Summer Movie Body Count: 'Transformers: Dark of the Moon' proves that the PG-13 rating has failed


Image Credit: Jaimie Trueblood

Week 9 of EW’s 2011 Summer Movie Body Count continues with Transformers: Dark of the Moon, which features no bloodshed and yet somehow also some of the most gruesome deaths yet this summer. Warning: SPOILERS AHEAD!

Transformers: Dark of the Moon is the movie that proves once and for all that the PG-13 rating is the single worst thing to ever happen to the American cinema. Imagine pulling aside your average John and Jane Q. Moviegoer back in the very early 1980s and describing the film’s plot to them: “Well, the vast majority of the population of Chicago is massacred. Dozens of fleeing citizens are simply disintegrated right in front of your eyes. Several characters get sliced or bodily torn apart. And at the climax of the movie, the film’s sociopathic protagonist rips off one villain’s face and shoots the other villain in the back of his head, execution-style.”

John Q. Moviegoer would say, “Well, it’s not to my taste, but I guess if you like R-rated Rambo-style movies, it would be good.” Jane, his girlfriend would say, “I love R-rated Rambo-style movies! I bet there’s a lot of blood in this movie! Also, I love Pink Floyd! Mind you, there’s no way I would bring my niece or nephew to the movie.”

Well, John and Jane, guess what: Joke’s on you! Transformers: Dark of the Moon is rated PG-13, which means the Rape of Chicago is completely bloodless. Also, it’s totally okay for the Transformers to tear each other apart while red-colored oil sprays all around the screen, but god help them if they engage in any full-frontal nudity. (All the female Transformers were hunted to extinction years ago, out of fear that they might accidentally have an orgasm.) Because of the rules of our Summer Movie Body Count, we can only count actual onscreen deaths. But keep in mind: Basically, about 2 million people died in this movie.

The count kicks off with the nonsensical prologue set on Cybertron, where we witnessed two Big Transformers getting exploded, plus one Normal-Sized Transformer who fell off a space bridge into space. As for why you would build an open bridge in space…well, the Transformers are just not the brightest species in the galaxy.

On Earth, the tremendously annoying Decepticon called Laserbeak went on a homicidal killing spree, killing a Russian guy in Chernobyl, a scientist in America, and finally setting up Ken Jeong for a fake suicide. A car chase followed, because why not, and at least one Decepticon got decapitated. (Decepticon decapitation happens so often in this film that I will henceforth refer to it as Decepticapitation.) Immediately following the car chase, two Autobots faced off in a Mexican stand-off against two Decepticon punks, and the two Decepticons got killed. I would tell you who the Autobots were, but since every freaking Transformer in these movies just looks like a random pile of digital slop, I’m not even sure this scene actually happened. Maybe I dreamed it. Maybe life is just a dream, BWAAAHHHH.

This is the point of the film where the plot twisted out of boredom, so Sentinel Prime turned out to be a bad guy. He shot Ironhide in the back, so all you Ironhide fans out there should cry yourself to sleep tonight and then get a job. Sentinel killed six soldiers. (Following this scene, Megatron shot Abe Lincoln’s statue in the face, which doesn’t count as a death, but it does count as stealth satire.)

And now the Chicago genocide began. We saw no less than 17 fleeing citizens disintegrated by attacking Decepticons into blood fog. Then, in a big setpiece action scene, 14 more people were disintegrated. At that point, the freaking Autobots finally decided to show up, and they freaking pulled off a Decepticon’s limbs. Now, if this movie was rated R and actually awesome, they would have beaten the Decepticon to death with his own arms and legs. Stupid PG-13 rating.

There were a few more human deaths in the film. One flying soldier was shot out of the sky. One poor fellow fell to his death when the big Decepticon worm was destroying a building. Evil Patrick Dempsey got electrocuted, what a doucheboat. But at this point, Transformers: Dark of the Moon essentially became a relentless abstract array of digital robots punching each other. I saw it in 3-D, so my eyes were bleeding, which means all that follows is guesswork:

–Bumblebee shot off Laserbeak’s head

–Optimus Prime killed the big snake-digger thing.

Wheeljack was executed by Soundwave.

–Bumblebee killed four Decepticons, and the last one he killed by punching up through his chest into his head.

Sam killed a Decepticon of his very own, thus finally contributing to the series in some meaningful way.

