Transformers 3 Dark of the Moon opened in eye-catching fashion, with Optimus Prime – voiced by the great Peter Cullen – narrating the ending days of the Autobot-Decepticon war on their planet Cybertron.
It was a wonderfully-rendered CGI masterpiece; a mechanically-detailed home-world under fire from a myriad of turrets and other, more alien weaponry.
The Autobots had a “last-hope” ship, carrying a secret cargo (the space pillars, as we’ll learn later) which was meant to make it elsewhere, away from the carnage wrought by the winning side – the Decepticons.
Unfortunately, a spiraling weapon straight out of science-fiction, launched by the Decepticons after the ship, would damage it severely, causing it to crash-land onto Earth’s moon after untold years through space.
Humans monitored the crash with…and this is where things start to go awry with the story. Humans hadn’t yet been to the moon, so how could they detect anything crashing on the moon?
Asteroids and meteors crash there all the time, as it is. With no monitoring equipment, there’s no way they would know this information!
Nonetheless, we excuse that foible to get on with Transformers the Dark of the Moon.
The journey tied in to the Space Program’s historic first-landing of a man on the moon, at which point they discover Sentinel Prime’s forlorn body inside an alien ship from Cybertron.
The information is reported to Control back on earth, and our human story commences.
The next scene introduces the enviable body of the Megan Fox replacement, the model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, who plays Sam’s (reprised by actor Shia Labeouf) new girlfriend Carly.
We learn a bit about Sam’s life and his new-found, rather unlikable hero-complex.
He is jobless after college, and wishes the world appreciates him more than the paid-for Ivy League tuition and presidential award he received for his part in the previous Transformers.
They banter in a few scenes meant to be cute and informative while Sam awaits the arrival of his parents; but, the domestic scenes leave us wondering if there will be enough screen time for the robots.
In comes Sam Witwicky’s mother (played by actress Julie White), whose character in the movie may very well be plagued by Revenge of the Fallen’s entirely overdone comedic role.
It’s rather unfortunate, because her humor isn’t nearly as overdone as some might lead you to believe, it’s just that the history of her character persists, and not to good effect.
Although there weren’t any more weed cookies and scenes of her tackling (assaulting) college Frisbee throwers, you get the feeling this was only because there weren’t any around, not because her character was any more under control. At least her screen time was significantly reduced.
In the time since Megatron and the Decepticons’ defeat, Cybertronian technology has been incorporated into many Earth systems.
In Transformers 3 Dark of the Moon, Energon powers cities and aids defense systems, and the Autobots are dedicated to aiding humans fight other humans – which of course, just means they’re helping the United States against her enemies!
Which all happen to be Arab-sounding terrorists, which is fairly indicative of the times.
On a side note, Bumblebee appears to have matured physically, in the only way one would expect a robot to be able to do so: he looks awesome!
More like a tank than a car, his alt-mode supports the unfurling of cannons from every conceivable crevice in his chassis, which is definitely a new ability. Despite this, the Transformers are always on the lookout for the inevitable emergence of the Decepticons.
The appearance of their age-old enemy is obviously not long in coming, since a movie called “Transformers” couldn’t possibly subsist on alien robots blasting terrorist guard-posts for two-and-a-half hours (we have Jason Bourne for that).
Fittingly, the stomping grounds of the Decepticons would be someplace that humans couldn’t easily go – Chernobyl (Chernobyl exists in real life; it is a nuclear facility that underwent a radioactive catastrophe and is uninhabitable even to this day).
So the human NEST team in Transformers 3, led of course by the promoted Lennox (played by Josh Duhamel) ends up in Chernobyl with an Energon detector, looking for some (bad) Transformers, on a tip given to them by a human who will turn out to have been a double agent. “Have been” a double-agent is the operative word here, as he is killed by a Dragon-like Transformer called Laserbeak.
As for the human soldiers from NEST, the Transformer they run into is by far the biggest one yet: Driller, Shockwave Transformer’s pet metallic planet-worm. How big is it? It will later wrap itself around skyscrapers and break them in half.
Optimus Prime arrives on the scene to take on Driller in their first encounter. And my; does Optimus come in style!
