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

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Film News -

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.

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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.

irish­times.com/cul­ture

Windy City wipe­out in Trans­form­ers: Dark of the Moon

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