Transformers – Dark of the Moon: Having its cake and smashing it

Screen

Struggling under the sheer weight of super-awesomeness emanating from the screen before me, breathless and aghast, I attempt to verbalise my complete and utter ecstasy. Five minutes later I give up, only managing to find satisfaction through a stolen high five from a fellow super-awesome cinema-goer. Our moist palms, lubricated by robot-induced hysteria, meet for but a second, our eyes wide, forever fixed firmly on the screen before us. Ten minutes later I frenziedly scramble to find purchase for my legs which have suddenly turned to jelly as the hardcore robot on robot action becomes a bit too much for me. Twenty minutes later I sit sputtering drool everywhere as the camera pans up some beautifully lit legs, I manage to utter the requisite ‘phwoar’ under my breath before passing out from sensory overload. After two and a half hours I lie comatose, a willing victim of this visceral orgy of awesome. As I awake I fear life will never be the same again. Well, not until the fourth instalment at least.

As much as I don’t wish to cast aspersions (and I do), one cannot help but get the impression that this is what his arrogancy Michael Bay expects of his cinema-going public. Transformers: Dark of the Moon is not so much a film as an ode to excess, it’s Caligula for the 12A blockbuster generation, a pornographic display of computer-generated excellence and casual Maxim-esque pop culture. Things such as ‘acting’, ‘characterisation’ and ‘progressive attitudes to the role of gender in the modern action movie’ most definitely take a back seat to all of the smashing and slow motion ‘splosions.

Well before I get down to reviewing I’m going to make like Michael Bay and quickly dispense with the plot. The film’s opening act plays out the Apollo 11 moon landings with the cleverly tacked on idea that the space race of the 60’s was instigated by the landing of a mysterious alien craft on the dark side of the moon. Cut to the present day and our ever present hero Sam Whitwicky can’t find a job despite saving the world twice already. Sure enough however the evil Decepticons are back and the contents of the strange craft on the moon are soon called to earth. All that matters however is that it ends up with a massive smash-off in Chicago. Job done.

The acting by and large serves its purpose efficiently, facilitating the non-stop, one-note carnage with consummate adequacy, so I’m going to gloss over the majority of the overwhelmingly underwhelming cast to dwell on someone who’s acting skills make Megan Fox look like a more gifted Robert De Niro. Rosie Huntington-Whiteley as love interest Carly delivers what must be one of the most laughable performances I’ve ever seen in a cinema and despite all of the times her relationship with Shia LeBeouf’s Sam is invoked, I must admit to never having been particularly emotionally attached to solid planks of wood, no matter how much lingerie modelling they have supposedly done. One thing that Bay needs to learn is that you can’t varnish a turd, but I think he knows that, and he really doesn’t seem to care.

As was often cited of its predecessor Revenge of the Fallen, the third entry in the franchise seems to have a cold-heart coated by the stifling veneer of commercialism. The director’s pen of box-ticking must runneth dry, ‘hot’ lead girl, ‘hot’ cars, patriotic clichés, just enough violence, swearing and leering camerawork to push the limits of the 12A certificate, funny interludes for the first hour of the film, one long climactic battle with plentiful explosions at the end. Check. It’s all just a shallow exercise in marketing, so the question remains; why did I enjoy it so much?

Something that I begrudgingly admired about the first two Transformers films is that they unashamedly went about their business with a cynicism that was wholly backed up by their professional delivery. Yes, they seemed inherently misogynistic and good God did the action drag on and on, but they committed to their facile ambition and somewhat pulled it off. Transformers: Dark of The Moon represents the best effort of the so-far-so-tedious series so far and the visuals (which are what we’re here for let’s face it) are more astoundingly crafted than ever. The special effects on show are first-rate and some of the action scenes (especially earlier on) are focused and delivered with the sort of dynamism that many directors can only hope for.

What’s more it was occasionally (and surprisingly often, intentionally) really quite funny and against all of my better judgement I left feeling like I had been thoroughly entertained. Features such as cameos from Bill O’Reilly and from Trump Tower as the chosen seat of the more villainous characters are as wryly hilarious as they are at odds with the more imperialistic tendencies of the script. It may come as no surprise therefore that Dark of the Moon comes off as wanting to have its cake and eat it, and by and large it seems to pull it off. It’s ambitions may be childish and puerile, it’s acting mediocre to terrible, and its intentions as cynical as they come, but as a work of sheer unadulterated spectacle I enjoyed it for what it was. I can only ask that you do not judge me too harshly.