This weekend I finally got around to watching Transformers: Age of Extinction. Truth-be-told, I didn’t (couldn’t) watch this movie all at once. It’s the equivalent of eating a whole bag of sugar for dessert, which is difficult enough to do for an hour and a half, but with every filmmaker now believing they are making an epic, it is impossible to do for the nearly three hours of runtime this movie consumes. So I interspersed my viewing of this film with cooking shows to cleanse my palate. Anyone who went to the theaters to watch this, I’m sorry, and I don’t know how you did it. Also, hopefully now you’ll understand any cooking references I make while writing this.
This isn’t even the worst entry in the Transformers Quadrilogy. The first film was enjoyable, and the third film was about on-par with this film but was made slightly better with a reasonable runtime. The second Transformers may be one of the worst “blockbuster” movies ever made, up there with the second Pirates of the Caribbean and Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace.
Being a Michael Bay film I thought I knew what to expect, but even then things still catch you off guard. And I’m not just saying it was awful because it was a Michael Bay film… and that’s the cool thing to say. Michael Bay has made some films I truthfully enjoy. The Rock (the film, not Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) is great and probably one of Nick Cage’s best performances up there with Raising Arizona and Leaving Las Vegas, and I give a lot of that credit to Bay. But Michael Bay has become to his films what Christian Bale became to his Batman character: a caricature of previous performances. Every film involves him “Baying it up” to the point where his next film should probably come with a seizure warning on the poster.
To put it in one way, one of the worst crimes against humanity is adding onions to macaroni and cheese. Basically when you do this, you’re saying you don’t like the taste & the texture of macaroni and cheese, so why did you make it in the first place? You could’ve just added bread crumbs for a different texture or you could’ve added a different cheese for a different taste, but you decided to take a perfectly fine dish and ruin it by unnecessarily adding onions. It’s not clever or interesting; it just ruins a dish that was perfectly fine on its own.
Michael Bay on Transformers is pretty much just onions in mac & cheese.
Now to the actual issues I had with the film… we can start with the actual logic of the film. I don’t mind that the Dinobots just grunted and roared, because it was obvious the filmmakers were saying these are ancient beings that have been imprisoned and they can’t speak English. Okay, sure, but every other Transformer that has ever shown up in any of these films can speak English immediately (apart from Bumblebee who I’m pretty sure is speaking jive). Not only that, but to pick that one nugget out and develop a reasoning and logic behind it, when the simple physical restraints of the human body have no realistic reasoning or logic inside of this movie’s universe. As many times as the humans are tossed and violently handled they’d have their necks broken half way through this film. Not to mention the scene where the female lead takes a 50 mph tumble onto the asphalt out of a transforming Optimus Prime would have left her bloodied, broken, and begging for death. But nope, her particularly bright shade of lip stick stays iridescent until the end of the film. If you want to make something ridiculous and fantastical, I’m all on board and okay with this, but stick to it through out. Don’t decide that it’s okay for these humans to take a worse beating than Apollo Creed in Rocky IV and have them walk away, but Dinobots can’t speak English because they would never have heard the language so it doesn’t make sense. That doesn’t make sense!
The magnet weapon, when you think about, makes a little sense. Basically this ship drops a “seed” which makes a rare metal and then it picks it up. It’s not so much a weapon as a tool. Sure. So if this thing picks up metal, how can a few rockets take it out? It should be devastatingly powerful and strong enough to handle picking up large amounts of metal and pulling that load into the ship. At least I assume that’s what it is there for, because otherwise that’s a crappy weapon. It’s a stupid weapon to use when you have bombs (the “seed”) on board that are the equivalent of nuclear weapons. Oh, but maybe they forgot about the “seeds”. The “seeds” transform materials into that rare metal (with such a stupid name I’m not even going to repeat it) which the Transformers are made of, so the Transformers would be immune and that bad guy could still recapture Optimus. I would be such a better alien supervillain than that guy. And if none of the above paragraph made sense to you, lucky you didn’t watch the film.
And back up to the “realism” that they are apparently concerned with capturing, in what alternate dimension would a has-been high school football player have any chance with the lead operative in a black ops unit? They could’ve have said anything, like he joined the military and was Ranger, but his wife got sick and he came home and quit the force when she died to take care of their daughter. At that point in the final fight scene I would say, “Okay, I buy this.” But you have a man who was trained to murder people by the CIA and has been having a fairly laid back day apart from driving a lot, and he is fighting a smart engineer (we know he’s smart because he wore horned-rim glasses) who hasn’t thrown a football in almost twenty years and has had enough neck and head injuries in the few days this film covers to make professional football players look like they’re playing video games in comparison. One-hundred percent of the time you’re going down Marky-Mark. Also, isn’t it just a tiny bit racist that a random man in an elevator in Hong Kong is an expert martial artist?
