It’s been little over a week since the release of “Transformers: Dark of the Moon,” and you would swear the film has been out for a couple months. The film has topped worldwide box office charts, shattered the July 4 weekend box office record set by “Spiderman 2” and will probably be the highest-grossing film of 2011 in just under two weeks.
This is perhaps why the actual film is so hard to consume only a week later, because had it not become the mega-blockbuster it already is, it may be easier to appreciate what a failure it is as a piece of popular entertainment.
It’s hard to say that the “Transformers” franchise is one that has delivered diminishing returns with every outing since the original in 2007. While the initial “Transformers” film offered visceral thrills and tension-filled action set pieces, it completely forgot about story, dialogue and everything else that makes a good movie.
At the time, this was passable, but that was before the complete mess that was the film’s sequel “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.” While director Michael Bay claims that many of the movie’s faults were because the screenplay was rushed into production following the 2007-08 writer’s strike, it’s hard to believe that a film with so much blockbuster potential couldn’t have been tweaked significantly before its release.
The first “Transformers” sequel suffered from laziness and a need to simply churn out an inferior product that would perform well financially. While “Transformers” lacked many of the fundamentals of a narrative, its sequel pretty much gave up on trying to have a solid structure altogether.
With “Transformers: Dark of the Moon,” Bay and screenwriter Ehren Kruger learned from the critical beating of the series’ previous installment, but decided to reinvent the wheel of mediocrity all over again.
Many audiences rely on the “Transformers” films to simply deliver explosions and spectacle for their hard-earned cash, and while this film does have a few notable action scenes, everything in between is completely vile.
Bay has been in the crosshairs of many critics for his blatant misogyny, homophobia and outright negative attitude towards any sort of alternative lifestyle – well, things don’t get much better in “Dark of the Moon.”
With scenes of female lead Rosie Huntington-Whitely being compared to the “sleek curves” of an automobile and Alan Tudyk showing up to play a nondescript assistant who perpetuates gay stereotypes, there is a lot to be offended by in this installment.
Many filmgoers will argue the movie is critic-proof, and judging by its enormous financial success, it certainly is, but why should audiences settle for a film like this?
It’s clear that Bay and executive producer Steven Spielberg know the audience well. Spielberg is a major name in the movie business because he knows audiences, and “Transformers” is tugging at the wallets of video game-addicted teenagers who are the target audience for many modern blockbusters.
A few key action sequences, particularly the final battle in the streets of Chicago, directly reference visuals from video games like “Gears of War” and “Halo.” Clearly, very little effort has gone into even trying to develop something new and different.
While gamers are certainly a big part of the “Transformers” audience, the films have always tried to appeal to a very broad demographic. The inclusion of performers Frances McDormand and John Turturro try to draw out the cine-philes, while appearances by Ken Jeong and Tudyk try to entice comedy nerds.
“Transformers: Dark of the Moon” is a success because ultimately it finds the crossovers in its audience. For Bay, if you throw sci-fi, cars, and attractive women at the screen, you’re bound to reel in that 18-34 demographic that film studios love.
All of this lowest common denominator pandering leaves the film feeling completely soulless and dull. While films like “Super 8” and “X-Men: First Class” are able to attract some of those same sorts of crowds, they are able to refrain from the mass-produced feeling of “Transformers: Dark of the Moon.”
Since the film’s release, it’s been brought to the attention of many film bloggers that one of the film’s major action sequences was lifted directly from Bay’s own “The Island.”
In a side-by-side comparison captured by Youtube user Jerman Odremn, it’s clear that more than one frame of a highway chase sequence was lifted directly from the 2005 film. Only this time, the digital effects wizards over at Industrial Light and Magic included a few Transformers in to make it fit this film.
If you needed a better example of the sort of craftsmanship it takes to make a movie like “Transformers: Dark of the Moon,” there you have it.
As the lead Transformer, Optimus Prime gives his trademark narration following the film’s final battle and the screen abruptly cuts to black after about two lines of narration. It’s clear that Bay, much like this franchise, has said all he needed with the Transformers films long ago.
At this point he’s simply doing the millions that flock to theaters a service, and it’s a service that is inadequate and mind-numbingly mediocre. “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” doesn’t just feel unnecessary – it simply feels as if it never really deserved to exist.