His previously useless semi-trailer box now converts into a Cybertronian weapons depot, from which the Autobot leader arms himself with a shield and Energon blade capable of cutting through just about anything.
Optimus succeeds in beating Driller Transformer into temporary submission, sending both Driller and his master Shockwave back underground. Additionally, we find out that the object NEST was looking for in Chernobyl was an ancient engine part to a ship from Cybertron.
Cut to Sam on his job hunt. We sit through some more scenes of humor – some of which worked, some of which didn’t, ALL of which were collectively too long – of the distinctly unlikable main human character.
It is filled with his incessant complaints about his lot in life, until we get back on track with the story – whatever that might be.
The place where Sam finally ends up working is in an office headed by John Malkovich’s character.
As usual, everything about his role is over-the-top, but thankfully, it is merely yet another stop on the way to what there is of a plot in Transformers 3.
The scene-time here would have been better used to show Bumblebee or Ironhide doing something. It’s almost as though the film-makers had attention-deficit-disorder, and couldn’t focus on a tangible script.
Either that, or five different writers submitted their parts without regard to what each other was doing. After a spell of Sam-centered “job interviews”, we get to meet the Transformers again in all their robotic glory.
They’re standing around and having at it with the Director of National Intelligence, (Marissa Faireborn, played by actress Frances McDormand) regarding a secret kept by the humans from them.
After a well-deserved and heart-warming cameo by Buzz Aldrin, to whom Optimus Prime echoes the sentiments of everyone in the movie theater, saying “It’s an honor to meet you”; the secret is revealed.
The Apollo space program discovered the Autobot Ark Starship on the Moon, and classified it above top-secret for all those years.
So now, we at least know what the goal of either side is in Transformers the Dark of the Moon.
Dark of the Moon willfully and cluelessly takes another strange ten-minute diversion into Sam’s life, when he goes to pick up his girlfriend Carly from her rich bosses office, where their first meeting is not very good.
The boss Dylan – played by actor Patrick Dempsey – seemed to have little purpose in the movie, except to make Carly’s role relevant.
He would hold her hostage later in an entirely superfluous side-plot, which accomplished absolutely nothing that wouldn’t have transpired in its absence.
The mighty (formerly, given his current state) Megatron makes his debut, downgraded from his one-of-a-kind Cybertronian flying tank, to a still-formidable truck of some kind.
Apparently, Optimus Prime’s damage to his face caused more problems than he envisioned.
Either that or the script-writers felt it was time for a change (!). Megatron’s short scene consisted of little more than a chance to see his new alt-mode, an update from the dragon-like Decepticon Laserbeak, and the first appearance of Starscream, groveling as usual.
More humor at the office with actor Ken Jeong (Jerry “Deep” Wang), who’s a double agent who had a change of heart and tried to “do right.”
And then of course Sam gets him killed by bursting into his office to unwittingly tell the listening Decepticon precisely what Jerry (Deep Wang) had been trying to keep from their ears (Laserbeak was hiding in desktop computer form on Jerry’s desk). Once Sam leaves, Laserbeak kills Jerry. Oh well.
Sam escapes from the building as Laserbeak chases him through the office, and gets to a place where he knows the Transformers are secretly residing.
After some serious overacting with the guards – it wasn’t Shia’s fault, it was the script – angry Sam finally gets a meeting with his Autobot friends.
After a rough first meeting between Sam and the Director of National Intelligence, Optimus reinvigorates Sentinel Prime’s long-dead body.
They bring him up to speed, and we learn that Sentinel Prime saved five space-time Pillars, which form a space-bridge that only Sentinel can operate. It is capable of transporting huge amounts of stuff from one place to another, no matter how distant.
During the whole fracas with McDormand, it becomes startlingly clear how much better chemistry there was between the departed Mikaela (actress Megan Fox) and Same (Shia), than Carly (Rosie).
It is a shame for the many fans of the franchise in general, that something wasn’t worked out to bring her back; although by all accounts, her departure was largely in her hands. Mikaela was simply much more believable as an action heroine for this particular movie franchise.
