?Back in 2009, I had a movie-going experience that changed my life. That movie was Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen, and it was so awful that I was forced to write a lengthy diatribe about its myriad plot holes and utter wretchedness, which I did in FAQ form. This Transformers 2 FAQ helped put Topless Robot on the internet map, and I daresay a lot of you guys are here because someone passed you that article, and you liked it enough to stick around. So it’s with great pleasure and mild trepidation that I present Topless Robot’s Transformers 3 FAQ!
Is it as bad as Transformers 2?
No. Not even close.
Really? Does that mean it’s good?
No. Not even close. But it’s not a wretched cinematic atrocity against man and god, so I consider that an improvement.
Well, before we get into the plot, can you sum up your feelings on the film for people who don’t want to be spoiled?
Yes I can. I’ve seen a lot of reviews that compare the movie to Michael Bay dangling his keys in front of the audience’s face, as if they were babies that were easily distracted by shiny objects, but that’s not strictly accurate. Imagine Michael Bay staring at you and pulling out his keys once every 10 minutes for 10 to 15 seconds. After an hour and a half, he pulls out his keys and leaves them out for an entire hour. Also, the keys are now exploding.
…so is the movie worth seeing?
Depends on how much you like keys.
The (spoiler-filled) FAQ continues after the jump!
How does Transformers 3 fit in with the first two Transformers movies?
It doesn’t. At all. None of it makes the slightest bit of sense if you remember an iota of the first two movies. Of course, Michael Bay films presuppose you’ve forgotten what you saw two minutes ago, let alone two years ago, so it’s hardly the film’s most grievous flaw.
Where do we start?
At Cybertron! In the ’60s! During the last days of the Autobot/Decepticon war, the legendary Sentinel Prime gets on the Ark with a device that could bring an end to the fighting. Of course, the Decepticons blow up part of the ship, and it ends up crashing on the moon.
Man, if you’re going to get hung up on minor inconsistencies like that we’re going to be here all day. Save your breath for the big shit that makes no sense. I promise there’s plenty.
Okay. What then?
Well, some good ol’ Amurricans detect the moon crash, and start the whole space program to see what’s the hell is going on. Eventually, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin land on the moon in ’69, pretend they’re going on an innocent moonwalk, but secretly check out the Ark. They find some unconscious robots. And then they leave and no one ever goes back.
Hey, I didn’t write the last 40 years of U.S. space exploration. They find a giant alien spaceship, and then everyone decides to ignore it.
Is that one of the big things that makes no sense?
Yes. Now, back to the present! The Decepticons are missing again, so the Autobots — in a decision only Michael Bay could or would have made — are secretly helping the U.S. military hunt terrorists. When I “secretly,” I mean “despite having incredibly visible fights in a major U.S. city, a significant portion of Shanghai, and destroying a decent amount of the pyramids in the previous two films.” And when I say “hunt,” I of course mean “blow the living shit out of.” Bumblebee fires a missile at an Iraqi bad guy from less than 20 feet away. U-S-A-! U-S-A!
The Decepticons aren’t really gone, are they?
Of course not. They’re… uh… they’re hiding in the African Sahara. With zebras.
They’re not hiding with vehicles of some sort? Because they transform into vehicles? And are robots in disguise?
Nope. They’re in the Sahara with zebras. If it helps, Megatron wears a cloak with a hood… I guess so people won’t recognize him, maybe? Even though he’s a giant fucking robot? And only hanging out with fellow Decepticons?
That doesn’t help at all.
Well, that’s all I got. Anyways, they have an evil plan, which isn’t revealed for a while, because it’s time to hang out with Shia the Beef!
Okay, what’s Sam Witwicky up to?
Well, the Beef has fallen on tough times. Despite saving the world twice — which he reminds people of incessantly — he’s been abandoned by the Autobots and the U.S. military for being kind of a douchebag. He’s now jobless with a piece of shit car, and forced to live for free in the gigantic, gorgeously furnished D.C. loft apartment of his super-hot, incredibly rich girlfriend Carly.
