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‘Transformers: Dark of the Moon’

After the evisceration that Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen received by reviewers and audiences alike, it’s no surprise that the third installment steps up its game some.

But it’s not enough.

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The overlong (and overloud) action flick Dark of the Moon is little more than an excuse to show what director Michael Bay can do with a close to $200 million budget. The 3-D looks good, and careful attention was paid to make sure it wasn’t just an afterthought, like in many other movies. Compared to Transformers 2, there is more plot this time, but it’s still pretty cheesy and laughable. Bay knows it’s the action that people care about, and he certainly delivers on that front.

By this third installment, Transformers fans should know that the Autobots are the good guys fighting for our freedom, while the Decepticons are the bad ones trying to take it away.

This time around, the Optimus Prime and his gang of Autobots still can’t get along with Megatron and the Decepticons. The humans think they’re helping, but really they are just running around, yelling and not making any real contribution to the fight to save humanity.

Sam Witwicky (Shia LeBeouf) is one of those humans. Sam is more obnoxious than ever, and I wasn’t sure if it was the character or the actor, though I lean toward the latter. In Dark of the Moon, Sam is fresh out of college and looking for his first job. He thinks he’s Mr. Big Deal, having helped save the world twice already, but employers don’t see him that way.

Sam’s life really isn’t all that interesting. He has progressed from being the kid with his first car, which turned into an awesome robot, to being a boring Millennial, Generation Y-er or whatever we’re calling that age group these days.

Megan Fox has been unceremoniously replaced as the token hot chick Mikaela Barnes, Sam’s girlfriend. The new girl is played by model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley (in her first credited acting gig), who doesn’t seem to have any problem with the over-sexualized camera angles and up-the-skirt shots required of her character, Carly Spencer.

Oh, and her “acting,” unfortunately, isn’t any better than Fox’s, plus her British accent was difficult to understand at times. But I guess most of the target audience was probably just looking at her, not listening to her.

Although I’ve never been a big fan of Fox’s “acting,” it’s easy to see why she may have butted heads with Michael Bay, reportedly calling him “Hitler.” She either quit or was fired, depending on what you read, but either way it wasn’t an amicable parting. Bay and LeBeouf don’t miss the opportunity to take a few shots at Fox in the script, either.

Frances McDormand shows up to play some sort of government agent, and I wondered what a woman with her credentials (Oscar winner, for starters) was doing in a silly summer movie like Transformers. Another newcomer to the cast, Patrick Dempsey, plays a bad guy, but I never bought it from him. Cast mainstays Josh Duhamel and Tyrese Gibson reprise their (boring) roles.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon certainly offers more metal (and explosions, car crashes, etc.) for your money. And at 157 minutes, it almost feels like two movies for the price of one. ••

Movie Grade: C

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