In comes the former Sector 7 head Mr. Simmons. It’s always good to see John Turturro, the actor who plays him. Sam calls him and fills him in, after yet another distracting humorous scene that the movie might’ve done without.
Turturro, Sam and a few other largely useless humans go searching for former Russian cosmonauts, who seem to have inexplicably turned into Russian mobsters or something.
Turturro’s assistant, Dutch (played by Alan Tudyk), turns into a ninja and pretty much fights the lot of them – fulfilling the human-oriented action quota of the film – until they can sit down amicably and hash out what the Decepticons are up to.
It turns out that the entire thing has been a set-up; the Decepticons have hundreds of space-pillars, as opposed to the paltry five in the possession of the human intelligence and Autobot coalition.
The real reason behind all the Decepticon-scheming was to manufacture a way for Optimus Prime to find Sentinel, because only a Prime can revive a Prime. Only Sentinel can work the space bridge, and so the traitor must be revived.
Sentinel Prime had made a deal with Megatron because he felt it was the only way to preserve their home planet Cybertron.
Without much fanfare, Sentinel ends Ironhide’s life with unexpected cannon blasts to the shoulders and head. Yes; you read that right: In Transformers 3, Ironhide the grizzled veteran Autobot is dead.
After such a monumental Dark of the Moon scene, we are pulled kicking and screaming into yet another episode in the life of Sam, and his mother’s penchant for saying the word “shit”.
After this tiresome comedic diversion, we are shuttled back to the Transformers.
It turns out that Sentinel Prime had betrayed the Autobots long, long ago, and his ship had crashed on the moon in the process of his defection from the Autobot ranks.
Optimus Prime arrives in time to see Sentinel opening the space bridge to the moon, where many Decepticons – in a completely inexplicable incident; have all those robots been on the moon for millenia, underground?
Although; come to think of it, Megatron was frozen for tens-of-thousands of years in the Arctic, so maybe it does make sense in Transformers-logic – arise from beneath the moon dust, and begin transporting themselves to earth by jumping into the portal that opens up.
Optimus and Sentinel have a short battle, which Optimus loses; Sentinel walks away, with Optimus vowing revenge for his betrayal of all that is good and right.
Dylan, Carly’s boss, finally reveals his nefarious nature, as a traitor – what is it with this Dark of the Moon and traitors – and exposes that he was never on the side of the humans; in fact, he was born into it.
The Decepticons had made Dylan’s father, who was head of a division of NASA, use budget maneuvering to keep man out of space and the moon. Dylan inherited this responsibility, and has been continuing his father’s bout with high treason since his birth.
They capture Carly and outfit Sam with a fool-proof device to keep him silent about Decepticon plans, while simultaneously eavesdropping on what the Autobots wish to do.
With the small Decepticon-watch attached to his central nervous system and able to send jolts of pain whenever he even thinks about trying to spill their secret, Sam is sent back to the Autobots, where he learns, much to his chagrin, that the Autobots are being forced to leave via the spaceship Xantium.
While there, we meet the Wreckers (an Autobot surgical strike team of skilled Transformers – rather like the robot version of the Navy Seals) for the first time, halfway through the film.
We also run into former lieutenant Gibson, who is now an independent contractor, and who we fully expect to eventually re-don the battle gear and team back up with Lennox to fight the Transformers. At the very least, Dark of the Moon owes us that, right!?
Sam talks with Optimus and the seemingly immortal voice of Peter Cullen rings loud and true. He is forced by the central-nervous-system-altering robot to ask Optimus Prime about the Autobot’s plans, so that it could be relayed back to the Decepticons.
In what was the only evidence of real strategy in Transformers 3, Optimus tells him a lie, unbeknownst to neither Sam nor the listening Decepticons.
Shortly thereafter, after a heartwarming parting between Sam and Bumblebee, the Xanthium takes to the sky…where it is met head-on by Starscream, in full flight.
He sends missiles through the great ship, destroying it completely. The Autobots are dead!?
With some more silly dialogue (Sam wonders why Gibson, a former soldier and friend, is helping him. What a laughable question. Why not would have made more sense), Sam and Gibson start on the search for Carly.
