A blowed-up-real-gooder flick

Michael Bay revs into destructo-rama overdrive

It's Autobots versus Decepticons again in Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon.

Although not as soul-crushing as the middle entry in what has now become the trilogy of blowed-up-real-good Transformers aural and visual assaults, Dark Side of the Moon is an hour longer than it needed to be. As such, it presents its own challenges to any adult viewer with a limited ability to enjoy the pornographically repetitive sight of heavy trucks and hot cars “evolving” at high speed into Hasbro action figures that clobber each other with all the finesse of third-tier professional wrestlers. But all is not lost, if only because there are some humorous touches and several cameos by talented thesps such as John Malkovich, John Turturro and Frances McDormand.

Moon starts out with a looking-for-work Sam (Shia LaBeouf) finding out that receiving a Medal of Honour from President Obama isn’t enough to guarantee an entry-level job. On the plus side, he’s got a hot new girlfriend (played by collagen-sculpted Victoria’s Secret model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, replacing sultry Megan Fox who got dumped after comparing director Michael Bay to Hitler). The plot takes its time kicking in, first teasing the audience with some sinister events at the Chernobyl nuclear site. Then a ponderous flashback to the home planet of the Autobots and Decepticons shows those rival races of shape-shifting machines locked in all-out battle. The stentorian voice of Autobot leader Optimus Prime informs us that this was a matter of “tyranny versus freedom,” which is about as simple-minded as you can get while using words of more than one syllable. The Autobots are losing the war and their leader escapes in a spaceship with some “vital technology.” In the movie’s cheekiest conceit we then learn that when that ship crash-landed on the dark side of the moon in the 1960s, it secretly precipitated the space race between the Americans and the Russians.

Back in the present, Decepticon leader Megatron (voiced by Hugo Weaving) is desperate to get his hands on that slumbering technology. But the Autobots get there first, and are even able to revive their original leader, Sentinel Prime (voice of Leonard Nimoy). But Megatron is nothing if not dastardly, and with the aid of some human flunkeys he is soon launching an all-out war. Not content simply with plans to trash the Autobots, he hopes to turn our entire planet into a world of pain.

The final third of the movie is set in Chicago, and Bay has an unholy amount of fun unleashing the full measure of his destructo-rama powers on that handsome city. It’s weirdly impressive at times, but the overkill and the essential stupidity of it all gets tiring: gigantism is boring. And can anyone explain the snake-like beast, as big as a stretched-out whale, that can core through a skyscraper in seconds? This CGI superstar appears and disappears with no logic, and seems to be about 1,000 times more powerful than Megatron. Oh well, they never promised us Shakespeare. M

Rating: ***

Transformers: Dark of the Moon

Directed by Michael Bay

Starring Shia LaBeouf, Josh Duhamel

PG 13 – 157 minutes

Continues at theatres throughout the galaxy

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