All Michael Bay’s “Transformers” in 3D is missing is a 40. (Take a 40, please.) Robustly cynical, “Transformers: Dark Of The Moon,” credited to screenwriter Ehren Kruger (“Scream 3,” “The Ring Two,” “Transformers 2”), serves up generous lashings of counterfactual pulp, including an Autobot-Decepticons-NASA-JFK-Nixon conspiracy with a soupcon of Chernobyl for spice. It’s like a Bizarro World Warren Report reduced to postage-stamp size. (The briefly seen JFK stand-in resembles someone who took second place in a Donald Trump look-alike contest.) “TDOTM” premiered at the Moscow Film Festival, and some of the most jazzed-up (yet largely incomprehensible) passages resemble the winningly cheesy special effects of local mogul Timur Bekmambetov’s “Night Watch” and “Day Watch,” but with less rude charm. Hope for keenly choreographed mayhem quickly fades. If not on the level of Michael Kidd and Vincente Minnelli’s work on “The Band Wagon,” say at least a few bars of “Collateral Damage,” the musical? When you’re working with Decepticons, a sentient race of mechanical beings that preceded film executives, you can hope to be the biggest and the best, but at best, you could only ever be ne plus Ultraman. (Or “Cars 3,” with eager-school-leaver Shia LaBeouf in the role of “Mater.”) Sam Witwicky’s latest scenic wick-wetter is Carly Spencer, a former U.K. diplomat in training, who matches him juvenile sex joke for juvenile sex joke. Rosie Huntington-Whiteley is introduced from beneath and behind on a staircase, camera fixed to her panty-clad, lazily-tocking bottom and her strongly arching feet. (Later, Bay shows equal-opportunity fetishism, challenging Steven Soderbergh at one of his games, offering up barefoot “hero shots” not just to the model girlfriend but Frances McDormand, pulling her feet from heels and pushing them bare into agile running shoes.) As for the climactic, Chicago-set cataclysm, it’s not a romp but a rampage, as murderous and ADD as a kitten. The locations hardly go beyond a two-block radius of the Chicago River. I had hoped for hallucination, a sleekly machined edition of the dystopic excess of Terry Gilliam-style splendor or squalor. Next time. Chicago still stands. With John Malkovich, Patrick Dempsey, John Turturro, Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson, Bill O’Reilly, Kevin Dunn, Julie White, Ken Jeong and Buzz Aldrin as himself, praising Optimus Prime for his advanced technology. With the same-sounding voices of Peter Cullen, Hugo Weaving and Leonard Nimoy. Previewed in digital “Real 3D.” 153m. Widescreen. (Ray Pride)
“Transformers: Dark Of The Moon” opens Tuesday night at IMAX 3D locations and wide on Wednesday.
Ray Pride is Newcity film critic and a contributing editor of Filmmaker magazine. He is also a photographer: his history of Chicago “Ghost Signs” in words and images is forthcoming. Previews on Twitter (twitter.com/chighostsigns) as well as daily photography on Instagram: instagram.com/raypride. Twitter: twitter.com/RayPride. (Photo: Jorge Colombo.)