Andy Bockelman: Third ‘Transformers’ installment little more than nuts and bolts

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Andy Bockelman is a member of the Denver Film Critics Society, and his movie reviews appear in Explore Steamboat and the Craig Daily Press.

Now playing:

“Transformers: Dark of the Moon”

2 out of 4 stars

155 minutes

Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Josh Duhamel, John Turturro and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley. Now playing at the West Theatre and Steamboat Springs’ Metropolitan Wildhorse Stadium Cinemas.

Although the soundtrack of “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” contains no music whatsoever by Pink Floyd, the progressive rock group’s seminal album still comes to mind when describing it.

It’s the kind of movie that will definitely make a lot of “Money,” possibly cause a little “Brain Damage” and hopefully be forgotten with the passage of “Time.”

Ever since their arrival on Earth, the Autobots of Cybertron have been assisting the U.S. government in containing the most dangerous threats to security, be they human or the evil Cybertronian counterparts, the Decepticons. While Autobot leader Optimus Prime (voice of Peter Cullen) and his crew have been hard at work, one of their human friends isn’t quite as busy.

New college graduate Sam Witwicky (Shia LeBeouf) may have helped save the world on two separate occasions, but apparently you have to be the savior of mankind at least three times to get ahead in the job market.

Despite being stuck in a menial corporate position working for an unpleasant taskmaster (John Malkovich) rather than helping to protect the safety of the globe with his robot companions, Sam’s life isn’t all bad, with his girlfriend Carly (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley) always supportive of him.

Though Sam could do without the attention Carly receives from her fabulously wealthy boss (Patrick Dempsey), petty jealousy is the least of his worries when the Decepticons begin covert assassinations of important people, with the next head on the chopping block sitting on his shoulders.

The reason for the Decepticons’ new hostility is more than their usual villainy, with a plot dating back 50 years finally unfolding, involving the American space program’s first contact with Cybertron and the possible fate of the universe.

The fact that Sam doesn’t look the least bit like someone with so much bearing in interplanetary wars has always been LaBeouf’s strong point, but all the grousing he does about his life makes him much less endearing in this third go-round. Having a girl like Huntington-Whiteley — even if she does possess less than a fragment of Megan Fox’s spark — should be reason enough to not worry so much about silly things like walking, talking machines enslaving humanity.

Josh Duhamel barely makes an impression returning as leader of government task force NEST, Lt. Col. William Lennox, the kind of guy you’d barely notice if he weren’t always hanging around 30-foot automatons. The same goes for Tyrese Gibson as Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Robert Epps, Lennox’s former teammate who pops up for the big blowup.

At least John Turturro is mildly funny, reprising his role as sharp-tongued Seymour Simmons, who’s turned his dealings with the government into a successful tell-all book for conspiracy theorists.

The addition of so many new characters feels like a wobbly Jenga tower, with Dempsey, Malkovich and Frances McDormand making their presence known though hardly justified. You’d think a cameo from spaceman Buzz Aldrin would be more substantial, but down go the blocks.

But, if you thought having too many people running around was a bad thing, try having an overabundance of rampaging robots both good and evil.

Cullen is as welcome as ever as the voice of Optimus Prime, as is Leonard Nimoy as his long-lost tutor Sentinel Prime.

Likewise, Hugo Weaving as decaying Decepticon leader Megatron and Frank Welker as his new enforcer Shockwave ring true for dyed in the wool “Transformers” fans, but aside from Sam’s best pal and part-time Camaro, Bumblebee, how many more natives of Cybertron do we really need?

If his first two flicks didn’t convince you, director Michael Bay’s motto of “Go big or go home” is no less apparent here. The question — with someone who has as little to say as he does, why does it take so long to get to the point?

The longest yet in the series admittedly has more of a humanistic feeling than the wretched “Revenge of the Fallen,” but that may just be the artificial intelligence talking. Emotions may run high, but explosions are what make this a Bay film, and he’s in no short supply of booms, bangs and kablooeys.

Why not just save time and literally blow up everything onscreen in one unbeatable blast?

It worked for the 1980s animated movie, although since both of these head in the same direction, it’s easy to see why Orson Welles — whose final feature was “Transformers: The Movie” — famously said in one of his last interviews, “You know what I did this morning? I played the voice of a toy.”

If the actors and voice actors of “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” can keep this kind of perspective on their involvement with a popcorn movie like this, that’s one thing. If they consider it to be their crowning achievement, then we’ve got a problem.

Now playing at the West Theatre and Steamboat Springs’ Metropolitan Wildhorse Stadium Cinemas.

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