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'Transformers' isn't saved by more explosions

“Transformers: Dark of the Moon” 1/5 Pitchforks Rated: PG13 Staring: Shia LaBeouf

As much as I hate to admit it, I actually liked Michael Bay’s first “Transformers” movie.

Sure, the film was loud, stupid, and cost millions of dollars that could have gone towards producing superior independent films. But the film was visually impressive, had a few laugh out loud moments, and never took itself too seriously. I group the film along with the first “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” movie. Not much, but probably the best movie possible given the source material.

Then Bay made “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen,” a sequel that was even noisier, dumber, less story-driven, and ultimately defined everything that’s wrong with contemporary blockbusters. This past forth of July weakened, Bay and his band of cronies gave us “Transformers: Dark of the Moon,” a film that’s every bit as joyless, soulless, uneventful, humorless and boring as it’s processor.

And wouldn’t you know it, “Dark of the Moon” has already made countless millions and broke all sorts of holiday records. But to refer you to the conclusion of my “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” review, so what?

At this point I usually discuss the plot of the movie. This is kind of a challenge though, seeing how “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” is virtually devoid of anything that resembles a story. All I can say is that there will be explosions, beautiful women, fast cars, terrible dialog, product placement, choppy editing, murky cinematography, and overacting galore. Is any of it entertaining? Maybe if you’re a twelve-year-old boy or lacking a majority of your brain cells. Some may say that I’m a cynical square for making such accusations. I call it having good taste and integrity.

I like Shia LaBeouf a lot. But here he overdoes it as Sam Witwicky, our young human protagonist. Megan Fox’s Mikaela is absent this time around. But don’t worry, she’s been replaced with another Barbie doll that’s out of Sam’s league and contributes nothing to the film. Her name is Carly, played by Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, who looks luminous at all times. Even when she falls through a glass window in a building that’s collapsing, she manages to walk away with nothing but a smudge on her forehead.

There’s also Optimus Prime and his team of Autobots who are engaged in their never-ending war with the evil Decepticons. In traditional fashion, all of the transformers either have no personality whatsoever or talk like black street thugs. It’s hard to care about any of these machines when none of them are developed. But at least those aggravating twin Autobots are nowhere to be seen this time.

Even more forgettable than the Transformers are the human characters. In a vast ensemble of talented actors, not one of them is likable or memorable. John Malkovich is in his manic mode as Sam’s boss, a tyrant who’s so over-the-top that you start to wonder if he’s a CGI creature. Frances McDormand contributes nothing as a stone-faced National Intelligence Director. The most insufferable character of all is the normally funny Ken Jeong as a conspiracy schizophrenic that feels like Adam Sandler and Jerry Lewis at their most annoying. Fortunately the movie has the good sense to throw him out of a window early on.

Of course there’s lots of car chases, battles between CGI robots, and destruction of historical landmarks like the Lincoln memorial. The entire final act of the film is centered on the obliteration of Chicago with buildings collapsing and people running in peril. It’s hard to believe that only ten years ago we thought that it would never be appropriate to show such images in a movie again.

While the tedious action sequences were expected, what really drove me bonkers in “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” was the dialog. Everybody in this movie constantly screams their lines and talk over each other even when they’re not in combat. It also doesn’t help that none of the dialog is funny or witty. In some cases it doesn’t even feel like the actors are uttering complete sentences. Then when Optimus Prime steps up to give a big speech about humans and robots getting along, it just feels embarrassing and tacked on.

I don’t mind senseless entertainment, which is probably why I liked the first “Transformers.” But the key to senseless entertainment is that the movie has to be entertaining. “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” is nothing sort of a video game meets a music video. Although a lot of video games and even music videos have more compelling stories and characters than “Transformers: Dark of the Moon.” There’s no doubt that millions will continue to line up for his mechanical junk in the weeks to come. But I can assure you that “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” is less than meets the eye.

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