Wheelie and Brains, the two annoying little Autobots, successfully managed to contribute to the plot by (heroically) killing themselves, which is a greater thing than Jar Jar Binks every accomplished.

–Five Decepticons and Shockwave were killed somehow, and I only know this because someone actually said, “Look, it’s Shockwave and Five Other Decepticons! Let’s kill them!”

Optimus Prime killed nine motherfreaking Decepticons in one eye-popping shot, which proves that Michael Bay is a talented director when it comes to showing characters you don’t care about killing characters who have never appeared before on screen.

–Then Optimus Prime cleaved Megatron‘s face off. This was, to be fair, prologued by a totally badass line. Megatron said: “What are you without me?” And Prime said: “Let’s find out.” Awesome.

–And finally, Optimus Prime shot Sentinel Prime in the back of the head, twice.

All told, the onscreen kill count for Transformers: Dark of the Moon is 78, which is still less people than Arnold Schwarzenegger killed all by himself in Commando, but Commando is a totally badass R-rated action movie and Transformers: Dark of the Moon is safe for kindergarten class.

Follow Darren on Twitter: @EWDarrenFranich

Read more:
12 Tender Movie Moments Brought to You by Michael Bay
Box office report: ‘Transformers: Dark of the Moon’ blasts off with $116.4 mil holiday weekend
Did Michael Bay’s ‘Transformers 3′ recycle action scenes from Michael Bay’s ‘The Island’?

Comments (57 total) Add your comment
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  • David

    Gotta love our rating system. I don’t have any problem with violent movies, but it’s hilarious that some pretty violent stuff can manage a PG-13 while showing a woman’s face during an orgasm or dropping a few F-bombs can pull something right up to R or NC-17.

  • Ryan

    I saw this film at the drive in with some friends, and maybe its cause I was tired from being up late the night before talking to cops dealing with my neighbor, but I fell asleep during the battle. I love all the crash boom pow, but you telling me Wheelie and whats his face killed themselves is news to me. My father likes Transformers so this weekend I’ll take him to it and try to stay awake for most of the battle.

    Optimus executing Sentinel was a shocker to me as well, but I guess if you think about it he was dying anyway, and if he lived, they’d have to try and contain him which has been proven as a failure.

  • Angie

    Saw it this weekend, and my feelings about the movie aside, I was mortified that there were two small children (think, seven or eight years old) two rows back from me. Much, much too violent for that, even if it was ridiculous Michael Bay cartoon violence.

    • BrandonK

      There were like 4- or 5-year-olds in my theater, and at least one crying baby. I don’t think an almost 3-hour movie of this type is appropriate for that age group.

      • DDubSolider

        My 5 yr old brother saw it and liked it. Idid too it was awesome!!!

    • Lyndsey

      “Mortified”? Really?! My 8 year-old nephew went to see it & he loved it! And he’s not torturing any animals in the backyard nor is he prone to violence. Come on people, you see far more gruesome things on TV shows like CSI than you see in Transformers! My brother & I watched Rambo & Dirty Harry movies with our dad at that age without any permanent scarring. Heck in Star Wars they blew up the Death Star with supposedly hundreds of people on it & I don’t see anyone warning people not to let their children watch it!

    • David

      who cares if kids see it

  • TimW (No, not that one)

    PG-13 does NOT mean that it’s “safe for kindergarten class.” It means exactly the opposite. It means that if the kid is under 13, parents are supposed to provide guidance. That does NOT mean just showing up with kids in tow. Ideally, it would mean that parents would see the movie first and decide whether it was appropriate for the kids to see. The rating says EXACTLY what it should. Even though I’m an adult and was a little disturbed by seeing individuals vaporized, but anonymous carnage comes with the territory. Still, I can’t think of a single 13 year old who’d be disturbed by any of this….but if I thought MINE would be, well, I have the rating to tell me that I should be thinking about that before I bring him to the movie. As for the robot-on-robot violence, even 4 year olds do worse than this to each other’s toys. I can only assume that, once again, Darren, you’re joking. You have some almost good points in there, muddled by jokes and wild misunderstanding of what the ratings mean. That said, David, I couldn’t agree with you more. The King’s English did NOT deserve the same rating as Saw. It’s not PG-13 that needs to be reconsidered. R sure does though.

