'Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon' Review: In a Word .... Awful

In 1962, John F. Kennedy noted that "We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard..." However, according to “Transformers: Dark of the Moon,” the actual reason we went to the moon was to investigate a "Transformer" crash-landing there. Unfortunately, the film's focus on rewriting history is one of the very few good things about the third installment in this tired series.

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Both this installment and the "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" have made me question my enjoyment of the original. I’ve seen "Transformers" since it arrived in theaters but now that I’ve seen the sequels it spawned, it’s hard to explain how the filmmakers went so wrong in what could have been a fun and exciting series. Both sequels are overlong affairs, completely devoid of excitement or intrigue.

“Dark of the Moon” begins with a strong action sequence in space showing the battle for Cybertron. With 3D glasses, this battle and several other action sequences are impressive. Reminiscent of the battle sequence from the original “Star Wars,” this scene shows what can be done with the use of strong special effects and 3D.

Soon enough, the story begins rewriting history. Intermixed with clips of actors playing Presidents Nixon and Kennedy, real footage shows the former presidents talk about our nation's first trip to the moon but the film argues that our goals on the moon were far different than what was stated publicly. Like in “X-Men,” an alternate reality is created using real-life events to supplement the story and in both stories, this alternate history lesson works well. Unfortunately, neither the strong special effects or rewriting history can overcome the story's shortcomings.



When Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) arrives onscreen, the story goes downhill quickly. Sam is a recent college graduate who, after surviving the events of the first two films, is searching for a job that is worthy of a man who received a medal from President Obama for saving the planet. Sam is living with his girlfriend, Carly (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley), who is first seen walking up a flight of stairs in her underwear. That's all of the character development we get from her; she's only onscreen to be Sam's love interest and, inevitably, to find herself in danger. Surprisingly enough, Megan Fox is missed in this installment. At least, she was able to create a character in the first film.

As usual, the Decepticons are up to no good as they plan to overrule the Earth and Sam and his friends have to unite to stop them. Unfortunately, the plot spends much of its time meandering around with useless story-lines and unnecessary characters so that when the story finally gets moving, it's hard to get excited. With weak dialogue and a running time of over two and a half hours, "Transformers 3" could have easily been edited down to a more manageable running time of two hours. Instead, director Michael Bay chooses to fill the film with silly characters and bad dialogue.

At one point, Sam says to his girlfriend "I just want to matter." In movies like this, none of the characters really matter. It's all about the special effects and cars fighting against each other. I enjoyed some of the excellent special effects, a few neat cameos and the rewriting history aspect of the film. Unfortunately, everything else feels like a waste.

If Sam really wanted to matter, he wouldn't be spending his time in a "Transformers" movie.

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