The first five minutes of Transformers: Dark of the Moon – the third cog in Michael Bay's robot civil war machine – promise a tale more complex and beautifully presented than either of its forerunners.
Space Race conspiracy theories are slotted neatly into the history of the war between the Autobots and the Decepticons, while masterful use of 3D allows us to weave in and out of the Transformers' machinery, as well as the crashing buildings of Cybertron in a jaw-droppingly beautiful flashback fantasy sequence the likes of which James Cameron would be proud.
Shia LaBeouf is back as Sam Witwicky, this time feeling very much the unsung hero of America's fight against the alien apocalypse. He has a new, rather lovely lady in the form of Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, who, despite allegedly being laughed at in the Premiere, really isn't any worse an actress than her predecessor Megan Fox.
In any case, the intro shot of her Victoria’s Secret derriere is a fairly crude acknowledgement of the ‘talent’ for which she has really been hired. Does it really matter if she sounds a bit wooden? This isn’t Shakespeare. And besides, Transformers 3 has bigger things to worry about.
After saving the world on several occasions, Sam is now jobless, post-college and feeling a tad useless, an insecurity that is exacerbated by his girlfriend’s smooth-talking boss (Patrick Dempsey) and the ball-breaking Head of National Security (Frances McDormand), who unfeelingly brands him “a messenger, not a soldier”.
But of course, when a new threat from the Decepticons emerges, Sam seems to be the only one capable of putting two and two together – especially when traitors surface in some very unexpected places.
There’s actually lots to like here: phenomenal special effects (a glass skyscraper spliced through the middle by the evil snake-bot Shockwave is a particular highlight) and some truly astounding 3D sequences, although not quite as many as the pre-release hype would have you believe.
The Apollo 11 conspiracy is also a clever premise, and there’s some fun manipulation of real archival Nixon and JFK footage melded with the Cyberton sequence. McDormand and the great John Malkovich add some much-needed gravitas to proceedings too.