Transformers: Dark of the Moon Review

Disclaimer: The movie I'm about to review, is a movie based on a set of toys from your childhood.

This is a realization I came to when looking over some trailers and notes on the newest Transformers movie, prior to seeing in theaters this past week. And frankly, once you get this thought in your head, then you should have no problem enjoying "Transformers: Dark of the Moon."

I'll admit that I wasn't a huge fan of either of the first two Transformers movies. The first film was entertaining, as it was relatively fresh and different, maybe even somewhat unexpected. But the second Transformers (Revenge of the Fallen), was just more of the same. Loud noises, big explosions, cartoonish robots and severe overacting. You're willing to forgive it the first time, but more than once, it just gets annoying. And critics definitely agreed, as the first film received a mixed but okay reception of 57% on Rotten Tomatoes, praising the visual effects over terrible characters and acting, but the second dropped to a terrible 20% on the same aggregating website. Obviously moviegoers disagreed, shelling out over $1.5 BILLION to see the first two films.

But something happened in the weeks leading up to this third movie. Something happened while I was at the theater, watching this, the last Transformers installments to feature Shia LaBeouf as the lead, Sam Witwicky, as well as Michael Bay behind the camera. I realized that it didn't really matter if the acting wasn't so great, if the writing and the plot wasn't at Oscar levels. This is a popcorn movie. An action movie. A movie that takes advantage of the nostalgia of Generation X and Y and lets you see badass transforming robots rip each other apart.

And really, what more could you ask of a movie based on cartoon toys than great robot fights, testosterone-raising explosions and way too elaborate action sequences?

Well, Transformers: Dark of the Moon definitely delivers on all of that. The entire third act of the film is drawn-out battle and sequence of explosions and fight scenes that take place in a war-ravaged Chicago. Michael Bay really raises the stakes, from the huge scenes within toppling skyscrapers to the smaller-scale but even cooler squirrel-suit gliding among the same skyline. I'm not afraid to say that that squirrel-suit flight scene was one of the coolest things I've ever seen on film, especially in 3-D -- and speaking of which, the entire film was actually filmed as such, Avatar style, so it most definitely is worth shelling out the few extra bucks to see it in the 3-D format, considering it was actually envisioned in the format, instead of simply having the effects taped on in post-production.

Moreover, the plot for Transformers 3 is actually kind of decent.While the writing takes some annoying liberties with US history and the space race between the Americans and the Russians -- including some terrible attempts to blend taped and live-action footage of several presidents, using poor lookalikes that you'd see on a late night comedy show -- and doesn't leave much to be desired in terms of dialogue and character development, the general plot of the film manages to piss you off much less than anything else Michael Bay. In Transformers 3, the government learns of an Autobot ship that crash landed on the moon years ago, and sends Optimus Prime and his friends to recover its cargo -- "Pillars" which can be used to form a bridge to Cybertron, as well as Sentinel Prime, Optimus' predecessor in the role of leader of the Autobots.

But the Autobots soon discover that the whole thing was a plot by the Decepticons to revive Sentinel -- a feat that only Optimus can accomplish -- in order to complete an agreement between Sentinel and the Decepticons that would bring Cybertron to Earth, in order to use its population for slave labour to rebuild their baron planet.Now, Sam and the Autobots must travel to Chicago, where the Decepticons and Sentinel have set up base and destroyed the city in order to accomplish their long-awaited mission.

Where all of this falls apart, however, is in the use of Shia LaBoeuf, who's character hasn't changed in the slightest. He's still a sex-craved loser who manages to get girls way too hot for him. No one believes in him or is willing to give him a shot at anything -- from helping the Autobots to even getting a job -- which kind of gets old after three movies. He's obviously just there so the movie doesn't have to be about robots for over two hours, and it just gets to be too much, especially when you surround him with other terrible actors, including Rosie Huntington-Whiteley as Carly, who replaces Megan Fox as irrelevant eye-candy.

The film does have a couple of fun roles, however, including brief appearances from Ken Jeong and John Malkovich, as well as Leonard Nimoy as the voice of Sentinel Prime and Patrick Dempsey as Dylan Gould, the main human villain, but none of them could really save the film from it's terrible dialogue and uninteresting leads.

But in the end, the plot and the writing in "Transformers" is secondary to the action and special effects. This should be obvious to anyone who steps into the theater knowing this is a Michael Bay movie. He's been doing this exact same thing for two decades, and he's not about to change now. It's pretty simple. If you're expecting anything intellectual or well-written, just don't go to see his movies.

I can understand expecting more of the series, after all, Transformers has the potential to deal with some pretty major issues, when you consider that it's a tale of a world endlessly at war, a tale of destruction, blood lust and will to survive. But in the end, it's still something that was marketed to kids ever since its inception, so to ask that the series explores these issues, all the while catering to what it was originally intended as -- entertainment -- well, it's kind of unreasonable. That's why you have to take it for what it's work: a popcorn flick, a summer action blockbuster with a primary focus on action and visual effects.

And in that regard, Transformers: Dark of the Moon actually succeeds in what it sets out to accomplish. For that, this year's biggest summer movie receives a 7 out of 10 from Better With Popcorn.