Poor guy. Shia is desperately looking for a job, which he can’t get because he keeps Beefing up during all the interviews and spazzing out. After many, many interviews — which we know, because Bay makes us watch them all — he’s hired by John Malkovich to work in the mailroom. And then we get to see him deliver mail for a while.
Hey, at least it’s not the Twins.
And there’s a ton more shit without Transformers in it. Shia meets Carly’s clearly evil boss, played by McDreamy from Grey’s Anatomy. Shia gets jealous because McDreamy, like every other male in the movie, ogles Carly relentlessly. Then Sam’s parents visit with far less awkwardness than in TF2, although Mother the Beef still takes time to bring up her son’s penis size and the importance of vaginally pleasuring a woman.
And then McDreamy gives Carly a car that’s obviously a Decepticon, and Shia is even more jealous and pissy, John Malkovich wastes some time, and all this somehow takes up an entire hour of film time. Finally, Ken Jeong shows up as basically every Ken Jeong character ever and hands the Beef some newspaper articles about people from NASA dying in mysterious ways before Laserback pushes him out a window.
Presumably he’s one of those folks who worked at NASA, but it could just be because Ken Jeong is a weirdo. Anyways, Laserbeak, having completed his mission of making it look like suicide, sneaks into Shia’s office as a copier and then attacks him, finally bringing him into the main plot.
None of that last sentence made any sense. If it was supposed to look like a suicide, why would Laserbeak then instantly reveal himself? How could he sneak into a busy office as copier? Why does he attack Shia?
I can’t answer the first two, but as for the last question, I assume the Decepticons saw Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
Okay, I’ll buy that. So what’s this main plot you speak of?
Well, while the movie focuses on important things like the Beef’s employment search, the Autobots, along with Josh Duhamel and other unimportant humans, go to Chernobyl on a tip that Decepticons are hanging out there. There, the Autobots discover a piece of the Ark which the Decepticons somehow apparently had. Also they get attacked by a giant robot sandworm thing which kills countless humans and zero Autobots, of course.
What Decepticon is the giant robot sandworm?
Uh… Sandwormicon? Fuck, I don’t know. It doesn’t transform or anything. Anyways, it doesn’t matter, because this is all a Decepticon ploy for the Autobots to find the Ark piece and then go to the moon.
If they just wanted the Autobots to find the Ark piece, why have the giant robot sandworm attack the Autobots at all?
Look, you have a giant robot sandworm, you might as well use it, right?
Optimus and crew land on the moon, find the Ark, along with the only-partially-dead Sentinel Prime and five “pillars” of power — that would be the weapon that would end the Autobot-Decepticon war.
What do the pillars do?
They make a space bridge. Lets you transport things through space.
How the fuck would a space bridge end the Autobot-Decepticon war?
I haven’t the foggiest. Continuing: Optimus brings Sentinel and the pillars back to Earth, and revives Sentinel with the Matrix of Leadership.
The Matrix that operated the machine that was going to blow up the sun in Transformers 2?
Yes, that one. This is the point where Prime fusses at exceedingly bitchy Secretary of Defense Frances McDormand for not revealing everything they knew about the Transformers. McDormand says the info was classified, which means either everyone forgot about the giant robot-piloted alien spaceship, or that these people remembered and didn’t think it was worth bringing up when giant robots where running around in the first two movies.
So after that Laserbeak attack, Sam finally hooks up with the Autobots and tells them that the Decepticons are back and are planning something. McDormand is continues to be exceedingly bitchy. Having realized that the Decepticons are killing people who knew about the Ark, the Beef goes to get help from John Turturro, who figures out that the Decepticons are killing people who knew about the Ark.
Just go with it. Oh, I should point out that Alan Tudyk plays Turturro’s gay German assistant.
That sounds awful.
It is, but compared to the wretchedness of TF2 this is still a breath of fresh air. Okay, maybe not a breath of fresh air, but a small pile of dog poop on the sidewalk that you can easily step over, as opposed to spending two and a half hours in an over-used Port-a-Potty on a hot summer’s day.
