Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (July 23, 2014)
With 2011’s Transformers: Dark of the Moon, the “trilogy” started in 2007 and continued in 2009 comes to a close. As usual, we follow the battles between “good” alien robots called Autobots and “evil” mechanoids called Decepticons.
At the start, we learn that the Autobots had one final chance to win the war against the Decepticons but they lost important cogs placed on a ship referred to as “The Ark”. In 1961, the Ark crashes on Earth’s moon, and that triggers the US commitment to land there before the Soviets. In 1969, the Apollo astronauts arrive and retrieve some of the items.
From there we head back to present day and the continuing battle between Autobots and Decepticons on Earth. Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) helped save the world twice but now finds himself unable to land a job. Inevitably he winds up involved with the Autobots and their attempts to fight the Decepticons and preserve humanity. Much destruction ensues.
In other words, Dark closely follows the template from the first two movies, with yet another loose, generally incoherent “plot”. The most significant change probably comes from the recasting of Sam’s love interest, as we lose Mikaela from the 2007 and 2009 flicks, apparently because Megan Fox butted heads with director Michael Bay.
This brings us a new character and a new babe, as sexy Rosie Huntington-Whiteley plays Sam’s Australian girlfriend Carly. A lingerie model, Dark represented Huntington-Whitely’s first acting performance, and it remains her only one, though apparently she will appear in a 2015 Mad Max reboot.
Can Huntington-Whiteley act? Not really, though her skills – or lack thereof – don’t matter a ton. Although I think the movie suffers a little due to the absence of Fox – who has some talent and personality beyond her looks – Carly exists as little more than eye candy, so Huntington-Whitely fills the bill.
No one goes to see Transformers movies for the humans anyway, which is a good thing, as they’ve become less and less useful as the series progressed. I thought LaBeouf stood out as a surprising highlight of the first film, largely because he allowed the audience a human connection amidst all the mayhem. He fared a bit less well in Revenge and becomes nearly superfluous here. Dark continues to feature Sam because we’re used to him and the filmmakers don’t want to tamper with the formula, but he serves no real purpose otherwise.
Other repeat characters reappear here, and they also don’t have much to do. Dark adds new talent like Frances McDormand and John Malkovich, but good as they can be, they’re buried among the chaos. I admire their willingness to attempt to add some personality to the experience, but there’s not much they can achieve.
That matches the experience in the first two films, and other similarities continue here. The effects remain top-notch, and despite the general incoherence and disorderliness of the “story”, Bay knows how to stage the occasional impressive action scene.
Without interesting characters or an involving narrative, however, Dark echoes its predecessors in the worst way: it provides a lot of action without meaning or impact. A lot of people seem to really like the Transformers series and get pleasure from the films, but I’m not among them. Dark has its moments but mostly ends up as another spotty entry in the series.