Disaster movies usual find their roots in some great social anxiety, and Transformers offers two: world domination by machines and an alien invasion that will enslave mankind. Perhaps you could add a third anxiety to the Transformers storyline. Late in the film, during the final epic showdown between Opitimus Prime and Sentinel Prime, Sentinel chides his opponent and former pupil, “On our planet we were gods!” He wants to be godlike again on earth, and we turn white in anticipation of the consequences: a metaphysical revolt, the return of Zeus and the citizens of Olympus, chided for millennia and unleashing their fury against the gnat-y ambition of humanity. Machines, aliens, and angry mythological beings: Transformers betrays the psychoses of a very uncomfortable humanity.
But don’t worry, theses sweeping allegorical readings only play lightly in the background of Michael Bay’s latest super-blow ‘em up, super shoot ‘em up, super-charged summer blockbuster. Transformers is derived from the Hasbro line of toys that became popular in the 1980s, garnering its own television cartoon. Coming off a dismal sequel to a well-loved reimagining of the Transformers story, with Transformers: Dark of the Moon director Michael Bay seems intent on getting the roller coaster ride back on track.
And as a kick-ass summer blockbuster, Transformers: Dark of the Moon is pretty kick-ass. Its chases are adrenaline-filled and inventive. Its explosions and crashes are massive and mesmerizing. And for the final epic showdown, which, truth be told, runs a good twenty minutes longer than it should, the entire city of Chicago becomes the setting of large scale urban/mechanical warfare, which sees skyscrapers toppling over skyscrapers, humans flying out of helicopters in winged suits, robots dancing through the constant rain of broken glass, and plenty of cheesy action dialogue: “Look out!” “Fire!” “Heads up!” “Aarrrgh!” It’s everything you want from a giant air conditioned movie theater in July.
The latest Transformers is not without its dozens of dramatic shortcomings, but it opens with a rather well-crafted sequence that took the air out of the crowded theater I was in during the preview. Intercutting historical archive footage and recreated scenes,Transformers: Dark of the Moon re-imagines the entire United States space program as a mission to find a mysterious extraterrestrial object that scientists observed crash landing into the dark side of the moon. We see Kennedy demanding a united effort to man a lunar landing. We see Neal Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin (who actually makes a real cameo later on) landing their lunar pod on the powdery moon surface. Then, when America is told that the spacecraft is on the far side of the moon and radio contact is lost, the real mission begins, and the historic figures inspect what turns out to be an alien spacecraft.
This would have been a great way to launch the entire Transformers movie series, but we’re dealing here with episode three, so the movie jumps forward to where the second film left off. Shia LeBeouf is Sam Witwicky, the wet behind the ears twenty something who first befriended the good Transformers – the Autobots – and helped them fend off the evil Decepticons in the prior movies. Now he is an unemployed loudmouth somehow dating and living with a woman far out of his league, Carly (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley), whose role in this movie seems to be 90 percent eye candy and 10 percent fueling a superfluous romantic subplot. Carly is one of only three women in the film, the others being Frances McDormand’s impossibly domineering, ball-breaking military officer and Julie White’s nagging wife and mother, Judy Witwicky, reassuring us that chauvinism is alive and well in Hollywood.
Sam is miffed because the U.S. military, which is now working with the Autobots to take care of all sorts of international problems (like blowing up nuclear sites in the Middle East), has left him out of the fun. The US government partnership with the super-powered machine race is worrysome enough, but in the movie it is brushed off, naturally, as a perfectly fine evolution in global geo-political order.
Much of the early part of the movie revolves around Sam’s lackluster attempts to find work. This churns up John Malkovich, who infuses the movie with some of its only true charm as the overbearing, obsessive compulsive boss Bruce Brazos. Bruce hires Sam for some reason, and it quickly turns out that the young man finds himself at the center of Decepticon effort to use a handful of humans as pawns in their effort to resume the task of world domination. There’s a semi-hilarious scene between Sam and a co-worker Jerry Wang (Ken Jeong), who conveniently hands him some folder papers that explain the whole thing. Then Wang is wacked by his Decepticon handler and the chase heats up. Sam digs up some old friends – Simmons (John Turturro) – and takes it on himself to save the world on behalf of the U.S. government.
As an hors d’œuvre to the main course of action, this early-film goofing around is entertaining enough to keep us involved, even if Sam and Rosie’s relationship, and the addition of her nasty boss Dylan (Patrick Dempsey) to the mix is a chore to sit through (as is the copious product placement). There are some sudden and interspersed chases, and the whole thing develops in a clunky manner until we get to the great culminating video game that is the real focus of the film. There, Transformers 3 succeeds by comparison, overcoming the visual clutter and suspense-less-ness of the second installment with some quality, if not its dragged-out showdowns. It’s good versus evil, bullets verses brawn, and as a thoughtless, no nonsense, drawn-out summer ride, it is pretty darn fun to subject yourself to it.If nothing else as a Kenyan you will not surprised the Decepticons were hiding in Amboseli at some point in the movie.Spectacular pictures of wildlife and the Kilimanjaro.(P.S Megatron probably got a Kenyan passport or work permit from our yet to be reformed and ineffective immigration department.Hiding out until it was time to strike that’s my take on how they ended up hiding in Kenya)