'Transformers' Reviews: How Do The Three Movies Stack Up?

Third installment of the Shia LaBeouf-starring 'Bot franchise is getting the best notices yet.

We've now seen "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" -- during a raucous pre-release IMAX screening that left our ears ringing and our senses tingling -- and can vouch for the consensus critical opinion surrounding the summer blockbuster: It's the finest film in the franchise.

That's the overall take. But how do the three films -- including the 2007 original and 2009's "Revenge of the Fallen" -- stack up when you're gauging various cinematic elements? To get to the bottom of that question, we have to dive back into the historical record.

The Story

"T1": "The screenwriters, Alex Kurtzmann and Robert Orci, don't bother to explain as they go along; they just pile up the bang-crash action sequences and, when things get too confusing, screech to a halt for some plodding explanatory dialogue." -- Dana Stevens, Slate

"T2": "There is much absurd backstory and crammed-in explanation for what is going on and despite much of it being voiced by the thunderous Peter Cullen ... it still gets annoying." -- Jordan Hoffman, UGO

"T3": "Writer Ehren Kruger ... had script duties all to himself, and he has fashioned a narrative of ornate silliness -- which is to say, pretty good pulpy fun." -- Kurt Loder, Reason

The Visuals

"T1": "The visuals are the real stars here. Though they grow repetitive, the robots' transforming scenes -- joints bending, appendages stretching, gears whirling -- are too cool to ever become boring." -- David Germain, The Associated Press

"T2": "The battle scenes are bewildering. A Bot makes no visual sense anyway, but two or three tangled up together create an incomprehensible confusion." -- Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

"T3": "By showing a measure of restraint and using 3-D to excellent effect, Bay finally enables the Transformers to emerge as players in their own right, with hopes and dreams, declaiming their philosophies of fate, humankind and the universe in grand Shakespearean style." -- Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times

The Performances

"T1": "LaBeouf has the hefty job of single-handedly injecting the action with personality, and he brings it off, though without offering much variation on his nervous, hipster-squirt charm." -- Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly

"T2": "Shia LaBeouf and Megan Fox, who are definitely the stars as far as how much of the movie they're in compared to anyone else, both throw themselves into the physical demands of the film with admirable zeal, which is good, since there's nothing else to the roles." -- Drew McWeeny, HitFix

"T3": "LaBeouf is highly physical and crowd-pleasingly jerky as the little man and the franchise's centerpiece, Sam Witwicky. If all Tom Cruise consumed were juice boxes of Red Bull, LaBoeuf is who he'd be." -- Wesley Morris, Boston Globe

The Bottom Line

"T1": "We knew it would be dumb. But we had no idea it would be so much dumb fun." -- Roger Moore, Orlando Sentinal

"T2": "[Though] it has plenty of popcorn moments that can be big, dumb fun (alien secrets under a pyramid, sexy girls who sprout mechanical tails at the worst moments), director Michael Bay's sequel is louder and more illogical than the megasuccessful 2007 original." -- Joe Neumaier, New York Daily News

"T3": "'Dark of the Moon' is hardly a fleet production, but here Bay makes his best, most flexible use yet of all the flamboyant bigness at his command: computer-drawn characters and human actors seem to occupy the same narrative for once." -- Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly

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