Bumblebee! Credit: Handout

Transformers: Dark of the Moon

Directed by Michael Bay
Starring Shia LaBeouf, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Josh Duhamel, John Turturro, Frances McDormand, Patrick Dempsey
Rated PG-13

3 stars

"Transformers: Dark of the Moon" is more of the same from the movie franchise and Hasbro toy line. In this third installment, Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) and the Autobots are trying to stop the Decepticons from (spoiler alert!) teleporting their home planet into our solar system, then enslaving the human race to rebuild their ravaged world.

This plot is couched in a revisionist tale that has President Kennedy sending men to the moon not in the name of space exploration, but to investigate a mysterious Autobot spacecraft that crashed years prior.

"Dark of the Moon" is preposterous, but director Michael Bay knows that we're all just here for the spectacle.

Bay is a purely visual storyteller; however, he understands dialogue and exposition just enough to guide us from one riveting action scene to the next. He loves to force us to stop thinking, and I found myself happily obliging, embracing the absurdity of it all.

But is it fun absurdity, or just stupid absurdity?

The answer is a matter of taste, but there's something about Bay's juiced-up action sequences that does induce goosebumps - the colossal scale of the Transformers coupled with the audacity of Bay's manic vision.

The movie also veers into apocalyptic territory (sorry, Chicago), which is always fun to see imagined on the big screen. Then there's John Malkovich, Frances McDormand and Ken Jeong, who improve almost every scene that they're in.

The movie drags on too long (this has been a common complaint with all the "Transformers" movies, but Bay clearly doesn't mind), and the deceptively casual violence can be disconcerting, as though ripping out spines and bashing in skulls is less brutal when it's a Transformer.

The hubris is initially off-putting, but if you can find it in yourself to surrender to the hubris, you'll be entertained.

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