Once the film stops trying to endear you to Shia’s employment and girlfriend problems, the meaningless destruction and mayhem does have a measure of entertainment value.
After helping the Autobots save the world twice (as he mentions repeatedly), Sam (Shia LaBeouf) has graduated college on the government’s (read: taxpayers) dime but can’t seem to find a job (let alone Megan Fox). Worse than not having any student loans to speak of, his hotter-than-his-last-one new girlfriend (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley) is also gainfully employed AND paying the rent while inexplicably sleeping with him (is there no end to his suffering?) As if in answer to his fondest wish of actually mattering (you can’t make this stuff up), the Autobots discover evidence of a fifty year old cover-up involving the the space program and a secret Decepticon threat looming behind the scenes. After ninety minutes getting this far, viewers are finally rewarded for their ticket price by getting what they paid for: continuous, senseless robot-on-robot pummelings.
After expecting far worse for a third installment, it’s clear that the real problem with the entire franchise has been the insistence that Shia LaBeouf’s character be the star when, in fact, he’s little more than the face-man, or as another character notes, “the messenger” (nice job hanging the lantern on that, by the way). While a bit obvious (and thankfully self-ware), the plot of this installment is fairly linear. It’s essentially pointless other than to explain why the stars of the film are in the middle of all the destruction and mayhem. Also, the twisted metal and pyrotechnics don’t suck (and less so if you sprang for the 3D version). As a bonus, quite a bit of the cool stuff fans have been waiting for since the original film finally come to pass, and that’s not a bad thing, either.
Yes, his parents are back and as preachy as ever; you’ve been warned. Fox’s character is dismissed with a line or two about Shia’s luck at love while the rest of cast who survived the last two films turn up as they plot prods along from location to location. Three new additions include John Malkovich as “the boss everyone hates,” Patrick Dempsey as “the rich guy everyone hates,” and Alan Tudyk as “another forgivably weird character because we all like Alan Tudyk anyway.” New eye-candy Rosie Huntington-Whiteley plays a girlfriend who’s actually less worthless than the character she replaced but is still too good to ever be true. Kudos for using the real Buzz Aldrin instead of an actor to play the famous Apollo astronaut.
There is a scene where LaBeouf is riding shotgun with Bumblebee when they are ambushed in traffic. To avoid a collision and killing his passenger, we are treated to something we’ve always wanted to see: a car with a passenger eject the rider, transform in mid air, collect the ejected passenger, avoid the collision, then transform back into the vehicle with the rider back inside. Scenes like this are gold and really show how far special effects have come, and everyone can relate to Sam’s look and scream of utter astonishment that he’s still in one piece. Still, nine Autobots against dozens, possibly hundreds of supposedly hidden Decepticons all over the world and an invasion fleet of Decpticons hardware coming out of nowhere? Even without the Shia’s Skywalker-esque laments (you can almost hear him whining “But I was going to Toshi Station to pick up some power converters!”) the story doesn’t gel or seem believable, so if all you need is to get your robot destruction on, this is the overlong movie for you’ve been waiting for because it really does look that good. For the rest of us, it’s exactly what you’ve come to expect from a Michael Bay Transformers movie except for a scene where Shia LaBeouf is kicking Patrick Dempsey’s butt. No, seriously.
(a two and a half skull recommendation out of four)