I think I’d probably have rather seen Turturro’s butt again.
To each his own. Anyways, then there’s some business with some ex-cosmonauts who took pictures of the Ark and saw several hundred pillars being moved at some point in the ’70s or ’80s, I think, and Shia realizes the Decepticons have already been to the Ark and this whole thing is a trap.
That’s a pretty good intuitive leap for Witwicky.
Yeah, but I’m more impressed that the Russian ex-cosmonauts carry around classified pics of the moon 30 years later to random bars.
What’s the trap, exactly?
Well — and let me point out that this is actually part of the plot which makes sense — it turns out Sentinel Prime is the only one who can operate the pillars/Space Bridge-thing, and he could only be revived by the Matrix of Leadership. The Decepticons left that Ark piece in Chernobyl so the Autobots would find it, learn about the Ark, go get Sentinel Prime, and revive him. Because the Decepticons have several hundred pillars, and all they need is Sentinel Prime.
Actually, that is pretty cl– wait a second. The Matrix of Leadership was lost until the end of the last movie. There’s no way the Decepticons would have known that it would have been found to pull this thing off.
SHUT UP I’M TRYING TO BE COMPLIMENTARY.
Shia races back to Autobot/military HQ where Sentinel Prime is hanging out, and about an hour and a quarter in there’s finally an action scene as Shia and Bumblebee race down the highway with a few random Autobots and Decepticons to get to Sentinel Prime first.
Holy shit, the first action sequence appears halfway through the movie?
The first one involving robots fighting robots. The only other action scenes are the Autobots killing unarmed terrorists and the Beef running from Laserbeak.
Why does Michael Bay keep putting all this boring shit in his action movies?
I don’t know. It’s like someone once told him that there was a law that people had to put the same amount of non-action scenes in films as action scenes, and so keeps including them even though he has no idea how to shoot non-action scenes and clearly doesn’t care.
So who gets to Sentinel Prime first?
Neither of them! Turns out Sentinel Prime made a deal with Megatron back on Cybertron to work together, ostensibly to save Cybertron. So he’s kind of evil now. He suddenly kills Ironhide and many, many humans and blows up most of the HQ before grabbing the five pillars and leaving.
Okay. If Sentinel and Megatron were working together way back on Cybertron, why did the Decepticons shoot down the Ark causing it to crash on the moon?
I haven’t the faintest. Sentinel doesn’t seem particularly concerned either.
And how the hell will the Space Bridge save Cybertron now?
I still don’t know how it was supposed to “end the war,” but Sentinel’s plan is to bring Cybertron to Earth through the Space Bridge, and use humans as slave labor to rebuild it.
Most human have difficulty making a goddamned Ikea desk, how the hell are they supposed to rebuild an entire planet of hyper-advanced technology? And what in the hell could humans do that a giant fucking robot couldn’t do a bajillion times quicker?
I don’t know. Maybe Sentinel Prime is just extremely lazy. But I’ve skipped ahead a little bit. First, Sentinel uses the Space Brudge to bring several hundred Decepticons from the moon to Earth where they immediately run around and break shit.
What were all these Decepticons doing on the moon?
Hiding under a bunch of moon dust for decades, apparently.
Where the hell did they come from?
The Ark? Maybe?
Does that mean they were Autobots who turned Decepticon along with Sentinel Prime?
Maybe? Sure. Why not. And they walked out of the Ark after it crashed and buried themselves and waited to see if someone would come along and revive Sentinel Prime after finding the lost Matrix of Leadership and teleport them to earth or something.
Where are the Autobots during all this?
Out. Except for Ironhide. Who’s dead.
At this point, the Earth just gives up and lets the Decepticons be in charge. Rather than say they’re going to enslave the human race, the Decepticons cunningly say they’re just going to use the planet’s resources to rebuild Cybertron. And in a twist that should surprise no one, it turns out McDreamy is working for the Decepticons as some kind of liaison in some way that is never made especially clear. Now, McDreamy knows about the whole “enslavement” plan, and he’s not bucking to be king of America or anything. His big benefit of working with evil robots is to, and I quote, “not die.” He’s worked tirelessly for years to help the Decepticons take over earth so that when the Decepticons take over earth they don’t kill him.
