Review – Transformers: Dark of the Moon

You know a director has made a mark on the world when cinemagoers coin a new phrase to describe their style of filmmaking. The urban dictionary* defines “Bayhem” as, “the cinematic conceit of blowing shit up on a large scale, in slow motion and (usually) at sunset. A portmanteau word employing the concept of the inevitable incendiary mayhem employed by uberhack Michael Bay in lieu of characters, a script or a pube’s-weight of reality.”

‘Transformers: Dark of the Moon’ is the latest blockbuster from director Michael Bay who has steered every film in the ‘Transformers’ franchise since 2007, and the third film in the series features a heavy doses of “Bayhem”, but after the experience new words may need to be invented such as “Bay-pocalypse”, “Bays-ploitation” and “Bay-sastrous”.

In ‘Transformers: Dark of the Moon’ Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) and his girlfriend Carly (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley) get tangled up in the intergalactic war between the good Autobots and the evil Decepticons – two tribes of transforming robots. The plot kicks off with a government conspiracy being uncovered, involving the 1969 Apollo 11 moon landing and a crashed alien spacecraft.

‘Transformers: Dark of the Moon’ features mind blowing special effects, great sound design and a select number good action scenes but everything else is a mess with terrible dialogue, plotting, performances and exhausting battle sequences.

The good thing to come out of ‘Transformers: Dark of the Moon’ is the outstanding work of special effects studio Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) and Digital Domain. There is a mind boggling number of special effects shots and every one is a pure piece of eye candy. The robots look amazing and the transformations are a moving work of art. The effects shots are so good that you can’t tell where the practical effects finish and the digital effects begin – a great achievement from the team at ILM and Digital Domain.
Further bringing the robots to life is a fantastic sound design that is an audio delight of all different robotic sounds. During the transformations you can hear every moving part crunching and every character has a unique sound.

The performances are dull with the exception of LaBeouf who is charismatic enough to hold your attention and seems to be the only one embracing the “Bayhem” of the film. The rest of the cast take themselves too seriously with great actors like John Malkovich and Frances McDormand wasted in minor roles. Ken Jeong and John Turturro are stuck churning out humour that appeals to the lowest common denominator. Josh Duhamel and Tyrese Gibson are on bland- fist- pumping- action hero duty, while Patrick Dempsey tries his hand at breaking the ‘nice guy’ persona he has built up, but just comes across as a cheesy villain that would feel more at home in a Spanish soap opera. Taking out the award for worst performance, however, is Victoria’s Secret model turned actor, Huntington-Whitley, who would make most porn stars feel better about their acting prospects with this effort. She swans around the film looking beautiful but as soon as she tries any attempt that resembles acting you feel like the gates of hell might burst open and drag us all down for letting her give it a go in the first place. Hunting-Whitley does send a positive message to kids – despite the absence of any true talent, your good looks and pillow sized lips will get you anywhere…school and universities are for suckers.

On the direction front Michael Bay does deliver the goods with a few great action sequences. The problem is there are far too many of them and they drag on forever, you almost get explosion fatigue. If you love action movies you might be excited at this prospect but it’s kind of like someone giving you a whole chocolate cake to eat all by yourself and then forcing you to eat five more cakes. The action in any film should push the story forward and not just be there for the sake of it. Due to the thin nature of the plot the action comes across as pointless, but that is not what Bay is about. Bay is a visually driven director whose speciality is blowing everything up while making it look as slick as possible. While that may be enough for some, those explosive moments mean nothing when you don’t care about the characters or plot.

I respect Bay for making a film like ‘Transformers: Dark of the Moon’, making action films by all accounts is a tedious process and I don’t think people fathom how close Bay must be to insanity. That said, I believe ‘Transformers: Dark of the Moon’ comprehensively proves Bay is actually just a television commercial director pretending to be a feature director. He excels at delivering great visuals for 30 and 60-second blocks but he can’t seem to connect the dots across a film that almost lasts three hours. The memorable parts of ‘Transformers: Dark of the Moon’ are those thrilling 60-second action sequences that blow your mind, the other 156 minutes are a mess. Bay needs to spend as much time on plot and characters as he does on the visuals. The plot has potential in the beginning with a lot of intrigue involving conspiracy surrounding the 1969 Apollo 11 moon landing, but it loses all its pep when the “Bayhem” kicks in.

‘Transformers: Dark of the Moon’ is a visual feast of special effects and some good action sequences but its heavy reliance on visuals lets everything else fall to the wayside, absolutely “Bay-sastrous”.


The Popcorn Junkie

* “Bayhem” defined