July 4th means many things: fireworks, freedom, and Michael Bay! I’m a self-proclaimed Bay-ette (copyright Kristen Lopez!), and I’ve supported the director through thick, thin and Pearl Harbor. I’m not a Transformers fan though so when he made the first Transformers film I went in with no knowledge of the source material and walked away loving it. There’s been enough slander thrown at the movie’s sequel and so it goes that I went into Transformers: Dark of the Moon expecting a mediocre time. Fortunately, Mr. Fourth of July is back and has kept true to his word of making a third film in the Transformers franchise that leaves you forgetting Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen even exists. This is the 4th of July film to see with your family this weekend!
The film continues following the adventures of Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) who is not only struggling to find a job out of college, but also dealing with the fact that since the Autobots are partnered with the government he’s no longer important. The Autobots soon learn that the 1969 US trip to the Moon was in response to a discovery of alien technology, mainly the discovery of a lost Autobot named Sentinel Prime (voiced by Leonard Nimoy). Unfortunately the Decepticons have plans for Sentinel Prime and strike an invasion against Earth and its inhabitants leaving it up to Sam to figure out how to save those he loves and prevents Earth’s fall to the Decepticons.
Let’s get this out of the way, Transformers: Dark of the Moon is a Michael Bay film through and through so if you don’t enjoy any of Bay’s trademarks you’ll hate this film. Is there a hot chick that gets ogled by the camera: Yes. Is there an excessive amount of camera spinning: Yes. Is there another chase along a busy highway resulting in a slew of innocent deaths you’ll never hear about: Hell yes! Again, if you hate Bay avoid this. But for all those things I loved this movie! The movie has all the necessary summer staples including an engaging and humorous story, shit blowing up en masse and giant robots turning into other stuff. Bay promised the movie would stay true to the original film and it has leaving all the cutesy stuff to the side (for the most part) and returning to the epic battle between the Autobots and the Decepticons. As mentioned previously I have very little knowledge of the Transformers legacy but I found myself remembering a lot of the robots and growing to love them. It also helps that I’m a huge lover of cars and Bay always wins me over with the gorgeous autos on display, the coup de grace being a $200,000 Mercedes that left me salivating.
The biggest difference compared to the previous two Transformers is the reliance on history. At times Dark of the Moon plays like a historical epic, focusing on how the US/Russian space race was all a ruse to discover Sentinel Prime and his ship. Bay goes so far as to include a slew of archival footage from the original moon landing and does an excellent job of melding the world of the Transformers into our own history. Sure there’s a terrible CGI version of JFK but its use goes towards showing Bay’s dedication to promoting the story. Sam spends a great deal of the film finding clues and uncovering a pretty big government conspiracy that I’m sad to say ends abruptly and isn’t really given a proper ending. Had fans not expected more action, or if this was the first film, it would have been amazing to see Bay really delve into the historical stuff and use this as a conspiracy movie. Ironically, the films message of countries sticking together and freedom is a wonderful 4th of July message. Optimus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen) yearns for others to believe in themselves and the country’s need rise above. There’s also an overabundence of American flags that will make this a great patriotic film and isn’t out of Bay’s wheelhouse considering his other pro-America movies of days past. There’s even a few great Republican/Democrat jokes that will please both parties. The jokes are also a huge improvement of the sequel and never bogs down the story. The main scene stealers include Sam’s mother Judy (Julie White), who seemed more vulgar in this installment then I remember, and John Malkovich’s Bruce Brazos, a Richard Branson type executive Sam works for. Alan Tudyk’s Dutch is also fantastically funny.
You’re probably wondering why I haven’t touched on the action? Surprisingly enough it takes a backseat with the big action pieces not happening till over an hour into the film. Thankfully the story is solid but if you’re going straight for the Autobots you might be disappointed with how long you’ll wait, but fear not because the final battle is epic! Buildings cut in half, Shockwave slicing through things like a knife, and a knock-down, drag-out fight between Optimus and Sentinel are just a few treats you’ll find watching this movie. I didn’t see the film in 3D but honestly however you see this will result in you getting enough bang for your buck. It’s action and adventure that needs to be seen to be believed.
Now, the film is not without its flaws. Bay still can’t keep the camera steady to save his life so if you’re like me and sit anywhere near the front you’ll end up sick by the middle of the movie. Also characters just come and go as they please, Malkovich gets the worst end of this by disappearing at the hour mark. It’s also a shame that Bay still can’t work with females since Rosie Huntington-Whitely’s character Carly is merely a piece of meat. I realize most of Bay’s women are just meant to look hot for the camera and Whitely is no exception, hell a lot of her scenes just require her to pose like she’s shooting a catalogue. The problem is that Huntington-Whitely isn’t a terrible actress, I found her more natural than Megan Fox so it’s a shame that the majority of her scenes involve a love triangle between her, Sam and her evil boss played by Patrick Dempsey.
Overall, Bay is still the same director so if you’ve already got a loathing for the director there’s no changing your mind. But if you’ve enjoyed him up till Revenge of the Fallen, do yourself a favor and see Dark of the Moon. The story is fun, humorous and the actors are a treat to see. Having had little hope this movie would be good I ended up eating quite a bit of crow with my friends and family. A wonderful movie to see this 4th of July!
Author: Kristen Lopez, Editor in Chief
Kristen Lopez is the editor-in-chief of CC2K and a freelance pop culture essayist. Her work has appeared on Roger Ebert, The Hollywood Reporter, and The Daily Beast. When she’s not burning down Film Twitter she runs two podcasts, the female-centric film show Citizen Dame, and the classic film-themed Ticklish Business.