Another thing Michael Bay learned from his start-up Transformers is that audiences don’t have to like a movie to spend buckets of money seeing it. An event franchise that hasn’t yet worn out its welcome swaggers into the summer knowing that there is a month of barbecues ahead where people will be asked if they saw it and will want to be informed enough to say it was crap. Freed from the pressures of making something good, Bay can fill up the space between battles with trash, and convince himself and us that everyone else eats it up. When we go to a lousy popcorn movie, we convince ourselves that the strangers around us loved it. They—not us—are to blame for Bay’s trust in the lowest common denominator. As though our money arrives in his billfold with an asterisk.
The script is written by Ehren Kruger, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman (the last two fresh off Star Trek, where they must have burned off their inspiration), and at least in this sequel there’s slightly more of the things that most scripts have, like characters and plots. There’s also more idiocy. Thought the dog peeing on Optimus Prime was lame? Now there’re two dog-humping scenes and a third where a microbot has its way with Megan Fox’s leg. Thought the jive-talking Jazz was borderline offensive? Now there’re two of them, Skids and Mudflap, who despite their red and green paint jobs are unmistakably meant to be black. Worse than their gold teeth and cackling accents is what they say, like “We don’t really do much reading.” Thought the script showed little understanding of the concept of Transformers? Here, an aged Decepticon named Jetfire boasts that his father was the very first wheel—never mind that it was made of wood or stone. At least the Transformers have overcome their masturbatory fixation on shouting their own names, but the dialogue replacing it is swiped from playground bullies or Vegas comics.
The thrust of the story is that Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) is off to college, his tearful goodbye with Bumblebee interrupted when Bay gets restless and splices in a shot of Fox’s white panties as she changes clothes outside the garage. Bay’s impatience with human emotions continues to show; the main arc for Fox and LaBeouf is who will say “I love you” first, a tired saw the flick shoves in whenever the two are alone and have to speak. They’re also facing the danger that LaBeouf will replace his hot mechanic honey with someone college-educated, but luckily for the couple, the one co-ed putting the serious heat on Fox’s man turns out to be a disguised Decepticon with a deadly chainlink tongue (an Attracticon?). Meanwhile, the military and the Autobots—led by Optimus Prime channeling a godlike Daniel Craig—have formed an alliance to take down the sporadic Decepticon insurrections, which may or may not have something to do with a pyramid in Egypt. (Okay, okay, they do.) The 40-minute climatic desert tussle must have had a big budget for goats and chickens, which along with diminutive actor Deep Roy stand in for the majority of the locals.
Other delights (deliberate and not): Shia’s girlish scream. Megan’s gift for running while holding hands. Hurricanes of harmless shrapnel. Small ’bots that all look like Lil Wayne. A jaguar-shaped Decepticon who spits up ball bearings for hairballs. That New York, a city where last week the Times ran a piece on a famous stray cat, takes no notice of an Autobot on the Brooklyn Bridge. An extended scene of Sam’s mom eating a pot brownie. Ponderous inanities like when a soldier muses of Optimus, “If God made us in his image, who made him?” It’s dreck, but face it—we’ll all pay for the displeasure.