The incredibly stupid Dylan is shocked as the Decepticon minions begin taking over the city, blasting people into dust on sight and wreaking general havoc.
He amazingly doesn’t seem to realize that his use is completely spent; the Decepticons simply don’t need the cover of deception any longer.
He nonetheless makes it safely into a building, still inexplicably guarding Sam’s girlfriend Carly, who isn’t the key to anything at this point.
In the next scene of importance, we are shown Sam and Epps, with a handful of his old NEST contacts.
They are out in the open on the outskirts of Chicago, where evil alien ships are flying around not too far away from them, talking loudly about not going to get Carly, as it is simply too dangerous.
Since they are out in the open, it isn’t all that surprising when one of the Decepticon robot-ships spots them, and comes blazing away, causing them to finally understand the need for cover.
Before the Decepticon ship kills all members of the hapless band, it is downed by a single huge bullet from…none other than Optimus Prime, in what should have been a dramatic scene, and would have been, had Dark of the Moon been a good movie that made you care about the characters.
It was a nonetheless refreshing scene to see the ages-old Autobot walk onto the scene, and apply the finishing blow to the writhing Decepticon, even as he explained to Sam that it was all a trick; they knew the Decepticons had to see them die in order to have the element of surprise.
The Wreckers arrive on the scene and literally tear the remaining evil robot apart, with just their bare hands.
Shortly thereafter, Bumblebee and Mirage Transformer arrive on the scene, and the crew readies for the final series of battles.
Bumblebee gets into the flying robot ship with which the now dead Decepticon minions had originally attacked, along with the remaining human soldiers and Sam; they fly directly into the protected city in the enemy ship, undetected.
Sam jumps out of the ship into the building and finds Carly; Laserbeak attacks him and nearly kills him. During the ensuing battle, Sam escapes with Carly and kills Laserbeak by thrusting Megatron’s loyal pet’s head into the flames from the robot ship.
It would turn out – somewhat implausibly – that this would not be the last mighty Decepticon that Sam would kill without the aid of much in the way of a weapon.
Everyone rallies at the heroic acts of the little crew and speed towards the now infiltrated city, in an attempt to get to the space-pillars and stop the Decepticons from bringing the entire planet Cybertron into Earth-space.
Although they still managed to have far too little screen time in Dark of the Moon, the Wreckers were front and center during the assault on Chicago.
Here, they used their souped-up alt-modes to provide cover fire as Sam, Carly (why Carly, I don’t know. Heck; why Sam, I don’t know) ran into the city alongside the speeding Autobots to begin the final attack.
In one of the coolest scenes in an action movie this year, Lennox and his soldiers used special suits to sky-glide into the city by air.
Dark of the Moon’s ultimate minion surfaces when several seconds later, we are reintroduced to Shockwave’s pet, Driller. The subterranean monstrosity barrels its way through earth and concrete as easily as a knife through butter, and actually cuts a skyscraper in half while trying to kill Sam and crew inside the building.
Finally, as it just about nearly accomplishes this, Optimus – who’s found a jetpack from somewhere, unsheathes his mighty Energon blades and cuts off Driller’s head (or what passes for a head on a metallic earthworm from Cybertron). Shockwave finally fires off his big cannon, striking Optimus in a decidedly unimpressive blast, given the size of the gun. Optimus is temporarily trapped as the Wreckers scoot to the rescue.
Yet another dire problem arises in the final half-hour of this hour-long action scene: Starscream, himself, runs down Sam and Carly, and essentially fights Sam to the death, as unbelievable as that may sound. It’s even more implausible watching it, however.
Sam killed the star-traveling Decepticon second-in-demand with a grappling hook…albeit a Cybertronian grappling hook.
Just imagine what Optimus Prime could do with one of those, if a human can kill a Decepticon with it. Frankly, this was just extremely poor and unimaginative writing.
With the space-time pillars already released and the process of warping Cybertron underway, Lennox and Epps meet up for the first time and prepare to try and shoot down the main pillar.