    • Fingerlakes Dave

      The ‘Kings English’ was sanitized to get a PG-13 and re-released.
      Wider audience = more money.

    • therealeverton

      Well said. People take kids to films that are not suitable. The problem is your lack of any genuine adult rating system.

  • M.H.

    Darren, how does a violent, but largely bloodless movie about giant transforming robots fighting, prove that the PG-13 is a failed rating? I think the failure here is more on your part as a thinking rational person. Does a movie with giant robots destroying Chicago deserve an R rating just because of a high body count? I don’t think so. I think the movie excuses itself from the category by the fact that is a fantasy. While I agree that the PG-13/R divide is pretty frivolous arbitrary, and downright stupid at times, like the cases of The King’s Speech, The Tillman Story, or Slumdog Millionaire all getting unnecessary R ratings because of rather tame violence or a couple of f words, Transformers Dark of the Moon, is one of those times where a film has been rated exactly as it should have been, body count and all.

  • Ben

    The 2006 film Once, (with the award winning song Falling Slowly), got an R rating because the F word was said a few times in ordinary conversation. That film should have gotten a PG-13 rating. The incenerator scene in Toy Story 3 should have gotten the G rated film a PG rating. Thank goodness for places such as Screen-It and Kids-In-Mind that give a better explanation as to what the film’s content is instead of a simple G, PG, PG-13, or R rating.

  • goose

    Thanks for all the spoilers for other summer movies in the poll you idiot

    • Brian

      thanks for being a douchebag and reading the spoilers.

      • goose

        Yes, because one always expects to read spoilers about every other summer movie in a post about Transformers. Good work being another idiot added to the list.

      • UGH

        I’m with Goose on this one.

      • ger

        How do you spoil something that’s been out for a month?

    • Fingerlakes Dave

      I’m with goose. I don’t know the ‘in depth’ details of every movie released this summer.
      I have a life.

  • Guy #1

    This film was perfectly fine for a PG-13 rating. It was metal robots fighting for what felt like six weeks. Little kids have been doing that singe they were born, basically. I thought it was a mild PG-13 because it was mostly robots and buildings being destroyed. I was surprised to see a lady next to me with kids aged 5, 8 and 14. The 5 year old wasn’t scared at all but I thought that this wasn’t the best choice film for him. The 8 year old was the appropriate age, as this film was basically targeted at 8 year olds, despite the 13+ rating. As for the 14 year old, he was bored and asking if he could go see The Hangover Part II. She said no. She allows her 5 year old into a 13+ film but not her 14 year old into a 17+ film. Go figure.
    Common Sense Media is a great place to get specific info in films. They even said that The Kings Speech is fine for young teens and deserved a PG-13 were something like Taken deserved an R because it had prostitution plotlines and non-stop onscreen (human) deaths at the hands of Liam Neeson.

    • MissMel

      If I had already paid for my kid to see one movie I wouldn’t shell out another $14.50 for him to go see a second one no matter how bored he was. Also, whether she would have allowed him to see a 17+ film or not,he wasn’t old enough to get in by himself.

      • Guy #1

        It was playing in the next theater over and he wanted to just join in to that showing without paying or an adult because nobody would see.

      • MissMel

        My point was that you don’t know why she said no to his request. Unless she specifically stated that he couldn’t see and R-rated film there are many other logical reasons she might have said no. For example,even though you seem to think it’s ok, theatres tend to frown upon a patron paying for one movie, deciding they don’t like it and then just walking into another one.

    • jmm

      Guy #1 – maybe she wanted to teach her child to obey the rules of the theater. Kids under 17 aren’t allowed in that movie alone and you aren’t supposed to pay for one movie, but go into another. Good on her for teaching her son to follow the rules.

  • MissMel

    I am not squeamish about violence in action films at all but I found this film to be disturbingly violent. The Transformers are part of childhood for multiple generations. They’ve survived for years without being blood thirsty killers. The most popular incarnation for my generation is probably the 1986 animated movie. There was plenty of action and death in that film but it wasn’t so graphic as to be disturbing. I know many men in the 25 to 35 age range that would still say that film is superior to any of Bay’s movies.

    • Fingerlakes Dave

      Trans 1, Trans2 are examples of the same thing.

