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Review: Transformers - Dark of the Moon

It can’t be worse. Can it? After the writer’s strike shortened the story plotting window for most summer blockbuster, Michael Bay‘s last crack at Robots in Disguise suffered the most. It may have looked more polished than his previous effort, but the lackluster story and dialogue brought down the flick significantly. Thankfully, the third film of the series salvages its predecessors.

Sam’s (Shia LaBeouf) life has changed considerably since we last saw him. Gone from his life are the days of college as well as his high-school sweetheart Mikaela. He has been thrust into one of the worst economies in recent memory – cue John Malkovich as the worst boss imaginable – and the thrill of running with the Autobots is also missing. Fortunately, he has the love of a good woman (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley who is given exactly as much to do as Megan Fox was; nothing.) so all is well.

After the last battle between Autobots and Decepticons the world seems to be at relative peace. Optimus and co. are always keeping an eye on the figurative sea for lurking danger. The safety of Earth has always depended on mutual cooperation between the government and the Autobots. As it turns out our government has been keeping secrets and they could soon come back to haunt us.

Despite what we have been lead to believe our first official contact with the Transformers was not in 2007. It was in 1969, after the first moon landing. The ship crash on the Moon was the last bit of supplies sent from Sentinel Prime to aid the losing Autobots on Cybertron. Not so coincidentally John F. Kennedy promises to put a man on the moon shortly thereafter. Optimus, now under the order of the U.S. Military is not pleased in the slightest. He, unlike the new head, Mearing (Frances McDormand), knows what is in store for Earth, and it is far worse than anything Megatron could concoct.

Overall most of the original complaints against the franchise have never been quieted. Sam and his human counterparts have plenty to do, but they seldom manage to make the audience care whether they live or die. We came to see the robots fighting anything else is superfluous. To scripter Ehren Kruger’s credit the Jim Crow relics Skid and Mudflap are both missing in action. It is not explained but, frankly, I’m glad they’re dead.

Industrial Lights and Magic really outdid themselves this time. The carnage in Dark of the Moon is cranked up to eleven and Lucas’s effects house does not fail to live up to expectations. Residents of Chicago might be tempted to look outside of the theatre and make sure that the city is in fact still there. The last act of Transformers: Dark of the Moon is intense. And when the final battle plays out in all of its technical glory it almost makes it worth sitting through Sam’s irritating parents, John Turturro as the way over-the-top Agent Simmons, and Skid & Mudflap in all of their gold-tooth specter in the previous films. Almost. No final battle scene could ever make up for that.

Is ‘Dark Side of the Moon‘ Bay’s best Transformers flick? Yes, but only because the final battle scene goes all out in a way that only Michael Bay can. The sheer visceral thrill of watching a city torn apart as Earth’s last battle carries on makes up for the other rather disappointing domestic aspects of the film.

**1/2 out of ****

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