Transformers: Dark of the Moon is what happens when Michael Bay tries to be mature. Yet still comes across childish. The sole purpose of Dark of the Moon was to makeup for the mistakes of Revenge of the Fallen. Bay, Shia LaBeouf, and most critics didn’t like the final result. So instead of stuffing the sequel with every Transformer possible, Dark of the Moon attempts to go deeper with a darker tone. Everyone was on board with the threequel except for Megan Fox. She was gone after understandably calling out Michael Bay and quickly replaced by someone else with supermodel good looks.
I was 16 in 2011 and still very much on board with the guilty pleasure franchise. I followed the production very closely since most of the movie was filmed in Chicago. My whole family once again went to see the sequel, which contributed to its billion dollar box-office gross. Today is the 4 year anniversary of when I first started writing my blog and Dark of the Moon is probably my second favorite Michael Bay Transformers movie. Since it actually tries to stay focused and bring weight to the war between Autobots and Decepticons. Actual plotlines from the cartoon were used this time around. Sure it’s still a Hasbro property designed to sell toys with Bay’s usual hallmarks, but most of that is kept to a minimum…
Transformers: Dark of the Moon removes most of the overly juvenile, perverted, stereotypical, and occasionally obnoxious humor from Revenge of the Fallen. Mudflap & Skids are gone and it’s no longer a college movie. The movie was shot at the height of the 3D craze, so the CGI used on the Transformers looks a bit less crude. It was great seeing fragments of the war on Cybertron accompanied by Optimus Prime’s usual narration. Even though it was another piece of Cybertronian history not mentioned before. This time it’s a crash landed Autobot ship tying into the American space race. Presidents JFK, Nixon, and archive footage are used to recreate Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landing on the moon in search of the alien ship. If all this sounds too mature for Michael Bay, he makes up for it by immediately following Rosie Huntington-Whiteley’s butt. Rather than settle for a so-so actress with supermodel good looks, he just went straight to Victoria Secret. So now Sam Witwicky is dating another gorgeous woman that’s way out of his league.
Shia’s grown up, but 40% of his role is screaming. Huntington-Whiteley looks good (always wearing white), but her complete lack of acting experience and posh accent make her feel completely out of place. She’s named after cartoon love interest Carly, she has a military family, and a boss who works with cars in order to make her seem more important in Sam’s life with the Transformers. Even though the names Sam & Carly Spencer only remind me of iCarly. Carly’s boss Dylan Gould played by Patrick Dempsey was originally supposed to be Mikaela’s. Despite graduating from college and saving the world twice, Sam still searches for a job. His parents show up, but thankfully it’s only for a short time. He’s also living with a laptop Autobot named Brains and Wheelie accompanied by Mikaela’s dog for some reason. Wheelie practically disappeared in Revenge of the Fallen, but survived long enough to plague the sequel. At least he’s less obnoxious.
Meanwhile, Bumblebee is off with Optimus fighting in missions alongside Lennox and the military. Another cartoon accurate addition is Optimus Prime’s highly impractical truck trailer. Which transforms into a weapons rack/rocket pack. Bumblebee is the same, but he is seen in a mid-transformation combat mode. Ironhide, Ratchet, and Sideswipe are still around, but Dino/Mirage and Que/Wheeljack join them as well. Dino is just another Autobot fighter and Que looks exactly like Einstein inventing things for the humans. They face familiar one-eyed Decepticon Shockwave at Chernobyl where they discover a clue to the Autobot ship on the dark side of the moon. Dark of the Moon is full of historical NASA related conspiracies. Some of which may be too complicated for a dumb fun action movie. Buzz Aldrin cameos and Bay attempts to gain more credibility by having Frances McDormand, John Malkovich, and John Turturro in his cast.
McDormand is a strict, occasionally random suit lady in charge of National Intelligence involving the Transformers. Malkovich is Sam’s intense, equally random boss at the company he ends up working for. Turturro is back as a slightly less undignified Simmons who’s a best selling author complete with cartoonish bodyguard. After an out of place Bill O’Reilly cameo, Simmons joins Sam in his fight. The fight involves the last of the Decepticons attempting to gain an advantage. Megatron is horribly injured with his first human vehicle form in Africa. Starscream is still by his side and so is Soundwave actually participating in the action. The biggest scene stealer however is Laserbeak. Soundwave’s normally silent vulture-like minion is given a creepy voice and multiple transformations in order to seek out former members of NASA. One of which is an overly bizarre Ken Jeong as an Asian stereotype working at Sam’s office. After a cringy bathroom stall scene, Sam receives mysterious documents. Except Laserbeak attacks before he can get any answers.
All the while Optimus retrieves the body of Sentinel Prime from the moon’s crash site. The original Autobot leader voiced by Leonard Nimoy himself. Ironically, Nimoy voiced Galvatron in The Transformers: The Movie. More ironic is the fact that Bay and Nimoy are cousins-in-law. What a coincidence. Optimus resurrects Sentinel using the Matrix of Leadership. After dreaded Decepticons attack a crowded highway and Ironhide is given his first badass moment, Sentinel unsurprisingly betrays them. The only shock was Ironhide’s tragic demise since Sentinel’s villany was telegraphed with an early Star Trek joke. Sentinel uses his pillars to open a space bridge for more Decepticons to invade Earth. Megatron sits in Lincoln’s chair and brings devastation to Chicago. It gets worse when Gould is revealed to be working for the Decepticons and Soundwave takes Carly hostage. Even though I don’t buy Dempsey as a villain, it is a good twist.
The Autobots are sentenced to space on a rocket built by the Wrecker Autobots. Epps works there and actually gets substantial screen time as an ex-military ally of Sam’s. They lean into the fact that the Autobots are destroyed in the rocket, but it’s obvious they survived. Sam and Epps enter Chicago alongside several Army buddies who witness Prime’s heroic entrance. The battle of Chicago takes up the rest of this nearly 3 hour extravaganza. Bumblebee and Sam take a ship to save Carly, Optimus flies around in his kickass rocket pack, Lennox and his troops perform an impressive skydiving stunt from the Sears Tower, and Epps’ squad attempts to shoot down the core pillar. The Decepticon’s grand plan is to transport all of Cybertron to Earth. Although clearly insane, the craziest sequence is the falling building escape where Shockwave’s giant Driller pet creates havoc. Optimus chops off its head, but there’s still no way Sam, Carly, or any of the soldiers should’ve survived.
Dark of the Moon is far from the final Transformers, despite all the crucial characters they kill off. SPOILER ALERT! Starscream is actually killed by Sam when he uses Que’s inventions on him. It’s satisfying, if a little cruel. Que is also cruelly executed by Soundwave and a surviving Barricade. It seems like Bumblebee is gonna die, but they’d have a riot if that happened. Instead Optimus takes out several Decepticons all at once, kills Shockwave, and shoots down a pillar. In the end it’s Optimus vs. Sentinel and Sam vs. Gould. Despite all the chaos, Carly still looks glamorous as she’s surprisingly the one to convince Megatron to turn on Sentinel. Megatron wounds Sentinel, but a one armed Optimus kills Megatron anyway. Another shocking energon soaked death that proves the franchise should’ve ended here. Optimus delivers a short but sweet speech about protecting the humans followed by the more somber Linkin Park song “Iridescent.” The almost non-stop action is exciting, the humor isn’t too uncomfortable, and I still cared enough to get invested in the devastation. Transformers: Dark of the Moon gave the “Robots in disguise” a dignified war to fight.