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'Transformers 3' no more than meets the eye



Article Published: Jul. 7, 2011 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011
'Transformers 3' no more than meets the eye

Shia LaBeouf and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley star in 'Transformers: Dark of the Moon.'



frank@mountaintimes.com

A movie about fighting, computer-generated robots has no business being 157 minutes long.

That said, "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" is everything you'd expect from a Michael Bay ("Bad Boys") summer blockbuster - over-the-top action, wanton destruction, silly dialogue, a girl object, blatant product placement, clichés by the megaton and computer-generated fighting robots.

It's the recipe for a typical summer blockbuster, but director Bay has a tendency to overcook.

The third in its series, "Dark of the Moon" has the longest runtime of the lot, stretching a thin storyline to the moon and back, several points in between, back to the moon again and then to Chicago for good measure, while taking a moment to visit with John Malkovich (seriously).

"Dark of the Moon" works best in its pure popcorn moments, when an audience can sit back and marvel at the summertime silliness of it all - when an action movie's just being an action movie, not asking for anything more or less.

But that's dashed by Bay and his editors' reluctance to leave anything on the cutting room floor, instead subjecting audiences to more of the same - a seemingly endless series of mind-numbing CGI battles and explosions.

"Dark of the Moon" starts out fun, with an amusing dose of historical fiction regarding the moon landing. The film proposes that the space race was prompted by an alien spaceship crashing on the lunar surface, with Neil Armstrong's and Buzz Aldrin's historic first steps doubling as a top-secret technology recovery mission.

Naturally, the spaceship is Transformerian in nature, an ancient escape vessel piloted by benevolent - and deactivated - Autobot leader Sentinel Prime (voiced by Leonard Nimoy, "Star Trek").

Decades later, and following the events of the first two movies, the good-guy Autobots, led by Optimus Prime (veteran voice actor Peter Cullen of the original "Transformers" cartoon) and now working alongside the U.S. government, and the evil Decepticons learn of the long-stranded technology and vie for its possession.

Meanwhile, cocky everyman hero Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf, "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps") is having a hard time adjusting to real life after fighting alongside giant space robots in the previous two films, and even manages to be unhappy with his British supermodel girlfriend, Carly (real-life model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley in her first film role). Fortunately, for him, he won't have to adjust for long.

Decepticon villain Megatron (voiced by Hugo Weaving, "The Matrix") is back again and out for blood (or oil), and when the ancient technology is brought to Earth, it becomes evident that a deadly deception is afoot, because, well, they're called Decepticons.

The chaos culminates in a devastating attack on Chicago, which, when there aren't giant robots lumbering around, looks eerily realistic. Understatement is key when it comes to computer-generated imagery, but that's something Bay has always avoided, kind of like character.

But let's face it. Plot and character aren't the focus. The paper-thin story is simply a means to regroup familiar faces from the previous films, including John Turturro ("The Big Lebowski") and Tyrese Gibson ("2 Fast 2 Furious"), for the next big action scene.

"Dark of the Moon" is a summer, sci-fi, action blockbuster that doesn't need depth, character or even a cohesive narrative to rake in millions (a record-breaking $95.7 million on opening weekend), though, unsurprisingly, its highlights involve actors known for depth and character, like Frances McDormand ("Fargo") and Malkovich ("Being John Malkovich").

But their appearances, including a surreal and amusing cameo from astronaut Buzz Aldrin, amount to little in the big picture, namely because that picture runs an hour too long. A three-hour epic should be just that - epic. Bay's "Transformers" are no more than meets the eye, but, like Hasbro's toy line, they sell well; just like other 1980s nostalgia, i.e. Battleship and View-Master.

And yeah, someone's making movies about those, too.

"Transformers: Dark of the Moon," rated PG-13 for intense prolonged sequences of sci-fi action violence, mayhem and destruction, and for language, some sexuality and innuendo, is playing in 3-D and 2-D at Regal Cinema 7 in Boone.

For show times, see page 16 or visit http://www.mountaintimes.com/movies.


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