With the release of Transformers: Age of Extinction this weekend, I thought that I’d go back a few years and review one of the previous installments in the franchise. Michael Bay’s Transformers movies have been mocked relentlessly ever since the release of the first movie in summer 2007. Although most would argue that the first movie isn’t a complete affront to the art of cinema, the second film, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, and the third installment, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, have been completely lambasted by both critics and filmgoers alike. Despite the poor reception, however, both movies made a killing at the box office. The franchise did so well, in fact, that Dark of the Moon is currently the seventh highest-grossing film of all time. Did the final installment of this “trilogy” (a word that I use with caution, given the new movie being released this weekend) deserve all of the income that it garnered?
In the beginning of Dark of the Moon, the Autobots are performing various tasks around the world to prevent conflicts between the inhabitants of earth. The human hero from the first two movies, Sam Witwicky, played by Shia LaBeouf, is looking for a job while enjoying his time with his new girlfriend Carly, played by Rosie Huntington-Whiteley. When the Autobots learn of a ship called the Ark that crashed into the dark side of earth’s moon in 1961, Optimus Prime and the team go to investigate the site and bring back an old friend, Sentinel Prime, voiced by Leonard Nimoy. The team learns from Sentinel of a way to set up pillars that could easily transport Autobots across galaxies. However, we soon learn that the Autobots’ old nemesis, Megatron, has his own plans for the pillars, and a conflict with a 195 million dollar price tag unfolds.
Despite all of the flaws in this movie, I have to admit that the special effects on display are pretty impressive. Big budget explosions are Michael Bay’s forté, and this film had no shortage in that department. A lot of the action was entertaining, and some of the Decepticon ships in the film’s finale may have even inspired the design of the Chitauri mothership in the conclusion of The Avengers, which was released the summer after Dark of the Moon. If I have to give credit where it’s due, I’ll definitely give the movie some points for keeping me entertained during the high-intensity parts, something that every movie in the installment has achieved to some degree.
My compliments, however, end right there. When there is no action on screen, Dark of the Moon is an incredibly boring movie. I did not care at all about Sam Witwicky’s problems, even in the face of the filmmaker’s insistence on it. There is even a montage of him going to job interviews, a pointless scene that did nothing but waste time in this already bloated script. Carly, her boss, and all of the other human characters are equally uninteresting, and whatever plot there was to this ridiculous summer cash grab was completely lost on me.
It’s also worth pointing out that despite the great visual effects, the direction in the movie was just as mediocre as it was in Revenge of the Fallen. During the movie’s more fast-paced parts, every other scene, it seemed, was in slow-motion. It was neat to see it the first few times that it was used, but after awhile, I was just thinking about how this movie is already two and a half hours long, and that every slo-mo scene was just running the clock. There were also some scenes that cut to black at strange times, perhaps to build suspense about what was to come next. However, instead of accomplishing this, these scenes made the movie feel like a trailer rather than a feature film. Michael Bay and the editors involved with this movie didn’t have the foresight to see that these techniques wouldn’t work well, and we are given a very distracting delivery of what could have been an exciting action flick.
I could go on for hours about the stock characters, mediocre acting, unimaginative art, and jumbled narrative of this movie, but I believe that everyone reading this knows how ridiculous the plot of this entire franchise is. Therein lies the problem, however: despite the fact that we all knew that Dark of the Moon was going to be terrible, it still grossed over one billion dollars at the box office. We knew that it would suck, and yet we bought our tickets to watch the debacle. And yet many good sci-fi movies, such as Edge of Tomorrow, are barely able to make back their budget. I could encourage you all to not see this new Transformers movie this weekend, but that would be pointless; no matter what I say, and no matter what any critic says, this movie is going to make boatloads of cash. It’s a big budget sci-fi film attached to a popular toy brand starring Mark Wahlberg. Nothing can possibly stop Age of Extinction from raking in the dough, so instead, I will ask something else of you: If you must see Bay’s new explosion fest this weekend, please be sure that you support some quality movies this summer, as well. Go give Edge of Tomorrow the kind of ticket sales that it deserved. Go to an indie theater and support some filmmakers who are just trying to make ends meet. Don’t let Bay have all of the glory (and capital) this summer; put your money into good films, as well. We all vote with our dollar, and it’s time that we show Hollywood the kind of movies that we’d like to see more of.