I saw Transformers 3 last night

I hated Transformers 2 so much I blogged about it twice.

But I was still determined to see Transformers 3. After seeing it last night, I have to say that it’s probably my favorite of the series. But it was still awful.

I’ll start with the good, because there was quite a bit that I enjoyed (and I’ll try to keep spoilers to a minimum, but be warned – spoilers follow). If you peel off all of the nonsense, I actually think the overarching storyline wasn’t too bad. The ultimate goal doesn’t really hold up to laws of physics, but I feel like the source material of giant transforming robots and some particular episodes and plot points from the cartoon series make that forgiveable.

There were no overtly racist robots this time around. There was no juvenile potty humor, at least that I remember. Some of the comedic bits actually made me laugh out loud. The unfunny grasps at humor — Sam’s parents, the little robots — were kept to a minimum. I really don’t understand why the scenes with Sam’s parents were even in the movie, but I’m glad they were brief. Leonard Nimoy was awesome, and somehow made me able to feel like he was bringing Sentinel Prime to life while also making me think “Leonard Nimoy is awesome!” (Normally I’d think the fact that I’m consciously thinking of the voice actor would suggest I’m not buying into the character with my full attention.) We also get to hear Soundwave talk in his old-school Soundwave voice, and Shockwave plays a role with a look that is at least somewhat inspired by his cartoon appearance.

There was also something different about the tone in this one that I felt allowed the campy performances by folks like John Torturro, John Malkovich and Patrick Dempsey to seem completely appropriate instead of terrible. Mind you, I would still much rather have a Transformers movie that’s played straight with maturity of a Saturday morning cartoon series that Michael Bay can’t seem to reach. But those performances didn’t disrupt the flow of the movie as much as I felt they did in the first and especially the second. Who knows – maybe just by this point my expectations were dulled to the point where I don’t care anymore.

But the bad was bad. Probably the worst was the way in which women were presented. Sam’s love interest – whose name I cannot be bothered to look up – was nothing more than a set of boobs and up-skirt crotch shots. The only strong woman in the film is presented as an unbending obstinate beastly creature — some kind of thin manifestation of irrational alpha-female bitchiness — which ultimately causes her characters failures. It’s unfortunate that a movie clearly targeted at children can’t present any healthy depictions of female role models in the way that it presents a wide spectrum of men.

And I can’t believe how much trouble Michael Bay and Co. have in understanding how to make the Autobots cool. Like in Transformers 2, the Autobots aren’t really heroic in this movie. They hunt down and kill humans that oppose American interests without military orders or support. They assassinate unarmed humans and unarmed Transformers. They don’t act like good guys.

And to be frank, they’re really kind of losers. As in Transformers 2, they really just provide support to a cast of badass Real Americans. The most glaring example — spoiler reminder — is in the final battle scene. The Autobots finally show up … and decide to stand around and plan. Optimus Prime throws a fit because he lost his trailer and therefore doesn’t have his cool weapons. Meanwhile, the humans go off to save the day. We don’t even see the Autobots for a while until we learn that several of them have been captured. Optimus Prime goes MIA because he needs to find his trailer. When he does finally show up, he flies in with his jetpack, fights one Decepticon, gets tangled in a bunch of cables, and then just hangs there upside down after struggling for about five seconds to get loose.

Optimus Prime should not be a huge chump! Especially when you’re spending millions of dollars to make him exist and have the luxury of writing everything he does and says! Somebody is choosing to make him really stupid!

And I think that’s what ultimately bothers me about this movie. It was more fun than the first two, but it still just reeks of incompetence. And I feel so deflated with the expectations of what this trilogy could have been. A bunch of nameless folks making relative pennies when compared to Michael Bay and Shia LeBouf tasked with selling toys in animated increments of 22 minutes managed to build a much more compelling, intelligently crafted mythology that hooked a generation of fans and created one of the most lasting icons of modern pop culture.