Let me start by getting right to the point: Transformers: Dark of the Moon is a utterly, completely awful film. I can only hope that it ends up being the worst film of 2011, since even though that was 2 1/2 hours of my life I’ll never get back, at least I won’t have to sit through anything worse.
What makes it so bad? No, it isn’t because it is badly written. It isn’t because Shai LaBouf still hasn’t learned to act, or that every other actor in the film is so clearly just doing this to cash a check. It isn’t because the story is just plain stupid, or that it contains an entirely predictable climax. None of those were why the film is bad, because you see if you go to see a movie like this expecting good writing, good acting or interesting stories then you’re just being foolish.
No, what makes it so bad is quite simple, really. The movie is boring.
I really believe that your expectations going into a movie inevitably cloud your judgment of it. That is part of why I like to see movies as close to their release as I can. A few years ago, I didn’t get around to seeing The Hangover until months after its release. Had I seen it opening weekend, I probably would have enjoyed it, but after going through two or three months of hearing how it was the Funniest Movie Of All Time, I really could not fail to be surprised when it turned out to be, at best, a so-so comedy. But even when you see a movie opening weekend, you still have expectations, whether from seeing previews or being a fan of someone in the film or whatever. What, then, were my expectations in seeing Transformers? Well, a couple of important things were going through my mind as I sat down in the theater. First, I like Michael Bay’s films. No, really. He (tends) to make loud, exciting movies that simply entertain, and I like that in a film. Not everything has to be High Art. Second, I rather enjoyed both of the first two Transfomers movies. Yes, even the second one. So what did I expect? Really, more of the same as the first two: non-stop action; lots of robots blowing stuff up; lots of LaBouf trying to pretend that he’s deserving of the gorgeous girl. That stuff.
What I got instead is a movie that plods along at an impossibly slow pace for the first two hours. There are a couple of good moments here and there, but every time the action starts, it would go on for one or two minutes and then the movie would STOP. Let’s have a scene of LaBouf talking to Gorgeous Girl Who Isn’t Megan Fox. Let’s have a scene of the parents in the pajamas, counseling him on his relationship to Ms. Not Megan Fox. We’ll follow that up with a scene of the soldiers, talking. Then more LaBouf, talking. Then Patrick Dempsey, you guessed it, talking.
Sprinkled in amongst all this damn talk is a cameo by John Malkovich, in which he continues his recent (well, recent as in the last decade) trend of just being an over-the-top caricature of himself. That’s followed by a cameo by Ken Jeong, playing the exact same role he plays in Community, The Hangover, and every other film he’s in.
So where’s the action? It finally arrives in earnest about 2 hours in (remember, the film is just over 2 1/2 hours long, and you’ll feel every minute of it). There’s a big set-piece battle, but if you’ve seen the previews you’ve seen all of the good parts of the battle, and if you’ve ever seen any action movie ever you know exactly how it goes. By this point, I was just so ready for the movie to be over that I simply didn’t care. A part of me was in fact rooting for the Decepticons, just because if they succeeded in destroying the world then at least they’d put me out of my misery.
Oh, and one more thing. Given the budget of this film, would it really have been impossible to find someone – or CGI someone – that looked even a tiny bit like Kennedy and Obama? That’s not asking for too much, is it? Apparently so.
You will be glad to know that after sitting through this mess, at least they don’t make you sit through the credits, as there is no extra scene afterward.