s got a beautiful new girlfriend to shack up with.

As you may know, Megan Fox’s absence from ”Dark of the Moon” is a result of her disparaging comments comparing director Michael Bay to the former Fuhrer of Germany Adolf Hitler. This particularly angered executive producer Steven Spielberg, which ultimately affected the decision to let Fox go.

So the story goes that Fox’s character, Mikaela, left Sam high and dry — making room for a new love interest in the form of Carly, played by Victoria’s Secret model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley. Like most of the human characters in Bay’s ”Transformers” series, Carly exists only to stand around and look up in awe at her computer-generated counterparts.

As is the standard in this series, ”Dark of the Moon” is populated with silly caricatures meant to provide comic relief. Joining the cast is Patrick Dempsey, John Malkovich, Frances McDormand, Alan Tudyk and Ken Jeong — who trades in Mr. Chow and Señor Chang for Jerry Wang. On that same note, Tudyk plays a character named Dutch who speaks with a fey German accent. Subtle, right?

Many of the problems that plagued 2009’s ”Revenge of the Fallen” have been remedied in Bay’s third and final Transformers film. The Twins, Skidz and Mudflap, have been replaced by a gang of NASCAR-themed Autobots known as the Wreckers are are completely bearable. The roles of Mr. and Mrs. Witwicky, as well as Turturro’s Agent Simmons, are diminished in favor of more robot battles and jaw-dropping action sequences.

New Autobots and Decepticons are introduced, including Mirage, Que, Laserbeak, and Shockwave. Characters like Sideswipe and Soundwave, only glimpsed in Revenge of the Fallen, get their moment to shine in one-one-one robot battles. Old favorites like Optimus Prime and BumbleBee square off against Decepticon heavyweights like Megatron and Starscream.

Though the tone of Bay’s ”Transformers” films border on the goofy and downright absurd, there is a weight given to the film’s final battle sequence, which turns Chicago into ground zero – an apocalyptic showdown between the Decepticons (who have invaded Earth using a Space Bridge) and the vastly outnumbered Autobots. Sacrifices are made; heroes die. There are acts of betrayal and deceit – humans turns on each other in hopes they’ll be protected by their Decepticon overlords.

Optimus Prime adopts a “Kill ‘em all” attitude and lays waste to hordes of Deceptions with his vast array of weapons. Sam, who has been little more than a messenger in previous films, no longer runs from the Decepticon threat. Channeling his inner-Skywalker, Sam single-handedly brings down a Decepticon Baddie and becomes a warrior in his own right.

”Transformers: Dark of the Moon” is an exciting, action-packed summer blockbuster. This film truly deserves to be seen on the biggest screen possible and is one of the few films I would recommend seeing in IMAX 3D. You will no doubt be humbled by the size and scope of Bay’s explosive set pieces, even if the in-between moments of not-so-comic relief lessen the gravitas and meaning behind the Bayhem.

Bottom Line: ”Revenge of the Fallen” was a noisy, exhaustive celebration of computer-generated mayhem that lacked the heart of its predecessor. ”Dark of the Moon” attempts to re-establish that human touch and does a pretty good job. I found myself overcome with excitement and awe, smiling ear-to-ear while watching my heroes battle it out on the big screen.

The inner eight-year-old did its best to forgive the goofy, nonsensical human characters while the 26-year-old cynical critic picked apart every bit of poor dialogue and nonsensical plotting. Ultimately, the eight-year-old won.

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