If we’re lucky, Michael Bay’s “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” is the last film in his series.  His bloated, 154 minute mess, borders on beating a dead…robot…in disguise… (Sorry, had to go there). 

Does the third “Transformers” movie advance the story for Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) and his robotic friends?  Yes.  But does it do so in a fresh and engaging way?  No. 

“Dark of the Moon” repeats the same tired formula as its predecessors: poorly written dialogue, superficial female eye candy, and needlessly dangerous heroics. 

Bay starts “Dark of the Moon” on the planet Cybertron, the home world of the Autobots and Decepticons.  In an impressive 3D sequence, we learn that a ship carrying the key to Autobot victory was lost a major battle.  We see this vessel crash on our Moon, during the 1960s-an event which spawns the Space Race. 

The alternate history idea is interesting, because it allows Bay to recreate the entire Apollo 11 Moon landing.  His vision of these events in 3D is breathtaking, and a welcome change from the medium’s usual gimmicky appearance.  Limited use of 3D in the remainder of the film however, stifles its potential to enhance Bay’s storytelling.

Next, Bay cuts to Sam Witwicky’s apartment in the present day, where we meet his new girlfriend Carly (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley), who is replacement eye candy for Megan Fox.  This is clear from her first screen time, which consists of ogling leg and butt shots. 

In several whiny exchanges with Carly, Sam expresses his frustration with his current post-college career search.  Since he has already saved the world before, he wants a position where he “matters.”  Annoying entitlement aside, these pieces of dialogue represent some of the worst in the film, because Sam is unable to effectively articulate to Carly why he needs to “matter.”    

With each additional “Transformers” installment, Michael Bay attempts to balance bad writing by hiring zany character actors, hoping they can fill in the blanks.  This is most evident in “Dark of the Moon,” which brings on John Malkovich, Frances McDormand, Ken Jeong, and Alan Tudyk to buttress John Turturro’s wacked out Simmons.  While their presence is pleasant, it’s not enough to fully offset the weakness of the words they are uttering.

Compared to the other “Transformers” films, “Dark of the Moon” takes a much darker tone.   Angry Decepticons rip through cities, vaporizing humans into piles of bones and empty clothes.  Bay shows these heinous acts of violence in greater detail, which brings more gravity to them. 

By doing so however, Bay makes the dangerous heroics of the soldiers fighting the Decepticons, incredibly outlandish.  Seeing army men BASE jump out of airplanes, while their planes are being shot down in midair, seems like excessive risk, considering the Army could send in fighter planes instead.      

If you’re not already tired of Michael Bay’s exhausted blueprint, you probably will be after suffering through “Transformers: Dark of the Moon.”  His forays into new areas like alternate history, 3D, and a darker tone engage you for patches, but not for long stretches.  In the previous films, Bay compensated for weaknesses in dialogue and plot with visual flair and humor.  Bleaker themes in “Dark of the Moon” though, mean that Bay must lean more on special effects than comedy.  Unfortunately, his introduction of 3D is just not enough to salvage this wreck because it is not consistently utilized in the film.    

My Grade: C