With Shia LaBeouf, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Frances McDormand, John Malkovich, John Turturro, and the voice of Leonard Nimoy; Running Time 154 minutes; Rated PG-13 (for intense prolonged sequences of sci-fi action violence, mayhem and destruction, and for language, some sexuality and innuendo); Written by Ehren Kruger; Directed by Michael Bay.
As TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON lumbers through its two-and-a-half hour running time, one needs something to occupy one’s mind. The script by Ehren Kruger won’t do it. Kruger is one of many people who have done interesting work elsewhere who is slumming – and presumably picking up a hefty paycheck – by doing this empty summer blockbuster.
Nor will the special effects do it. Yes, it’s interesting seeing Chicago destroyed or watching Shia LaBeouf float in midair as his car turns into a Transformer and then back into a car again, with his character returned to his seat. However, special effects are only meaningful when we actually care about what’s going on on-screen, and there’s nothing in this third “Transformers” movie that makes us care about the characters or the life-and-death struggle between – wait, let’s check the notes – yes, between the Autobots and the Decepticons. Often it’s hard to tell which side a particular CGI robot is supposed to be on. Here’s a hint. If it’s trying to turn LaBeouf into hamburger, it’s probably a Decepticon.
Another thing that is not distraction enough is the presence of Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, a Victoria’s Secret model making her debut – and possibly her swan song – replacing Megan Fox. Fox, according to director Michael Bay, was ordered fired from the series by executive producer Steven Spielberg for comparing her director to Hitler. Huntington-Whiteley, who doesn’t quite have the emotional range of the robots, makes Fox look like Meryl Streep by comparison.
No, what’s surprising is who else is in the cast. There are some people here who have no business being in a movie like this who apparently were offered a price they could not resist. The most obvious surprises are Frances McDormand, as a haughty national security advisor, and John Malkovich, in what amounts to a cameo as Sam Witwicky’s (LaBeouf) employer. Patrick Dempsey plays a rich rival to Sam. Several actors seem to be part of the “Transformers” stock company including Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson and John Turturro. Alan Tudyk turns up as Turturro’s assistant. More amazing is the fact that Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, the actual second man on the moon, turns up playing himself to advance the plot point that there’s a hidden Autobot stash on the moon.
Then there’s Leonard Nimoy. Nimoy announced his “retirement” after a final appearance on the TV show “Fringe.” He then appeared as an animated version of his character. And now he turns up as the voice of Sentinel Prime, the Autobots’ leader. He’s like the diva who goes on a series of farewell appearances. By the time he’s quoting a famous line attributed to his Spock character from “Star Trek,” you may have decided that both Nimoy and the filmmakers have taken leave of their senses.
“Transformers: Dark Of The Moon” is critic-proof. There’s nothing any critic can say that will prevent people who have been eagerly anticipating it from going to see it, nor convince anyone who has already dismissed the very thought of buying a ticket into changing their mind. So this is for the record: 1) Michael Bay is not subtle; 2) This is a terrible movie; and, 3) You will feel will your IQ dropping as you watch it, like a hangover from lead-laden bathtub moonshine. Nonetheless, it will make a lot of money, and a fourth film is not out of the question (though it may be without LaBoeuf), and if you go to see it and leave the theater grousing, you will have no one to blame but yourself.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books, the most recent being Jar Jar Binks Must Die… And Other Observations About Science Fiction Movies. He teaches film at Suffolk University and lives in Somerville.