BY EDDIE KIM – Somehow, “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” and the philosophy of its director, Michael Bay, can be summed up by the two introductory scenes of the movie.

The film opens with an impressive flashback of the war waged by the two opposing alien robot factions that lie at the heart of the “Transformers” series: Autobots (essentially the “good guys”) and Decepticons (logically, “the bad guys”).

Flames spit across the stars as jagged steel sculptures clash, spraying perfect sparks and ammunition and glittering amputated robot limbs through the darkness of space.  It is a gorgeous sort of chaos – visual technology at some of its finest.

Then soon, right after the title appears, Bay begins the movie in full with a voyeuristic, close-up shot of English beauty Rosie Huntington-Whiteley’s near-bare bottom as she sashays up a flight of stairs, clothed only in a loose oxford shirt and white panties.

To cut to the point?  Bay loves eye candy.  He has seemingly always loved eye candy, and has built a deserved reputation as a director in love with big explosions, beautiful women and slick editing (see: the “Transformers” series, the “Bad Boys” series, “Pearl Harbor”, etc.).

In that sense, Bay is in impeccable form with “Dark of the Moon”.  It is sheer sensuality taken to the next level in every aspect of the word.  No one can claim that Bay has failed to make a sexy, often pulse-quickening movie full of images intended to make your jaw hang a little crooked.

Unfortunately for Bay – and, in fact, everyone else involved in this project – a film is about more than just pleasing the senses.  It’s about communicating a compelling (or at least entertaining) story through interesting characters that make you actually want to spend two hours in a stained seat in a dark room.

It’s with this key element that “Dark of the Moon” frustrates and disappoints.

To be fair, there is some semblance of a plot at hand.  Like with the two previous films in the “Transformers” series, “Dark of the Moon” essentially chronicles the Decepticons’ efforts to gain power and defeat the Autobots, who in this case attempt to protect Earth – where they have taken refuge – and humans.

Most of the starring cast returns for the third film, with Shia LaBeouf reprising his lead role as Sam Witwicky and Josh Duhamel returning as Lt. Col. William Lennox.  The biggest change comes with the departure of usual love interest Megan Fox, replaced by Rosie Huntington-Whiteley as Carly Spencer, the ambitious and beautiful girlfriend of Witwicky.

The acting of these stars is at least mostly convincing, if not spectacular.  The only at-all-memorable human character is still LaBeouf’s Witwicky: a slightly neurotic, often humorously cocky everyman who tends to yell about frustrating things quite a bit.

The plot, however, is anything but mostly convincing.  You don’t have to be a film scholar to notice.  It is, frankly, a shambles.

You know how English teachers always stress that one should show a story, not merely tell it?  Bay and writer Ehren Kruger seemed to have missed that particular lecture.  Most of the relevant storylines are narrated from one character to another in big chunks, as if being dictated from a novel.  For all the film’s technological and visual sophistication, it simply flops on a basic element.

Even more annoyingly, the plot is helplessly fragmented at times, jumping from scene to scene without any sort of flow.  One moment you might be watching Witwicky sort paper work, and the next you’ll be shown the secret workings of NASA.  It’s confusing – but more importantly, it’s outright lazy storytelling.

But these issues pale in comparison to the biggest problem of all: the film’s headache-inducing third act, which drags on longer than a deadlocked Senate hearing on C-SPAN.

It’s here that the movie’s faults come out in full force.  The build towards the climax of the film seems to at least promise excitement, if not revelation.  But like a bad dream, it goes on, and on, and on: one slow-motion action sequence after another, with more anonymous bad guys, more inane fighting strategies, more stupidly unbelievable “twists”, more cliche’d, groan-inducing dialogue.

Somehow, “Dark of the Moon” takes all the elements that was supposed to create silly, epic entertainment (cool action, dramatic suspense, and more cool action) and makes it outright banal by continuously bashing you in the face with it.

How many absurd slow-motion shots of a computer-generated robot hitting another computer-generated robot can you sit through?  You’ll know after watching this movie.

To be clear: there is absolutely nothing wrong with watching an entertaining, spectacle-filled but still relatively pointless summer blockbuster.

Unfortunately, that’s not what “Dark of the Moon” is.  In fact, to just call it “pointless fun” would be a stretch, because it mostly feels only pointless.  Worst of all, the film leaves you walking away more than a little confused and unsatisfied, which is the last thing you want from an epic summer blockbuster.

When it’s all said and done, “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” is still an unbelievable movie in the worst way possible.  Apparently, no amount of masturbatory eye candy can fix that.

 

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