He didn’t have second thoughts when the Autobots beat the Decepticons in the first two movies? Or maybe when they mentioned that whole “enslave the human race” thing?
Apparently not. Frankly, I think he has some self-esteem issues. Of course, the car he gave Carly turns out to be Soundwave, and he kidnaps her. Then the Decepticons order that the Autobots leave Earth.
What’s notable about that?
Well, two things: 1) When Shia learns of this, he frets that the Autobots have no way of leaving the planet, ignoring the fact that they took a spaceship to the moon half an hour earlier. 2) The Autobots actually get on a totally different spaceship anyways, which the government has tried to disguise by attaching it to a space shuttle, which makes it look like a space shuttle glued to the side of a giant and very obvious alien spaceship. Of course, when it takes off, a single Decepticon plane blows it up with ease.
With the Autobots dead — TOTES 4 REALS — the Decepticons get down to the business of distributing their pillars all around the world, and setting up the main one in Chicago. Also, they start blowing up buildings and killing people.
Wait. I thought they were going to use human as slaves? And why are they blowing up Chicago? Does that help the Space Bridge?
Well, they clearly don’t need all the humans to rebuild Cybertron, because the Decepticons hunt and brutally murder many, many Chicagoans. As for destroying the buildings… well, it doesn’t hurt, I guess?
Oh, I should probably mention that the Decepticons have a huge spaceship at this point, and several dozen gunships.
What the hell did those come from?
I haven’t the foggiest.
And wait a second — what do you mean gunships? Like planes? That have robots as pilots? Robots that turn into planes on their own?
What the fuck?
I continue to not have the foggiest.
I’m going to get a drink.
Please do. With the Autobots dead — WINK WINK — Shia somehow gets the guys of Nest back together to invade Chicago and rescue Sam’s hot, rich girlfriend. Please note that other than Tyrese Gibson, I have no clue who any of these people are or if they were in the first two films, although movie sure wants to pretend like they’re familiar faces, since we get a big pep-talk about defending the planet and a montage of them all coming together. Which is slightly undercut by the fact that when they get to Chicago and see it in flaming ruins, they all immediately refuse to go in.
I’m getting a second drink, because I think I’m going to finish this first one pretty quick.
But oh ho! The Autobots suddenly arrive! Why, they’re not dead after all! It turns out they assumed that the Decepticons would be dicks and hid in one of the spaceship’s booster rockets and were back on Earth almost immediately.
And they just decided to wait while the Decepticons massacred people in Chicago?
Pretty much. Although Optimus actually has an explanation for this — he says, and I swear this is true, that he had to let humans understand the Decepticons were not to be trusted. So the Autobots sat back and let the Decepticons kill thousands of people and destroy a major U.S. city as a lesson.
At this point, there’s about an hour left in the movie. And this is when the action sequence starts.
“The”? Don’t you mean “an action sequence”?
No. I mean “the.” As in “The action sequence that lasts the rest of the movie.”
Mostly it’s Sam and Carly (after she’s rescued but not taken away from the battle, of course), in a building with some soldiers, while the building’s crashing. They slide down the floors. They slide on the outside of the building. They hang on wires. The giant robot sandworm comes back, suddenly grows five times its original size in-between shots and it starts fucking the building. This lasts 20 minutes or so.
Well, the next biggest thing is footage of soldiers flying in wingsuits. See, the Decepticons are shooting down all planes, so they have to use the wingsuits to get in.
Don’t they still have to fly in planes to get to Chicago to jump out and use the wingsuits?
Yes. And many of the planes get shot down, just like the other planes. Also, although the plan is to disrupt one of Sentinel Prime’s main pillars — which is on top of one of Chicago’s skyscrapers — the soldiers not only land on the ground anyways, but land on the far side of a goddamn river.
