Transformers 3: What Did You Expect?

SPOILER ALERT: Many things explode.

As a not-that-regular theatre-goer, I’ll admit that this movie wasn’t high on my list of things to do this weekend. Hell, it wasn’t on the list at all.

But after seeing Transformers: Dark of the Moon last night (thanks, General Motors, for the early screening), I’m not at all unimpressed. Simply put: I had low expectations, and Transformers filled them.

Take, for instance, the story. I hadn’t seen the first two Transformers movies, but after a text message from a family member (“Remember: the Decepticons are bad”) and the first two minutes, I was entirely up to speed. Easy to follow plotlines? Check.

Then, there was the visual aspect. Having had a bad childhood experience with amusement park 3-D rides, I was expecting significant pain from Bay’s three-dimensional explosions, but I left the theatre without a single up-chuck. I didn’t even get a headache. Score another point.

Finally, there were the cars. I expected Director Michael Bay to put a couple of fun General Motors prototypes into his film, but Transformers: DotM eventually became two-and-a-half hours of what many dub “car porn.” Bumblebee, the Camaro SS, is joined on-screen by the Ferrari 458 Italia, Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG, and even a Maybach Landaulet. In a nod to GM’s fallen marques, Bay’s crew destroys Saabs, Saturns, Pontiacs, and even old Chevrolets with reckless abandon. At one point the heroine, played by Victoria’s Secret model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, stands with mouth agape as a flaming Saab 9-7x does barrel rolls behind her. Gorgeous. And quite satisfying for Saab purists, I might add.

You might notice that I’m not talking about cinematic intricacies here, and for good reason: there aren’t any. The plot of Transformers: Dark of the Moon is flimsier than a foundation poured from Jell-O. You might be taking a moment to scratch your head as to why John F. Kennedy would send astronauts to the moon to schmooze Autobots, when John Malkovich suddenly shows up. And then something explodes.

No, Transformers is basically defined by what you’re looking at, not what you’re watching. Forget deadpan lines or plot devices. You’re watching a Ferrari 458 Italia (which is somehow more unbelievably beautiful on-screen than in real life) flooring it through Chicago, and then laying the smackdown on a fire truck. And then you get to see Huntington-Whiteley in her underwear. In 3-D.

Transformers has become a summer staple: like Pirates of the Caribbean, it’s a series of annual films that cost far too much, have too little plot, and look way too good. They’re released in time for harried stay-at-home moms and dads to shove their hyper children into seats and ply them with popcorn in hopes of keeping them quiet. For the rest of us, they’re technical marvels that we love to watch for explosions, exotic machinery, and sex-symbol movie stars. The film is largely about the visual impact (much like the 2012 Transformers Edition Camaro Coupe) and little else. People want to sit, mouths agape, punctuating it only with the word “wow.”

Which is exactly what the kid in front of me did when he walked out of the Royal Oak, MI theatre. “I. Have. To. See. That. AGAIN” he yelled.

I can’t say I disagree.

Image courtesy of Paramount Pictures

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