Big bang theory
Michael Bay’s Cgi-mad sequel is bombastic and dumb but also kind of enjoyable, as well as a distinct improvement over writes Donald Clarke
SUCH IS the appalling reputation of the Transformers movies that this release seems less like the launch of a summer blockbuster than the recurrence of a debilitating, infectious disease.
You know what I mean. With its cacophonous soundtrack, addiction to excess and allergy to narrative coherence, the franchise has come to be seen as a metaphor for everything that’s wrong with the entertainment industry. Sensitive high-brow critics will be dosing themselves with vitamin C and taking precautionary trips to a warm bed.
Let’s be fair. The first film wasn’t too bad. Before complete mayhem descended, the picture had some fun detailing adventures in quaint Spielbergian suburbia. The second picture was, however, a truly mind-numbing exercise in digital sadism. Megan Fox was supposedly sacked from this new instalment for comparing Michael Bay, the series’ notorious director, to Adolf Hitler. Fox may have been overstating the case, but part two did try to seduce cinemagoers in much the same way that the Wehrmacht tried to seduce Poland.
What to say about the third epidemic? Well (with apologies for the cluttered mix of metaphors), its symptoms are less severe than those of the last viral strain. In fact, Dark of the Moon starts rather well. A genuinely amusing prologue attempts to connect major events in post-war history with a war between the Autobots (nice convertible trucks and sports cars) and the Decepticons (evil fighter planes and helicopters).
It seems that John F Kennedy launched the space programme after hearing that some sort of alien craft had landed on the dark side of the moon. The Chernobyl catastrophe was connected with the Soviets’ efforts to respond to the American intervention in the intergalactic dispute. A living, breathing Buzz Aldrin turns up to add weight to a fantasy that – in our present overheated era – could conceivably be viewed plausibly by less cautious conspiracy theorists.
Never one to spare his enemies ammunition, Mr Bay then quickly cuts to a shot that exemplifies all that is wrong with his sordid, pornographic aesthetic. Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, the Victoria’s Secret model who replaced Ms Fox, parades up a staircase in a garment that, in its skimpiness, barely manages to rhyme with a dress.
Within minutes the film, despite the diverting presence of talents such as Frances McDormand, John Malkovich and John Turturro, has descended into the expected orgy of fast motorcars, deafening explosions and weirdly blotchy cinematography.
Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf), the film’s perky protagonist, is having trouble finding a decent job. Annoyed that his girlfriend is doing well at a sinister conglomerate, Sam grudgingly takes a position as a mail-room assistant in Malkovich’s own, ill-defined firm. But hero status is never too far away for Sam. Before long he has been drafted into the latest effort to stop the Decepticons from turning Earth into a version of their own distant planet.
It’s worth saying a little more about Huntington-Whiteley’s role. Far from bothering to offer any explanation for Fox’s absence, Bay and his writers merely insert poor Rosie – whose astonishing woodenness makes her predecessor seem like Dame Edith Evans – into the girlfriend position and allow her to be buffeted hither and thither by the escalating chaos. She is little more than a piece of luggage. Sam drags her from one conflagration to the next as you might urgently haul a suitcase about a busy airport.
Watching Dark of the Moon, one is reminded of quite how uninterested Bay is in telling anything like a story. Individual scenes flash by without any balance or structure. What am I supposed to be frightened of? How does this building’s collapse affect the governing story? Why is that robot so dreadfully angry? The blankness of Huntington-Whiteley’s role is in keeping with a film that cares more for bombast than logic.
Still, it’s not nearly as bad as the last one. Indeed, Dark of the Moon even manages to offer the odd moment of lucid entertainment. The disease will not kill you, but it will leave you with an appalling headache and a dose of severe dizziness.
Windy City wipeout in Transformers: Dark of the Moon