So why use the wingsuits at all?
Because Michael Bay saw them on 60 Minutes, that’s why.
Third most prevalent element: Humans fighting robots. Michael Bay turns on the cheat code where human weapons can hurt Transformers finally, so some of the soldiers manage to kill some of the hundreds of Decepticons running about. Also, some elderly Autobot gives the Beef some kind of powerful weapon before the battle and refused to explain how it worked, of course, so the Beef ends up shooting a grappling hook in Starscream’s eye and swinging around for an agonizingly long time before jamming a bomb into his other eye and blowing his head off.
Why not just use the bomb and not mess with the grappling hook?
An excellent question that I have no answer for.
So do any robots fight robots in this scene, perchance?
Yes, but that’s the fourth and final element of the hour-long battle. Optimus kills the giant robot sandworm and then — I shit you not — gets stuck in some cables for 20 full minutes. Bumblebee dragon-punches some Decepticon’s head off, who I thought was Megatron at first but must have been Soundwave. Optimus kills Shockwave at some point, although I can’t remember the details.
You’re not making it sound very exciting.
That is not unintentional.
Fine, so let’s wrap it up. So after getting untangled from those nefarious wires, Optimus fights Sentinel Prime and stops the Space Bridge?
Yes and no. Yes Optimus fights Sentinel, but it is not he who defeats him.
So who does? Bumblebee?
Is it the Beef?
Oh, indeed. At some point Carly wanders off and finds Megatron just sitting next to a building, chillaxing. Carly gets all Intro to Logic 101 on Megatron and says that when Cybertron gets here, Megatron’s going to be second-in-command to Sentinel Prime. Megatron falls for this incredibly obvious ploy totally and immediately, and leaves to go shoot Sentinel in the back while he’s fighting Optimus.
You have got to fucking be kidding me.
No. And then Optimus kills Sentinel by ripping his head and spine out, Mortal Kombat Fatality-style. Oh, and then Megatron starts talking about how he and Optimus need each other, and Optimus kills the shit out of him too. And the other Autobots finally get around to destroying one of the pillars, destroying the space bridge — unfortunately, Cybertron was part of the way through, so it implodes. Because Michael Bay, I guess.
Yes, the day was saved, thanks to the supermodel who outwitted a giant, evil robot.
Well. That sounds like a Michael Bay film to me.
And the final scene of Transformers 3 — and probably Michael Bay’s entire Transformers franchise — is John Turturro planting a slobbery kiss on Frances McDormand.
Really? He couldn’t even end with a shot of a goddamned Transformer?
Hey, what do you want out of your Transformers movies — giant robots or old people kissing?
Are you fucking serious?
Never mind, don’t answer that.
How many robot bodily fluids and robot genitalia are shown in the movie?
Thankfully, no genitalia, and only one robot bodily fluid. Drool, specifically.
Well, Laserbeak slavers and Megatron spits a bit when he gets too excited. Again, I contend that Michael Bay still doesn’t know what a robot is.
So should I watch it in 3-D or 2-D?
3-D for sure. Whatever my problems were with the action sequences, it wasn’t the 3-D. Honestly, the 3-D was probably better here than in Avatar, although that might be because exploding robots are more interesting than blue hippies reenacting Dances with Wolves. Incidentally, even if you don’t watch it in 3-D, you should appreciate that it was filmed in 3-D, because I’m pretty sure it forced Michael Bay to make better action sequences.
Well, you can’t film too close up in 3-D because then much of the 3-D effect is lost. So many of the fight scenes in TF3 are filmed from a distance, meaning I could actually tell what the fuck was going on in some of them. Yes, the robot designs are still messes, but when they’re not on shaky-cam from three feet away, you can actually make out robot arms and legs and what they were doing sometimes. It’s an interesting sensation in a Bay film.
Are the Twins in the film?
Yes and no. Yes, they show up in one of the Autobot convoys in car mode. But they never turn into robots or speak, thank god. I wouldn’t bother trying to get Bay to pay up, though.
So did they explain why Megan Fox was suddenly gone?
