Transformers: Dark of the Moon opens Wednesday throughout the Triangle (see times below)

Our rating:

The greatest trick Michael Bay ever pulled was making his last Transformers movie so godawful that virtually any follow-up would look superlative by comparison. While Bay excises most (but not all) of the ethnic “humor” that sullied Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, he amps up the decibels and bumptiousness for Transformers: Dark of the Moon.

Once again the Decepticons and their allies threaten mankind while political leaders opt for appeasement in hopes that the enemy will just leave them alone. Fat chance. Dark of the Moon shamelessly assimilates the vernacular and imagery of Sept. 11 (Chi-town is “Ground Zero”), but Bay’s flag-waving would be fine if his film were any good. The neocon overtones in Christopher Nolan’s Batman films are acceptable because they’re packaged in first-rate vehicles. By contrast, Dark of the Moon is an interminable orgy of dizzying special effects set to the blaring brass of composer Steve Jablonsky. And Bay’s tone-deaf notion of humor has the mom of returning hero Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) taking time during the End of Days to chat with her adult son about how to satisfy a woman.

In Bay’s reality, Bill O’Reilly passes for a celebrity cameo and a medal awarded by President Obama is barely enough to get returning hero Sam a job as a mail clerk”We’re pretty much all Republicans around here,” quips one headhunter, channeling his director. Indeed, O’Reilly’s presence is fitting, because as a loud, jingoistic metaphor in support of America’s military presence in the Middle East, Dark of the Moon is the sort of polemic you’d expect to see on Fox News.