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I’ve already forgotten most of what I saw on the 3D theatre screen for Transformers: Dark of the Moon. But that’s okay, because it was fun while I was there.
The latest instalment in the Michael Bay robot-fighting franchise is as loud, puzzling and cheesy as the first two movies, but there was at least less reliance on a convoluted plot and more on getting to the action pieces – and let’s face it, that why we’re there, right?
The movie starts off with a re-imagining of why America started the Moon race back in the 60′s – they discovered a mysterious object had crashed on the dark side of the moon and had to get there before the Russians. Of course, the object is an alien spaceship that carried Cybertron citizens.
Cut to the present day, and Shia LaBeouf’s Sam Witwicky works in a mail room, has a hot girlfriend, and pines for a position busting caps with his friends, the Autobots. Through a bunch of plot devices that I’ve seriously already deleted from memory, he winds up gathering a few pals from the past two movies, including the always-entertaining John Turturro, to involve themselves in the latest Autobot/Decepticon conflict.
John Turturro has the right idea – he plays his character over the top, and other minor characters follow suit for consistency’s sake. Subtlety is not an option here. John Malkovich has an early role as Sam’s crazy boss, Ken Jeong plays essentially the same lunatic from the Hangover reskinned as a conspiracy theorist, and Frances McDormand does her best to keep a straight face as a director of… the Defence force? CIA? Doesn’t matter. Even Alan Tudyk, who I remember fondly from Firefly, hams up the part of an effeminate killing machine assistant to John Turturro. And let’s not forget ladies’ man Patrick Dempsey, playing a smooth, wealthy accountant type. Just because.
And then we get a couple of heavyweights who turned up just for the fun of it. Leonard Nimoy, who we actually see on a TV screen as Spock from an original Star Trek episode, voices a robot called Sentinel Prime, who was the Big Boss of the Autobots before Optimus. I chuckled a little because they seem to have made the robot’s face in Nimoy’s likeness, bulging nose included. Even the real Buzz Aldrin makes an appearance to chat to the Autobots, adding credence to the whole moon scenario.
The humans are here just to add, well, humanity to the movie, but their characters don’t succeed on any great level. The Autobots are fighting the Decepticons, just like in the last two movies, and a lot of stuff gets blown up, pushed over, demolished and it’s relentless. When you’re making films about shape-changing robots that will fight each other until the bitter end, what did you expect?
Some images do remain in my mind. The vision of red oil spilling out of dying robots as they are pulled apart by their enemies, to simulate blood spurting. A space shuttle blowing up just after launch, evoking memories of the Challenger disaster that are still clear from my childhood. The massive holes in skyscrapers that are eerily close to images of the World Trade Centre buildings after the 9/11 attacks. Megatron stumbling through the desert like a nomad, large billowing sheet covering his injured head, like a metallic Lawrence of Arabia.
My favourite scene? A mind-boggling, retina-scarring car chase that involves robots running, then transforming and racing on wheels, then spinning mid-air and transforming again, all the while acting out a UFC brawl. It epitomises everything that’s great about this movie, and indeed the trilogy. Michael Bay has managed to create visuals on the silver screen that, as kids playing with our Transformers in our bedrooms, could not even dream up. We have truly passed the point of CGI jarring the suspension of disbelief, and this latest Transformers film is the ultimate movie to display this.
Even though I really can’t explain the plot or the characters for Transformers: Dark of the Moon, I do remember this: having an absolute ball watching my childhood fantasies come to life.