153 minutes

If there's a director that can be said to be virtually critic-proof, it's Michael Bay and his wildly over-the-top, visual effects-driven, action extravaganzas that bring in truckloads of money at the box-office and look spectacular but have little or no substance behind the eye candy. Which is fair enough, since nobody goes to a Michael Bay film expecting gravitas, depth of human feeling and ponderous drama. Mr. Bay's boys-with-toys juvenilia found a perfect outlet in the Transformers franchise, essentially a thinly veiled excuse to reboot a popular 1980s toy line and accompanying merchandising bonanza. But the director's kinetic, busy sensibility went into meltdown after the mindless but fun 2007 original, resulting in a bloated and dull second episode (Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen) in 2009.
     Seen as key to the maintenance of the franchise, this third iteration on the franchise doubles down by committing to native 3D filming (using the system James Cameron developed for Avatar, no less) and setting up a climactic monster battle on the streets of Chicago where the combination of manga, wrestling and sci-fi stylings reaches a ridiculously exquisite level of technical expertise at the service of... nothing much. The script is, as usual, a shoddy excuse to set up robot kick-ass, but it does have a neat alternate history/conspiracy theory premise (the whole of the 1960s space race was merely a ruse to make contact with an alien ship that crash-landed on the Moon), and a surprisingly enjoyable series of slumming turns from serious actors added to the cast. Besides a returning John Turturro over-the-top as a manic ex-CIA agent, John Malkovich shows up as an unlikely computer mogul and Alan Tudyk is an effete former NSA operative, but it's Frances McDormand that steals the show as a no-nonsense head of intelligence.
     What Transformers: Dark of the Moon also has is possibly the most natural use of 3D technology in a mainstream Hollywood blockbuster since Avatar, to the point where you actually forget you're watching a 3D movie. And, if anything, the technology has managed to slow down mr. Bay's usually manic editing a few notches, thus making the new film probably the most visually enjoyable of the series so far. Which, mind you, isn't saying much anyway.

Starring Shia LaBeouf, Josh Duhamel, John Turturro, Tyrese Gibson, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Patrick Dempsey, Kevin Dunn, Julie White, Ken Jeong; with John Malkovich; and Frances McDormand.
     Directed by Michael Bay; produced by Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Tom de Santo, Don Murphy, Ian Bryce; written by Ehren Kruger; music by Steve Jablonsky; director of photography (colour by DeLuxe, Panavision widescreen, digital 3D), Amir Mokri; production designer, Nigel Phelps; costume designer, Deborah L. Scott; film editors, Roger Barton, William Goldenberg, Joel Negron; visual effects supervisor, Scott Farrar.
     A Paramount Pictures presentation, in association with Hasbro, of a Don Murphy—Tom de Santo/Di Bonaventura Pictures/Ian Bryce production. (US distributor and world sales, Paramount Pictures.)
     Screened: distributor advance press screening, Zon Lusomundo Colombo 10 (Lisbon), June 27th 2011.


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