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After the critical drubbing the second film in the Transformers franchise received, one wouldn’t necessarily have expected to see a third just two years after Revenge Of The Fallen. Nevertheless, Micheal Bay is back calling the shots for Dark Of The Moon, showing off his predilection for anything with gadgets and gizmos over anything with human beings.  But why give the man another chance to fail? Because technically he didn’t.

The first two films in the series raked in a combined $1.5 billion in ticket sales worldwide. And, borrowing a familiar phrase from Wu-Tang Clan’s C.R.E.A.M. track (cash rules everything around me) as representative of the studios’ modus operandi, it was only natural that a third film be commissioned. And despite its roughly $200 million budget, Dark Of The Moon should do very well at the box office,  especially if fan reactions thus far (according to review aggregator site RottenTomatoes.com), are any indication. Once again showing the widening disconnect between critics and audiences, only 36% of critics give the film a thumbs up while a whopping 90% of audiences did the same.

Don’t be surprised if there’s a fourth.

As for the third, I’ll have to side with the critics on this one; Dark of The Moon is a noisy, thinly-plotted, and unnecessarily long special effects extravaganza without much of a soul, that I think even audiences with ADD will feel assaulted by.

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But if you’ve seen the first two and liked them, you will probably appreciate this one as well. The sensory pummeling should come as no surprise to you faithful.

Director Michael Bay isn’t exactly known for his restraint, but one would expect that he’d have some momentary reflection on the size and scope of the tasks that lie ahead of him, and maybe even take into consideration one or two common criticisms of the first two movies, before embarking on the third. But no! Instead he turns up the destruction dial up even further and  makes the sexual objectification of his lead female star more deliberate.

Like X-Men First Class, Dark Of The Moon takes a revisionist history approach,  as screenwriter Ehren Kruger reimagines the mid-to-late twentieth century Space Race between the then Soviet Union (USSR) and the United States as a clandestine reaction to Autobots on the moon. This is an alluringly outrageous idea that really could have been further explored and been the heart of the story (what little there is of one here), especially with the support of a group of esteemed thespians that includes Frances McDormand, John Malkovich and  John Turturro; however, Bay gives them nothing to do here, unless you consider Turturro’s repeated manic reactions engaging.

The autobots are the attraction and thus far more interesting than the actual human characters. But even with the coolest of special effects, as there is in Dark Of The Moon, they really can’t make you care.

What then follows is two hours of pointless, uninspired drivel that really doesn’t have any genuine reason for being, culminating in a final, overly-long third act that’s devoted to a colossally destructive battle of the bots that demolishes nearly all of Chicago. I was begging for mercy!

To Bay’s credit, thankfully, gone are the embarrassing racial stereotypes as we saw in Skids and Mudflap in Revenge of The Fallen.

And, as already hinted at, the movie’s 3D special effects are definitely impressive to behold, but all of that just isn’t enough to fill up its 2 ½ hour running time, and make up for what’s missing in its thin, lazy script.

But I suppose it’ll be easy to dismiss it as mindless, breathless summer movie fun, and it should play well to its target demographic – overwhelmingly teen and male.

Is this what we can expect to see in the future of Hollywood studio filmmaking? I certainly hope not.

Tambay Obenson is editor of Shadow And Act on the indieWIRE Network at blogs.indiewire.com/shadowandact

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