  • knowledge

    This guy says, Ironhide fans should go out and get a job. I’m an Ironhide fan and an attorney. You’re a columnist who does a body count total for fictional summer movies. You’re occupation is less important than a garbage man. In fact, your occupation only exists because of the creative people who you bash. I understand the point of your article and tend to agree, however, cut the conjecture out… as most on the internet will tell you, “You’re doing it wrong.”

    • Mofo


    • Trey

      I like this guy right here.

    • JMB in FL

      Franich writes what is called “Horatian satire,” the definition of which follows: “[I]t is named after the Roman satirist Horace. Horatian satire playfully criticizes some social vice through gentle, mild, and light-hearted humour. It directs wit, exaggeration, and self-deprecating humour toward what it identifies as folly, rather than evil.”

      Maybe you should be a little less sensitive about your fixation on a COMIC BOOK CHARACTER, dude. And try to learn how to spell. It’s “your” (possessive), not “you’re” (contraction).

      And I think my garbage man does a more important job than any lawyer, frankly. Who would most people rather live without–lawyers or garbagemen? Go on; take a poll. I’ll wait.

      • JMB in FL

        And just for clarification, my spelling comment refers to the phrase from his post, “You’re occupation”, not the last sentence.

      • knowledge

        than ANY lawyer, really? When you’re not given aid from your insurance company in the waning years of your life, good luck going pro se. Again, that is not to say a garbage man’s job isn’t vital, it is, I’m just stating the fact that if that happens, you’re going to look for an attorney, not for case law to bring your own claim. Or, if you do, well done, my hat is off to you.

      • Barry

        That’s only because the insurance company already has its stable of slimy attorneys tasked only with preventing you from getting the money you deserve. So, overall, still a far worse profession than garbageman.

    • Savonarola

      Leaving aside your improper use of “you’re” it shows you’re in the perfect profession that you choose to denigrate one person by implying they are “less than” someone else–who you uphold as the nadir of worth. Not only are “garbage men” vitally important to a modern society, lawyers also frequently make their living by bringing suit against other people they deemed to have transgressed–not dissimilar to what you accuse our dear blogger of.

      • knowledge

        Grammar police… I got it. I used “you’re” instead of “your” and it was in an internet comment stating my subjective opinion, not in a memo, brief, or professional letter. I’m not going to re-read my internet for miss spellings (please tell me you got that) comments because they’re as worthless as everyone else’s. Additionally, I appreciate garbage men and agree their profession is vitally important and much more important than anyone… ANYONE in the entertainment industry. And lawyers don’t generally bring law suits, clients do. Criminal prosecutors bring charges. See, it’s annoying to be corrected when everyone knows what you were saying, isn’t it?

      • @knowledge

        A hypocritical, whiny, self-righteous pedant? Yup, you’re definitely a lawyer.

    • Fingerlakes Dave

      Nicely done!

  • Dan

    If you’re gonna review body count accurately , you could at least give Sam credit for killing Starscream, not just some random Decepticon. They may all look alike (you robot racist), but Starscream at least distingusihes himself by having the most annoying voice in robot history.

    • pastafarian

      Unfortunately Chris Latta died years ago, so they had to get a new voice for him.

  • Trey

    Your righteous indignation over this movie is hilarious, Darren. I do have to question when EW turned from an entertainment “news” site to a pathetic self-righteous blogger site, though. Methinks you’d be more at home on some random film geek website than on an actual semi-reputable news site.

    • Fingerlakes Dave

      Slow news day. HAVE…TO…DRUM…UP…BUSINESS…

  • Liz Lemon

    I’ve only seen one movie in that poll and that was Thor.
    I’m seriously a bad movie goer this summer.

    • pastafarian

      Don’t take it personally, it’s not your fault there are so few good movies worth seeing.

  • Sam S.

    This article was hysterical. I haven’t seen the movie yet and I don’t even care that everything was spoiled because I’m pretty sure I got more entertainment value out of the article than I will with TF3.

    • therealeverton

      Darren hasn’t seen it either, based on the number of mistakes he’s made in this and his other Anti-Transformers movies rant. Seriously has not bothered to watch the film at all.

  • Oakweh

    Arnold dusted way more than 78 baddies in Commando. Get your facts straight and stop disrespecting Col. Matrix.

    Let off some steam, Bennett.

    • Kisha

      If your read you would have seen that Darren wrote that “Commando” killed more than the 78, who he counted as dying in this movie.

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