Space Race: A Toy Story

We’re in the thick of it now. Blockbuster season has arrived, with its bumper crop of sequels, remakes and films based on comic-book heroes.

Still to come are Captain America, a Planet of the Apes sequel and, of course, the last of the Harry Potter films.

Transformers 3: The Dark of the Moon is this week’s offering in the summer sweepstakes. Box-office figures place its revenue well behind its predecessor,Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, and it’s not hard to see why.

The film starts off with an interesting premise. It’s July 1969, and the first American astronauts to set foot on the moon have just begun their exploration of the far side of the lunar surface. They deliberately lose radio contact with NASA headquarters while they discuss the artifact that they have just come across.

Interest in this artifact, it turns out, is actually what has been motivating America’s pursuit of the space race with the Russians, a fact conveniently hidden from the U.S. citizenry.

We learn that the artifact is the Arc, a spaceship that has crash-landed on the moon, bearing Sentinel Prime, the leader of the Autobots, in an interstellar war that they have carried on with a rival race called the Decepticons.

The war is soon rekindled. Inevitably and inexplicably, it spreads to Earth. That’s about the whole substance of the film.

For the next two hours, we’re treated to innumerable scenes of carnage, explosions and mass destruction as the city of Chicago is senselessly levelled.

It all begins to wear very thin after awhile. Director Michael Bay is responsible for this $195-million indulgence. Even his employment of eye-candy like former Victoria’s Secret model Rosie Huntington-Whitley can’t redeem a script that is basically unsalvageable.

Nor can it justify spending two-and a-half hours watching what is essentially an overlong homage to a children’s toy franchise, as the opening credit “in association with Hasbro” eloquently testifies.

The big mystery is how an interstellar race is able to keep au courant with developments on Earth, to the extent that its members can shape-shift themselves into the latest models of terrestrial SUVs – or why they should care to, given the urgency of their never-ending war with the Decepticons.

Once again, Shia Le Boeuf plays the hapless Sam Witwicky, whose fate ever since the franchise’s first outing in 2007 has been to save the world by one means or another.

The rest of the cast, including Frances McDormand, who is wasted as a hard-bitten CIA agent type, plays second fiddle to the crashings and thrashings of the good-guy Autobots and the bad-guy Decepticons.

In the end, we don’t really care who wins the epic battle, which we just know will carry on through Transformers 4 and beyond, as long as there are fanboys to lap it up.

Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon plays at 6:45 and 9:45 pm at the Yukon Cinema, with a daily matinee at 3:00 pm and weekend matinees at 12:00 and 3:00 pm.

It is rated G for violence and coarse language.

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