In the war for control of Cybertron (home planet of the Transformers), the Autobots had a secret weapon to defeat the Decepticons. However, the spaceship carrying the secret weapon, pillars with the power to teleport objects through space and time, was shot down as it attempted to escape. Despite Cybertron being a distant planet, the ship somehow managed to make it all the way to our moon where it crash landed. The Apollo 11 mission wasn’t one of discovery but one where a comical JFK impersonator laid out a secret mission to explore the wreckage.
Dark of the Moon centers around a half-century old conspiracy: the 1960s space race was actually a response to a downed Autobot ship, The Ark, which crash-landed on Earth’s moon back in 1961. As a result, the Apollo 11 mission wasn’t just about getting to the moon before the Soviets – it was primarily a mission to investigate and recover the extraterrestrial technology in the Ark. When a piece of recovered Transformers machinery hints at the Ark’s location, The Autobots and their human allies -- Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf), Lt. Colonel Lennox (Josh Duhamel), Agent Simmons (John Turturro), and Carly Spencer (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley) -- are forced to confront a larger Decepticon plot that could lead to the annihilation of both the Autobots and the entire human race.
The flick more than either of its predecessors, struggles to find a compelling place for leading man Sam Witwicky. While the character has some genuinely entertaining moments (most notably an Office Space-like work commentary), the scenes of Sam’s personal life, set-against the struggles of the Autobots and U.S. military, still seem at odds. He seems selfish, unimaginative, and feels entitled to meaningful work after saving the world twice. Another movie might try to explain how Sam can receive the Presidential Medal of Honor and take a photo proving he recieved that honor, but he’s not allowed to tell people why he won the medal. Instead, the script ignores that obvious logical conflict (as it does so many others), and simply has Sam whining about wanting to “matter”.
Rosie Huntington-Whiteley is a welcome improvement in the love-interest department – though her actual character, Carly Spencer, has less of an edge than Megan Fox’s Mikaela Banes. For the most part, despite her professional success, Carly is relegated to damsel in distress – where Banes was presented as a more capable companion for Sam. Unlike the prior installments, the relationship doesn’t bog the film down too much -- leaving room for the ensemble cast to do a bit more heavy-lifting.Many of favorite Transformers also return, including Autobots Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, and Sidewsipe (thankfully not The Twins, Skids and Mudflap), as well as Decepticons Megatron, Starscream, and Soundwave, among others. Characters that got short-shrift in Revenge of the Fallen are featured more prominently this round. Josh Duhamel and Tyrese Gibson also reunite, aiding in one of the other improved elements of the film – the implementation of NEST and military forces. By the time the film lands in Chicago (that epic set piece featured in the trailer) the city is a complete warzone, leaving room for viewers to finally see a believable Autobot/Human resistance effort.
Instead of simply shooting at the same enemies as their Autobot allies, the human soldiers (along with the larger military machine) are given genuine moments to shine – and opportunities to turn the tide. Being the last installment in Bay’s trilogy (well that is until the box office profits spawn a fourth film), the death toll for recognizable characters is dramatically higher, offering some intense and brutal moments that will likely shock audiences and can, at times, solicit a surprising amount of emotion and I got emotional through a lot of it.Bay also improves upon a major problem with the prior installments – frantic camera work that turned epic set-pieces into blurry swirls of robot action. Dark of the Moon features a set of slow-motion action beats which, in any other movie, might seem overused. But here, the slow-motion allows for moviegoers to really hone-in on the great visuals. The much talked about 3D - well for a director like Bay who can now not only fill the width of the frame with mayhem, but now can also fill its depth, its perfect. At times, the 3D is wasted on static shots of humans talking in an office building; however, when the action starts ramping up, it’s easy to see how filmmakers can offer a 3D experience worthy of the added ticket price.
This movie works largely because it does have a really strong story and a good cast. Bay had me hooked with a fabulous opening sequence that deftly cut newsreel footage of Kennedy to set up the premise of the story. In Transformers: Dark of the Moon I actually cared about what was going on, the heel turn in the middle of the movie came as a genuine surprise and works really well.