Elsewhere, some of the Autobots have been captured. Bumblebee and Brain are readied for execution, which is strange, as Bumblebee’s weapons are in not in any way incapacitated.
Dylan urges Barricade to shoot-to-kill, and Brain is shot dead. As luck would have it, Wheelie and Autobot Que strip apart one of the largest Decepticon ships in the sky, and some of the parts fall down on the Decepticon Soundwave even as it had a cannon pointed to Bumblebee’s head, giving Bee the time he needed to decide to reengage his captor.
He of course succeeds in blowing the bad-bot apart. Unfortunately for Wheelie and Que, they are unable to escape from the falling robot-ship in time, and perish at the conclusion of their heroic act.
Battle scenes involving inspired human soldier action, in which they succeed in killing around 4 Decepticons without Autobot aid – who are arriving on the scene late, as usual; which is strange because they’re all cars, right – leading up to the awesome sight of a barren Cybertron phasing into Earth’s atmosphere under the tech-support of Sentinel Primes space-time bridge.
Optimus reenters the scene spectacularly, jet-packing in and doing what it usually takes 5 Autobots to do – killing Decepticons left and right, as he plows relentlessly toward Shockwave.
It isn’t much of a battle once he gets there; Shockwave, despite the promise of the many Transformers trailers leading up to Dark of the Moon, is nowhere near Prime’s level in hand-to-hand combat. The de-facto leader of the Decepticons is killed in two blows, without getting his gun off once.
Sentinel Prime, his space-pillars now on autopilot, slowly drawing the planet Cybertron out of space-time and into Earth’s own space-time, leaps down to engage the rampaging Optimus Prime. He has, after all, been the only single enemy that has posed any real threat whatsoever to the Autobot leader in the entire movie, besting him twice already without killing him.
The last battle between the two Primes, one fallen and one always risen, begins. Optimus unleashes a brilliant Energon battle axe from his chassis and attacks the traitor, driving the elder Prime backwards into rubble. Prime, momentarily stunned, drives him back with a kick and flashes his Cybertanium lance and huge shield.
Sentinel displays the fighting skill for which it appears all Primes are known, shrugging off attacks by the rest of the Autobots as they look for opportunities to jump into the battle when Optimus and Sentinel are parted.
While this is going on, Dylan commits an act higher than high treason, by reactivating the stalled space pillar, which had been knocked down in one of the numerous battles going on all around it.
In an atrocious disregard of the laws of physics, the stalled planet, which had been hovering in a noncommittal mode above the earth, regained confidence and started encroaching on Earth’s space-time
Optimus and Sentinel are steadily going at it…until once again Sentinel Prime gets the upper hand and wrenches Optimus’ arm off with his gigantic sword.
While he is preparing the final blow, Megatron, his courage questioned by Carly – she called him Sentinel’s bitch, in an exchange surely written by a male screenwriter – comes out of nowhere, blasting directly at Sentinel all the while.
Megatron fells Sentinel, incapacitating him but not killing him, and a one-armed Optimus experiences a surge of resolve and attacks his oldest enemy.
In the background, the humans – Sam, of course – have finally stopped the space-pillar and caused Cybertron to disappear for good from Terran realm.
Maintaining battle-consistency throughout the film, Optimus completely annihilates Megatron, rending him into oblivion with his new Energon Axe. There’s no mistaking Megatron’s death this time.
Prime listens to his cries for nary more than a second before he sends the formerly great Prime on his way to meet Megatron in the robot afterlife.
I consider this to be the closing scene in Dark of the Moon, as the cheesy ending between Sam and Carly doesn’t resonate due to their lack of chemistry for the past two-and-a-half hours.
The promises of a better script notwithstanding, Transformers 3 Dark of the Moon not only didn’t live up to its billing, it only barely edged-out its awful predecessor, Revenge of the Fallen.
The movie was far too long for such insubstantial relationships as were present, and character motivations were dubious, at best.
Attention to detail was nonexistent anywhere except in the wonderfully-rendered Transformers, themselves; and the only reason why yet another sequel will make its way into theaters within 2-3 years is because Dark of the Moon just grossed over a billion bucks worldwide. Yikes.