Transformers: Dark of the Moon
We've been lied to.
Everything we've been told about the Space Race of the 1960s was a cover-up. The United States and the Soviet Union weren't really concerned about getting to the moon simply for the sake of exploration. No, a few privileged insiders on each side were desperate to find out what, their deep-space radar indicated, had crashed on the dark side of the moon. So when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed at Tranquility Base, their assignment wasn't just to gather a few moon rocks or to take "one giant step for mankind." It was to hustle over to the dark side …
… where they found a massive alien vessel. A ship, we learn 40 years later, that had shuttled the fleeing Autobot leader Sentinel Prime away from Cybertron's civil war between the noble Autobots and the wicked Decepticons. A ship carrying prototype technology that could have given the Autobots the edge against their archenemies in the war they soon lost. A ship that still contains the barely alive Sentinel Prime and could hold the key to the next inevitable battle between these good and evil shapeshifting robots.
But lurking Decepticons are already onto the secret (at the expense of self-serving humans foolish enough to do business with them). And the Autobots, who've been working for the American military, quickly realize what's at stake as well.
So the race is on.
In the eye of that brewing storm, of course, is plucky Sam Witwicky. Underappreciated by virtually everyone for twice saving humanity, Sam's got more mundane things on his mind these days. Specifically, landing his first post-college job and trying to please his curvy new live-in girlfriend, Carly. She's far better employed, it turns out, than he. And her boss, Dylan, is a car-flaunting, big-shot accountant who ogles her even as jealous, insecure Sam flinches.
Cue the recurring catastrophe. When Sam learns through a crazed colleague that the Decepticons have returned and are determined to decimate Earth, his existence suddenly becomes a whole lot more purposeful. Again. And he steps up to responsibility of saving his damsel-in-distress girlfriend … and saving the planet from the Decepticons for a third time.
In his corner are trusty Optimus Prime and the few remaining Autobots, not to mention Lennox, Epps, Simmons and the rest of the supporting cast who had his back the last time the Decepticons showed up. In the other corner, plotting the enslavement of humanity, is the evil scoundrel Megatron (who's joined by a few new dastardly Decipticon foes). And when the Decepticons' full-metal maelstrom final breaks around Sam, Carly and the Autobots, the city of Chicago will bear the brutal brunt of the fiery, mechanized fury.
For all its over-the-top pyrotechnics, Dark of the Moon does depict dedicated men, women and robots risking life and limb (not to mention fenders and wheels) to save one another. Sam repeatedly risks his life to free Carly when she's taken prisoner by the Decepticons and a deceitful human working with them. The Autobots remain loyal to Sam and are devoted to protecting mankind in general—even when you could argue that humanity isn't worthy of such fealty. Early on, the Autobots are also shown taking out a rogue Middle Eastern nation's illegal nuclear weapons program.
Though Sam's parents offer little more than (often inappropriate) comic relief, they do celebrate marriage and encourage Sam to work through conflict with Carly. They tell him about a rough patch they endured in their own union, and what it took to make the relationship work. In a brief-but-insightful moment, Carly tells Sam that he doesn't know who he is without danger, that she's frustrated by his need for an adrenaline rush.
A man prays to God to get him out alive during an especially fierce clash with the Decepticons. We briefly glimpse the Cambodian temple Angkor Wat, as well as Buddhist statues. A verbal reference is made to hiding out in a church.
An early scene features lingering, exceedingly close-up shots of Carly's backside while she wears skimpy bikini underwear and one of Sam's shirts. We watch as she climbs on top of him and straddles him in bed. Though we never see the pair in bed together after that, a sexual relationship is clearly implied. And even though they're apparently living together, both agree that they're not yet ready to say "I love you."
Carly's physique gets regular attention from the camera, though never quite as obviously as in the scene described above. Dylan has eyes for her, and he compares her curvaceous figure to the sensual form of a vintage automobile in his collection. Someone makes a joke about wanting to frisk Carly, and a scene with her eating licorice is played suggestively. Other women also wear revealing tops, while skirts and dresses display a lot of leg. An office worker dubs a colleague a "hoochie mama" because she wears a skimpy outfit. Somebody fondly recalls a secret affair with a woman and makes a suggestive comment about her backside.
Sam's mother offers him an explicitly titled book about female orgasms and says he won't be able to land another beautiful girlfriend unless he's well endowed and knows how to pleasure a woman. A male colleague corners Sam in a restroom to give him secret information, but a scuffle breaks out between them instead—ending with the man straddling Sam with his pants down in a stall. It's something that looks like a violent homosexual tryst to Sam's boss, who happens to walk in as they stumble out. (His boss later mentions the encounter again, stressing that he doesn't care about what his employees do with others in a bathroom stall.)
