Who's In It: Shia LaBeouf, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson, Patrick Dempsey, Frances McDormand, John Turturro, John Malkovich, Ken Jeong, Alan Tudyk, Kevin Dunn, Julie White
The Basics: Just as we thought Sam Witwicky (LaBeouf) was graduating college and ready to start a boring, typical life, we are reminded that a hero's work is never done. An Autobot spacecraft landed on the moon in the 1960s, igniting the space race, and it holds the key to something important that needs to be kept from the Decepticons. Of course, when you're a ginormous shiny robot cruising through the sky it's tough to hide your actions, so a big battle ensues and lots of sharp things get thrown around on Earth. And needless to say, Sam doesn't get a desk job as fast as his parents would like.
What's The Deal: This movie is a harbinger of the imminent destruction of our society. Not because it is bad--it wasn't as pointless as the Revenge of the Fallen--but because its overwhelming, violent spectacle indicates we are the equivalent of a heroin junkie finally having to shoot up between their toes out of desperation. Now, all buzzkill social commentaries aside, the movie makes as much sense as you need a shiny robot movie to, and looks stunning (seeing it in 2D is a complete waste of time and money). This time around, I understood which robots were fighting each other and reveled in getting to see the robots punching each other in the face, which is the only reason I like this franchise and one of the many reasons the last one stunk. This time around, everything about the movie is so bizarre, including what should have been run-of-the-mill office scenes or conversations with Sam's parents, that it makes the experience almost delightful. As the credits rolled, however, I was so amped up over the extreme violence and non-stop assault on my senses, I realized that this is what Romans must have felt like just after they partook in their entertainment, and just before their society crumbled under its own depraved weight.
What's Different: Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, who infamously replaced Megan Fox in the series, plays Sam's girlfriend, Carly. She is actually interesting to watch in spite of her hotness (which is on full, barely clothed display throughout the movie, of course). Unfortunately she doesn't get to do anything compelling here, but neither do most other human characters in the movie. Since the script was so light on dialogue-driven scenes outside of robot smashing (as it should be), it seemed as though their direction was to take the most benign moments and make them deliriously over the top (I'm looking at you, Ken Jeong). Shia LaBeouf stomps around, screaming and making crazy eyes at anyone nearby, making me think that Sam doesn't have a job because he's been dabbling in cocaine use. And that's another thing--Sam being jobless after school is realistic in this day and age, but everyone's reaction to it isn't. His parents are frustrated that it's been a whole three months, and John Malkovich tries to convince him that his first job will essentially decide the course of his entire life. If that were true, most of us would forever be babysitters. Or is that just me? Vaguely nice attempt to make the movie current, I guess.
What's Familiar: Screenwriter Ehren Kruger, who also wrote Revenge of the Fallen, manages to infuse this script with the same strange racism from the last film. Although that tidbit has been shrugged off by the filmmakers as critics just being picky, it is hard to completely ignore when things like the phrase "Latin meltdown" is being thrown around without consequence. There are also two mini-robots who serve as comic relief (who are at least funnier and less stereotype-y than the train wrecks from the last movie, Skids and Mudflap). Prepare yourself for more monologuing by Optimus Prime, pulling out every cliche in the book. And as always, tons of explosions and guns. Just another day in an Autobot's life. Oh, and make sure you pay close attention whenever Tyrese is on the screen. He's spouting gems faster than Sidewinder can destroy buildings.