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After being subjected to a scathing critical bashing for Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (including harsh words from Megan Fox, one of the movie’s stars), Michael Bay apparently dedicated himself to cleaning up his act for the final installment in his epic trilogy based on the Hasbro toy line and animated series from the 1980s.

Dark of the Moon kicks off with a sequence linking the arrival of an Autobot spacecraft from war-torn Cybertron with the secret hope for the future to Man’s efforts to reach the moon (the space race between the U.S. and Russia was all about discovering the crash site) and blends in archival footage with reenactments staged to mirror those key historical moments.

It is too bad that, unlike X-Men: First Class, which also remixes 1960s history into its universe, Dark of the Moon never integrates those moments into a compelling and engaging narrative.

But, truth be told, the audience for this movie isn’t interested in the story, and Bay knows it. Butts will settle into seats for the hyper-realized 3-D action, which this time has been rendered in a slower, more drawn-out fashion for some semblance of coherence and continuity. The aim is a combination of Bad Boys 2 and the Matrix Reloaded highway sequences, only jacked up on steroids with the resulting feelings of barely contained rage.

The final hour, one long relentlessly excessive orgy of explosions, featuring the complete annihilation of Chicago, recalls, both in its soundtrack and its visual spirit, Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, and offers proof that Bay wants to be the thoughtless man’s Christopher Nolan. I would argue that he actually achieves a smashing degree of success, while maintaining his essential Bayness. Grade: F