Digital Spy writer Simon Reynolds said of Dark of the Moon's countless images of destruction, "This expensive sound-and-light show is a bit like slamming your head repeatedly against an arcade pinball machine for 150 minutes." He's not kidding. And since detailing each and every violent act would rival the U.S. tax code in length, here are the "highlights":
Men get vaporized by Decepticon guns, leaving only their skulls and bones rolling down a street. A grieving, begging Autobot is mercilessly executed, shot in the back of the head by a laughing Decepticon. Terrified Chicagoans scramble to flee attacking Decepticons, whose reinvigorated troops systematically decimate the city, on the ground and in the air. Skyscrapers are toppled, roads and bridges destroyed, cars flung this way and that. The destruction of the Windy City in the last hour of the film, in fact, is nothing short of apocalyptic, especially as a massive, snakelike Decepticon named Shockwave eats away at buildings and foundations. High-speed chases and enemy fire leave cars flipped and strewn like litter across a freeway. At least two men plunge to their deaths from high windows. A subway car is littered with human bodies.
In a lengthy scene, Shockwave and a host of other Decepticons try to kill Sam and his friends, who are trapped in a toppling tower. They repeatedly slide this way and that, along with office furniture and broken glass, as the building shifts and crumbles.
As for the Autobot-on-Decepticon battles, they're myriad, with those colliding robots shooting, pummeling, pounding and killing each other frequently. Transformers on both sides of the conflict are dismembered and decapitated as well as drawn and quartered—often with red, oil-like "blood" gushing from their wounds. Several of these battles end in brutal, execution-style finishing attacks.
A man savagely hits a woman in the head with his gun. Other people are held at gunpoint. Several planes containing humans are shot down.
And on and on it goes.
Crude or Profane Language
We hear one full f-word and another that (sort of) trails off. The acronym "WTF" comes up as does the uncompleted phrase "clusterf‑‑‑." Around 10 s-words. Jesus' name is misused once or twice, and God's is abused about 15 times. Other language includes 10 or so uses of "a‑‑," as well as a handful each of "h‑‑‑," "d‑‑n," "d‑‑k" and "b‑‑ch." "W-nker" and "b‑‑tard" are each uttered once.
Drug and Alcohol Content
Several scenes picture characters drinking beer, wine and champagne. One close-up shot zooms in on bottles of liquor sitting on a table. Quoting the movie Tommy Boy, Sam's Transformer friend Bumblebee asks someone who's behaving badly if he ate paint chips as a kid.
Other Negative Elements
Several key characters betray friends and change allegiances. A number of humans are secretly in league with the Decepticons. World governments lie about projects and funding in order to cover up alien incidents. The Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine is depicted as the result of the Russian government's failed attempt to harness alien fuel. Corrupt U.S. accountants bring the space program to a halt by tampering with books and making a return trip to the moon seem too expensive.
Sam's mother crassly suggests that he should stay with his "world-class hottie" girlfriend because she's beautiful. His parents are generally depicted as narcissistic as they drive around in their customized bus.
A "Mexican stand off" is mentioned. Somebody complains about a Japanese office machine. Sam's attitude toward his first job is less than stellar, and he seems to feel entitled to forgo paying his dues in the workforce (even though Carly encourages him to do so for his benefit.)
A man pulls folded paperwork out of his underwear and places it under Sam's nose.
The massive worldwide success of the Transformers franchise, despite the critical drubbing of the two previous installments, has apparently given director Michael Bay license to do whatever he wants. Because of that, Transformers: Dark of the Moon clocks in at a staggeringly indulgent 154 minutes.
The last hour delivers a nonstop apocalyptic conflagration so unremittingly intense that my CGI-numbed mind struggled to process the chaotic carnage onscreen. And I'm not the only one who felt that way. Bill Goodykoontz, of the Arizona Republic, wrote, "As if realizing he's spent all this money on such spectacular effects, Bay pulls out all the stops in the last act in an orgy of cacophony, pitting shrieking, grinding metal against metal in one incoherent battle after another. By the time it's over you'll be beaten down, pummeled into submission."
Precisely. And let's place extra emphasis on the word incoherent. When cars speedily morph into clashing robots, for example, it's often difficult to differentiate between the scrapping metal personalities enough to tell who's who.
Just as Plugged In reviewer Paul Asay mused after viewing Revenge of the Fallen in 2009, it dawned on me as I sat through this installment's unceasing explosions (not to mention Bay's shameless objectification of Carly, played plastically by newcomer and former Victoria's Secret model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley) that this is what Hollywood believes people want to watch.
And given the billion-and-a-half dollar box office tally of the first two films, this probably won't be the last Transformers film to assault our senses and sensibilities. As Goodykoontz concluded, "Bay's hammering technique works, in a commercial sense. Executive producer Steven Spielberg is the richer for it."
Unfortunately, audiences won't be.