Only in that the Beef says at one point he was dumped. And I’m pretty sure Wheelie calls her a bitch.
How’s Rosie Huntington-Whiteley compare to Megan Fox?
Well, she’s less attractive than Megan Fox and not as good an actress, but not insanely so. However, I rescind my previous statement that she seemed worse than January Jones in X-Men: First Class. January Jones was significantly worse.
I don’t find Rosie Huntington-Whiteley that attractive.
Well, Michael Bay sure does, because the first scene after the title is a close-up of her ass, only in panties, walking up the stairs for a good 30 seconds. And again, all the males in the movie leer at her unsettlingly. Even Bumblebee, when he first sees Rosie, freaks out and breaks a chandelier. Ha ha, it’s funny because she’s so attractive ha ha ROBOTS WANT TO FUCK OUR WOMEN.
What’s the biggest problem with this movie?
It’s that’s it’s so dull. Seriously, the first hour and a half — 3/5ths of the damn movie — there’s virtually no action in this action movie. And when the action starts, it lasts a full hour — which sounds cool, but somehow manages to be dull in its own way. I’m not saying Bay can’t direct action, because he obviously can, and I’m sure plenty of people loved it as is. But after 10 minutes of people gadding about in a collapsing building, I was ready to move on, and yet there was still 10 more minutes of it to go. There’s absolutely no pacing in this movie.
Really? There’s an hour-long action scene and you think it’s dull?
Think of it this way: Chocolate cake is good, right? But you wouldn’t want to eat it for an hour. The first 10-15 minutes would be awesome. The second 10-15 minutes might still be pretty good. After 30 minutes, you’re full and you don’t want any more cake, even though it’s delicious. And after an hour, all you want to do is vomit. And that’s Transformers 3.
Hey, does any of this movie take place in the dark of the moon?
Not one fucking bit.
SPECIAL HATERS SECTION!
So why’d you go see it if you hate Transformers so much?
Because I’m a professional blogger, and one of the things I do on my blog is nerdy movie reviews. It was my job to see Transformers 3.
Then why don’t you go get another job then?
Because the economy sucks and because even if Transformers 3 sucks, watching it is still a hell of a lot better than digging ditches for a living.
Who cares if the plot sucks? It’s an action movie!
I care. As it turns out, I prefer it when my movies have good action scenes and a decent plot. I’m greedy that way.
Why are you bitching that the Transformers movie is stupid when the original cartoon is just as stupid?
Because the ’80s Transformers cartoon didn’t have a $300 million budget and wasn’t supposed to appeal to millions of viewers of many ages in several countries. I think having slightly higher standards for the live-action movie is pretty reasonable.
Do you really expect a great story from a movie based on a toy cartoon?
No. But a decent story? A so-so story? A story that isn’t relentlessly stupid? Yeah, I think I’d like that.
Who cares if it’s dumb? This movie is for kids!
I think the lingering shots of Rosie Huntington-Whiteley’s almost bare ass and the incredibly graphic violence indicate the movie is not solely for kids. And as it turns out, it is legal to have a non-ludicrously dumb plot, characterizations instead of accents, and even mediocre acting in kids movies sometimes. I looked it up.
Do you expect TF3 to be Citizen Kane? It’s a turn-off-your-brain summer popcorn flick!
Of course not. But there’s a pretty wide range between your standard summer fare and Citizen Kane, and just because I don’t want my movie to be so stupid that I can’t stop thinking about how dumb it is doesn’t mean I need it to be some art house flick. Here’s a summer popcorn flick for you: Thor. Was Thor dumb? No, but it wasn’t smart. And it wasn’t so dumb I was too distracted by horrible plot holes to enjoy the movie. I like not-smart movies. Love ’em, in fact. I don’t need all movies to be as clever as Citizen Kane. I just need them to not be insanely stupid.
Why can’t you just enjoy the spectacle, man?
Because spectacle is infinitely more spectacular if it’s part of a story that makes a modicum of sense and characters that I give the tiniest shit about.