As a director, Michael Bay is constantly criticized for his lacking ability to actually direct actors but he is also a cinematic maestro when it comes to crafting action sequences. His run on the Transformers series has not done anything to change this perception of him and after Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen even Bay himself acknowledged that his storytelling was sub-par and vowed to do better. Transformers: Dark of the Moon is the result of that effort and it is kind of a mixed bag.
Dark of the Moon delivers a surprisingly effective setup for the events that unfold, starting 50 plus years ago with an alien spacecraft crashing on the moon being the trigger point for the historic space race. In a fascinating opening sequence that cuts together historic footage and computer generated scenes the race to the moon unfolds in rapid fashion before our very eyes, culminating with the Apollo 11 moon landing, which secretly had a primary objective of exploring the spacecraft. All of this of course ties back to the Transformers inhabiting Earth, specifically to the Autobots led by Optimus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen).
Sadly the story does not focus solely on the mysterious ship from the Transformer home world of Cybertron and after the opening sequence viewers are forced to endure the Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) show. Everyone’s least favorite human interloper is having a tough time dealing with the fact that well… no one cares that he was involved in two massive alien conflicts. He does have a beautiful new girlfriend though. Victoria Secret model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley quickly makes everyone forget that Megan Fox once held a major role in the series. Unfortunately she can not make us forget that Sam is the primary focus of these films.
The inclusion of Sam and the primary focus on him is understandable, after all a human character in the primary role is an easily relatable anchor for the series. The problem with Sam is that he is a terrible character and most scenes involving him are cringe inducing. His whiny nature worked in the first film when he was perceived as a socially awkward kid but two films later he is all grown up and his whiny behavior is unbecoming and annoying. The amount of time Dark of the Moon spends on Sam trying to prove that he is important nearly kills the film.
Fortunately for viewers whenever the focus is off Sam, it is firmly on robot action. Bay is in top form when he turns on the action nozzle with Dark of the Moon featuring some of the most exhilarating sequences ever put to film. The film runs a staggering 154 minutes and the final 60 are non-stop,edge of your seat action sequences. And just when you think that things can’t get any more crazy, Bay rips a skyscraper in half and you know it is only just beginning.
The last hour of the film does a great job of masking the fact that while Dark of the Moon is better than Revenge of the Fallen from a storytelling capacity it is all really just a shell to let Michael Bay blow things up in spectacular fashion. The thing is, Bay is arguably the best at doing what he does and people, including myself, want to see him do it. However I also want Bay to deliver a complete package and Dark of the Moon is not that film. It is what it is and it is an exhilarating ride but one can not help but look at the inspired opening sequence and think that this film could have been so much more.
3 out of 5.