‘Dark of the Moon’ dumb as a rock

By Drew Hunt

Because it just wouldn’t be summer blockbuster season without a Michael Bay film, the latest addition to the “Transformers” series is locked, loaded and poised to make millions. Shia Labeouf returns as Sam Witwicky, friend to the galactic Autobots who are exiled on Earth after losing a war to the nefarious Decepticons. Along for the ride is his new girlfriend Carly (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley). The two are soon wrapped up in yet another battle to save the planet after the Decepticons devise a plan to turn Earth into their previous home, Cybertron.

So what exactly can we learn from a movie like “Transformers: Dark of the Moon”? The answer is, surprisingly, quite a bit. A bonanza of information can be gleaned from an astute viewing of the film, the catch being: none of it is good information. From its barefaced materialism to its rampant sexism and its blatant disregard for the intelligence of its audience, the moral absurdities perpetrated by the Hollywood system are on full display here.

There’s a sort of odd brilliance at play in the film. Seeing the city of Chicago methodically destroyed over an exhilarating 50-minute sequence does make for visceral entertainment, like a symphony of destruction that inspires moments of genuine intrigue with its technology-aided wizardry. But there’s a deflating irony inherent in watching one of America’s greatest cities—built and constructed with ingenuity and craftsmanship over decades of human progress—decimated by glorified action figures from outer space.

Over the course of his career, Bay has become something of a whipping boy in the film snob community. He’s usually regarded as a glorified punch line, denigrated for his CGI-heavy films that are low on smarts but big on explosions.

However, while this may be the popular opinion, it’s not necessarily the most accurate one. For starters, his box office receipts are indicative of mass popularity, suggesting that those hordes of anonymous Internet slanderers sneak off and catch the flick as soon as they’re done bashing it on a forum board—likely to accrue more fodder for said bashing.

And, despite his over-reliance on CGI theatrics, Bay is something of a visual stylist. He makes good use of canted angles, hand-held tracks and forced perspectives, all used in a way that suggests these tactics weren’t chosen arbitrarily. Bay clearly knows his way around a camera.

There’s a keen sense of authorship present throughout “Transformers: Dark of the Moon.” But the film is unmistakably the work of a neoconservative who exemplifies and perpetuates everything that is wrong with Hollywood and the country at large.

As the franchise trudges on, the world Bay has created continues to be imbued with the simple stereotypes and unashamed misogyny he once famously coined “good clean fun,” including, but not limited to: an over-sexed and non-English speaking Latina; a nerdy Asian named Wang whose sole function in the film is to be the butt of a crude, homophobic joke; and innumerable shots of Huntington-Whitley’s barely-covered crotch.

After the now-infamous fallout between Bay and actress Megan Fox—which led to her being fired from the film after calling him out on his crap—you’d think Bay and the studio might want to tone down the chauvinism.

Nope. Before we even get to know Huntington-Whitley’s character—before we even see her face or learn about one iota of her personality—Bay offers us a stone-cold gaze at her voluptuous backside, ebbing back and forth as she brings coffee to snoozing LaBeouf.

The rest of the film is merely assorted variations of this single shot. Bay’s aim is to parade in front of us the very things he assumes we value, or, to provide a greater context, the things Hollywood wants us to value.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with going to the movies “just to be entertained,” as is the popular defense for those who readily consume whatever mainstream cinema has to offer. What’s worrisome is an industry that assumes audiences are too stupid to demand anything else and, even worse, audiences who are too apathetic to realize they’re being duped.

“Dark of the Moon” shows us nothing new, but, apparently, that’s exactly what we want.