There truly is "more than meets the eye" in director Michael Bay's third bombastic blockbuster based on the Hasbro toy vehicles that transformed into robots. The super-slick opening of "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" blends real footage of John F. Kennedy and Walter Cronkite during the space race of the '60s with new footage of the Apollo 11 astronauts discovering a crashed Transformers ship on the moon.
The action then cuts to the present day, where Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) is struggling to find a job and do something that matters after helping to save the world twice with Megan Fox. We learn that Fox's character dumped Sam (in real life, the actress wasn't invited back because, among other things, she called Bay a "Nazi") and Sam has shacked up with the equally hot Carly Spencer (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley). Is that a Transformer in his pocket or are supermodels just happy to see him? Just saying.
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The action picks up after Optimus Prime retrieves the dormant Sentinel Prime (voiced by Leonard Nimoy) from the wreckage on the moon and resurrects him. Unbeknownst to Optimus and his fellow Autobots, Sentinel has made a deal with the Decepticons to enslave humanity and activate a space bridge that will bring their home planet of Cybertron to Earth. The ensuing battle in Chicago between Autobots and Decepticons features jaw-dropping CGI effects that are blended with real footage of skydivers zipping between the skyscrapers.
The best news about "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" is that it is a marked improvement over the last installment, "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen." Along with Fox, gone are the ridiculous, jive-talking Transformers that sank the last picture. This time there are welcome familiar faces like Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson and even a cameo by astronaut Buzz Aldrin as himself. Franchise newcomers Frances McDormand and John Malkovich bring some Oscar cred to the giant-robot movies with their performances as director of national intelligence and Sam's boss, respectively. Patrick Dempsey also chews into his role as Carly's boss, a smarmy auto collector secretly in bed with the Decepticons.
It is impossible not to be blown away by the level of detail in the effects on the Blu-ray edition, especially when our heroes are sliding through crumbling skyscrapers in Chicago that are being torn apart by Decepticons. Bay keeps the action moving along at a brisk pace despite the film's excessive 154-minute runtime, and there are some signature Bay moments that will make you grin ear to ear.
At one point, we are treated to a slo-mo shot of Victoria's Secret model Huntington-Whiteley -- vacant-eyed with lips pursed like she is saying the first syllable of "Thursday" for eternity -- as she walks toward the camera while cars are tossed and explosions go off behind her. She's oblivious to the destruction and seems to be protected by a Bay-sanctioned force field of supermodel hotness. She is there to remind viewers that no matter what you think of Bay as a director or his obvious weakness for smoldering babes, his movies are never boring to look at.
Extras! Both the DVD and Blu-ray are bare-bones affairs with only a digital copy included. All the extras as well as a Blu-ray 3-D version are being saved for a future combo pack, and a coupon is included for $10 off that version when it is eventually released.