It begins on a silent lunar morning, when an Autobot spaceship crashes down on the dark of the moon. This, we are told, generates the space race – sends rubber-faced CGI JFK scrambling to his war room to tell mankind to look to the stars – sets in motion the greatest achievement in human history, for the sole purpose of goin’ and lookin’ at the robots. It’s a retcon corroborated by no less an authority than Buzz Fucking Aldrin himself minutes later, who has been afforded a new flashback of what really went down on that day in ’69. The second man to ever walk on a celestial body not our own wanders onto the set of Transformers: Dark of the Moon and tells the children of America that Yes, We Went There Because Of The Transformers.
It continues as the Autobots are sent scurrying from the Earth, in a spaceship that is half Cybertronian, half good ol’ fashioned NASA Space Shuttle, which promptly explodes – because Space Shuttles do that, remember? You will remember, given how studiously the ILM wizards have aped the death of the Challenger to get that consuming ball of burning gas juuuuuuust right for the moment when the fleeing Autobots meet their apparent demise in the sky. You will think of Columbia, as those jewel-bright pieces of the spaceframe streak back to our planet, auguring the final death of the space age. These images are not there by accident.
And further along, we find ourselves with our human protagonists on an upper storey of an office tower, the lower levels of which have been destroyed by the enemy and are impassable, and which is shortly going to fall from the sky. We are afforded a few jarring, painfully precise moments of fear, as we realize that – shit, we’re trapped here – trapped in the decade-long nightmare – trapped, as the skyline of a major American metropolis beyond the floor-to-ceiling windows tilts and shifts as curtains of black smoke rise from below. We are seeing something that only a few, very unlucky humans have ever witnessed. It is the summer of 2011, and September is two months away.
By the time Sentinel Prime, bearing the gravel-grated voice of Leonard Fucking Nimoy, turned to the sky and rumbled the words “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few” to justify a planetary genocide, I realized that I hated Transformers: Dark of the Moon more than just about anything I’ve seen in my whole life. Certainly, in the context of Everything Else, a jet-black repurposing of an old Spock line for so cruel a purpose is trivial. But it is part of the same thing. Transformers: Dark of the Moon is a wholesale repatriation of a national heritage of image systems, from the most significant to the most blithely pop-cultural, for purposes so horrific that the film is scarcely discernible from a hate crime.
You get what you pay for. I paid for it too. I bought the blu-ray of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen on release day. It all seemed so harmless. No, Trans2mers wasn’t properly a movie, any more than Guy Maddin’s Dracula: Pages from a Virgin’s Hate Fuck was a movie… but in a lifetime spent seeing a hell of a lot of movies, it was a brief and welcome detour off the highway. It was Something Else. I enjoyed it, if not on its own terms, then certainly on mine, and while the rest of the critical world was running around with their moral indignation, I was waxing philosophical on the id of a 13-year-old dick.
This is what you get. This is what you get when you lock Turbo McFucknut up in a franchise and hand him a billion dollars. This is the true heart of boyhood. Steven Fucking Spielberg – Executive Producer of this Dark of the Moon – was once dismissively labeled “Hollywood’s Peter Pan,” but that’s the result of a very American ignorance of the character in question, a conflation of the sugar-berry revisionism of the Disney incarnation of Peter with the cruel, careless adolescent of Barrie’s original. If the real Peter Pan came to Hollywood and started making movies, he wouldn’t be making the kind fables of Spielberg’s yesterland. He’d be Michael Bay, making this shit.
Everyone who participates in Trans3mers is lowered. Shame, shame, shame. Shame on Steven Fucking Spielberg first of all – Steven Fucking “The Shoah Foundation” Spielberg – who has willingly, and with dollar signs in his eyes, signed his name to an act of racism, homophobia, and outright xenophobia, wrapped in some of the most extraordinary violence ever slapped with a PG-13. (His own much-reviled Temple of Doom is the fucking Goonies next to this shit.) Shame on Leonard Fucking Nimoy, too, who used to interrogate the meaning behind his science fiction roles at least a little bit, and now, it seems, no longer gives enough of a fuck to think about his legacy, or Spock’s legacy, or anything else. Shame on Buzz Fucking Aldrin, who might have been tricked or paid off, or might have thought he was furthering the cause of igniting interest in space in our next generation, or might just be a colossal fucking asshole. Shame on the entire stable of Coen Brothers actors who deigned to inculcate themselves into this mess as though it didn’t matter. Shame – and I can scarcely believe I am saying this – on Alan Fucking Tudyk, who shoulda stayed fucking dead when that Reaver pole stabbed him in the heart. Shame, shame, shame fucking shame.
The only person who comes away from Transformers: Dark of the Moon undarkened is the person who isn’t even in it: Megan Everlovin’ Fox. Fox may or may not have a square to spare, but no matter how Bay characterizes the schism in the popular media (Bay, ever the coward, insists Spielberg Did It), the girl got one over on old Mikey: she developed an opinion of him, and told others, and let her career self-immolate as a result, and moved beyond his scope of control. Bay cannot stand the lack of control, any more than he can stand a woman who does anything other than acquiesce to his churning vortex of misogyny. If he can’t have them, he must refute them, which he does, witlessly, gracelessly, in Dark of the Moon, by having his robo-shlomos catcall his absent actress, not unlike a playground bully throwing rocks at the back of a kid’s head.
And then there’s the New Girl, who is introduced ass-first – and in 3-D, mind – shortly before we leap into a flashback of her first encounter with Sam Witwicky, where she is ushered onscreen by Mommy Witwicky barking “Oh, what a lovely box!”. Yes, Michael. I’m sure she is a lovely box – not even has a lovely box, and certainly not has a personality or a mind or a soul to go with that 10-year-old boy bum. Much has been made of Michael Bay’s visual connection to pornography, and further to that end I’ll say only this: the man certainly knows when not to show a being’s head, for fear of taking the erotic charge out of the room by fiddling around with, y’know, identities n’ shit.
“Oh, but it’s just a bit of fun,” you’ll say, or “you’re taking it too seriously.” Nope: I don’t buy that. I think I’m finally taking it just seriously enough. This is a movie based on a toy line that is marketed overwhelmingly to children, in which a human female possessing a body that no other human female will ever possess picks her way over the rubble of Chicago to the half-fallen Megatron (who is, by this point in the trilogy, literally wearing Arab robes), and taunts him by calling him a bitch. Megatron – a machine the size of a schoolhouse, who could flick Rosie Whitfield-McBurnamthorpe into the Chicago River without even moving his arm, is brought low by five human letters that, in the Michael Bay Universe, are the actual worst thing a male of any stripe, human or otherwise, can be called. In the Michael Bayverse, there is nothing more humiliating than being – well, Megan Fox, actually. Fox was a bitch, and the robots tell us so. And so’s anyone else who isn’t an alpha male (Army Guy, Black Army Guy, Optimus Motherfuckin’ Prime, or gun-bearing Sam Witwicky) or a blow-job-offering female (oh – and yes she is, and yes she does).
Had I not been stranded in the middle of a very long and very enthusiastic row of IMAX viewers for Transformers: Dark of the Moon, I would have walked out. I would have walked out right around the time that the 9/11 skyscraper scene was making me sick to my stomach, because it was shortly thereafter that I realized I no longer had any idea what was going on, or why, and that I was being jackhammered mercilessly by noise, and that it was all in the service of unbridled, glistening hate. It made me sad. It made me sick. There is so much hate in this film, it is actually frightening. Transformers 3 is violent, venal, and vile. It is in service of the worst things in not just American culture, but all human culture. This is an affront upon our civilization’s soul. We should not have come here.