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'Transformers 3 Dark of the Moon' Review: Shia Labeouf Shines in Michael Bay's Latest Effort

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Transformers: Dark of the Moon essentially evokes two distinct feelings: boredom and sheer numbness. Michael Bay’s action opus is certainly an improvement on the terrible second installment (though that’s faint praise) but Transformers is still a bloated, loud, endless experience.Transformers dark of the moon

The story for Dark of the moon plays like something ripped out of the tabloid newspapers in the supermarket. Apparently, Buzz Aldrin’s historic man on the moon adventure was not as it seemed back in 1969. While America watched the Apollo 11 mission, what wasn’t televised was far more scandalous, according to screenwriter Ehren Kruger (who now thinks he’s Oliver Stone).

According to the film, many years back there was an alien spaceship that crashed on the moon, and the astronauts were forced to cover up the findings and never speak of it again. That ship belonged to the Autobots, friendly machines that were at war with the evil Decepticons over their planet Cybertron. When the war went south and it looked as if evil would prevail, the Autobot ship tried to escape, only to crash land on the moon, harboring their leader Sentinel Prime (voiced by Leonard Nimoy).

Flash forward to present day, where wreckage from that ship has found its way to earth in the form of orbs. The numerous orbs, when activated by Sentinel Prime, can create a black hole in outer space where objects can pass in and out of Earth at will. When the Autobots (who now work with the U.S Military) learn of this, alarms go off, as they warn that the orbs will mark the end of humanity if the Decepticons get a hold of them. Thus the race is on to retrieve Sentinel, who is only robot that can activate the orbs.

transformers dark of the moon

Confused yet? No worries, our sprightly hero Sam (Shia LaBeouf) is here to save the day and simplify all the geek talk for a mass audience. Since the last outing, Sam was dumped by Mikaela (Megan Fox), landed a new British hottie Carly (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley) and now is in desperate search of a job despite the rocky economy. When the Decepticons unleash their unholy plan to open a portal to the moon and bring in legions of robots to destroy Chicago, he’s once again wrapped up in the fight for human survival.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon plays out pretty much as expected, though the overly long setup is quite the drag. Michael Bay is up to his same old tricks, throwing endless slo-motion shots at the screen, and so much overloaded mayhem in the second half that this critic’s head started to throb. No one can knock Bay for his stunning visual eye, but he still favors style over substance on a grand scale.  Screenwriter Ehren Kruger fares better, still providing some of that cringe-worthy dialogue that the series is now accustomed to, but with a story that is far better rounded than the other two installments.

The acting is almost an afterthought if it hadn’t been for Shia Labeouf’s positively manic performance. Both physically and mentally, Labeouf dives headfirst into the film, and remains the most comfortable here, having two previous films under his belt. John Turturro makes a nice impact as returning cast member Simmons, while academy award winning actress Frances Mcdormand, as the shrill head of U.S. security, is one note and wasted.

New love interest Carly (Rosie Huntingdon-Whiteley) was a Victoria Secret’s model, and that’s even more apparent when she tries to act. That’s hardly an issue however, as Bay’s camera is more interested in her physical assets than her talent.

The real star of Transformers 3 is the special effects, which are breathtaking. The blend of cgi and practical effects is seamless and top of the line all around. The 3-D medium, which can prove irritating, is utilized well here, enhancing the film rather than feeling tacked on. The robot designs could awaken the giddy 12 year old boy in anyone, with one terrifying robot worm that provides some of the few jaw dropping moments.

Despite the effects, Transformers: Dark of the Moon is endless and exhausting. It’s a two and a half hour film that feels like five hours. Bay does manage to wedge in the requisite escapist summer thrills, but the whole thing is too over the top, empty, and abrasive to be thoroughly enjoyable. It’s time to put this box of toys in the attic for a while.

Contact Jim Teti at jteti@philly2philly.com

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Pictures Courtesy of Dreamworks