One thing that isn’t criticized enough in films is the soundtrack. This movie’s song were out of the worst 80s action flick. I can say I was legitimately embarrassed to have some of the songs from the movie playing in my house across my TV. With such inspired lyrics as “It’s time to do or die” repeated several times at several points, it made the hooky Nickleback-esque music from beginning of the film seem folksy. To truly understand how pinnacle a good soundtrack is to a movie, just watch a cut of Gigli without a soundtrack and then watch it again with one. It isn’t nearly as horrid of a film as people claim, but that soundtrack may be one of the worst in the history of cinema. While I won’t go that far with this film, it is still incredibly bad. They try too hard to make it sound “middle America” but half of the film takes place in Hong Kong. I didn’t hear any gongs in those scenes, just the hook from a song that will make me rethink ever listening to an Imagine Dragons’ CD.
The continuous establishing shots at the beginning of the film which try to make the main character an awesome person, I didn’t get. He’s a father who’s apparently intelligent, but he can’t earn enough money to pay the mortgage or electricity bill? Sounds like a pretty pathetic father to me. Go get a job delivering pizzas and maybe you could keep your house. He obviously has found the time to work out, so go find a second job, you know, one that pays money. I’m not saying my finances are without reproach, but I pay my mortgage, electricity, and water no matter what. I don’t care if I have to sell bodily fluids; those are going to get paid. And anyone who has filed for financial aid knows that when you’re that poor student loans from the government are thrown at your feet. So what if you’re in debt for the rest of your life, you can earn a living and get away from your dead-beat father too concerned with building a robot that can paint to be concerned about the wellbeing of his own daughter. Who is this man? And he’s shock that his daughter has latched on to the first reasonably attractive man with a foreign accent who’s only real asset is he can drive a stick-shift?
And seriously, seriously, seriously… what the hell? What Middle American warehouse just happens to build ramps that are the perfect size and degree for a rallycar to make a sweet jump and escape from the CIA? And how quickly does the CIA just give up on a chase. “Whelp, he jumped out the window and we forgot to surround this place, so he gets away.” If anyone turned the film off at that point you are a better person than myself or anyone else who finished watching it. Fraizer should have murdered that entire unit at that point in time.
Also in reference to the young woman’s boyfriend in the film, I want to first let you know I love great offensive humor. I love those comedians that walk up to the line of standard decency and jump far beyond it and make us uncomfortable and feel slightly guilty for laughing. With that said, when I watch a Transformers movie, I’m not looking for cutesy and playful humor on statutory rape. There’s a time and a place for everything and for all jokes, but this is the Transformers. This is a film whose target audience is teenage boys. They don’t need to get the idea that statutory rape is no big deal. And this was after the scene where all the teenage girls (who we now know are definitely underage) are over-enthusiastically discussing getting drunk as soon as they graduate. Again, yeah, most of us drank underage and that’s fine to address in movies (even joke about in Super Bad), but this is Transformers!
I’ve railed pretty heavily against this film and could probably find more, but since even the worst film is still art I think I should point out the two actually decent things that I found enjoyable about this movie. The first is Stanley Tucci. His role could have annoyed me to no end, but somehow with everything going on and with some horrible dialogue he was able to find some great comedic timing and performed his role well. True the character was not the same in the final hour that it was in any of the rest of film, and the “growth” is nonexistent and barely explained, but somehow I bought it because of his acting. He knew he was part of a disaster of a film, and you can see he’s who the scene needs him to be regardless of how impossible of an arc it is for the character. It was enjoyable to see a strong actor embrace that for me and I actually enjoyed it. The second thing I enjoyed about this film was John Goodman, and not just the Big Lebowski reference. His Transformer had the best design and his voice acting was definitely the best as well.
So apart from the story (the logic) and the acting of this film, it is still a Michael Bay film which can be boiled down to the phrase “a Jackson Pollock painting at a rave.” His movies are just adult versions of the crib mobile. It’s just something to distract us, and it works on that level as long as you don’t actually think about it. It’s pretty colors flashing on the screen, and plenty of the world needs that to escape from how awful their life is. I’m fine with that. But I do know my life isn’t so bad that I need to watch a Michael Bay film. I’ve learned my lesson and that was a waste of my $2 at the Redbox.
THE BOTTOM LINE:
Awful. Just awful. Not even worth $2 at Redbox. — 2.5/10
Staff Writer: Nerd Nation Magazine