Transformers: Age of Extinction, 2014.
Directed by Michael Bay.
Starring Mark Wahlberg, Victoria Summer, Stanley Tucci, Kelsey Grammer, Nicola Peltz, Jack Reynor, Titus Welliver, Li Bingbing and featuring the voice talents of Peter Cullen, Frank Welker, John Goodman, Ken Watanabe, and Mark Ryan.
An automobile mechanic and his daughter make a discovery that brings down the Autobots – and a paranoid government official – on them.
Transformers: Age of Extinction follows a down and out inventor (Mark Wahlberg) and his daughter (Nicola Peltz) who are struggling to make ends meet. The Transformers have basically become an enemy of mankind and there’s a brutal scene involving the hunting down of an Autobot which is the most impactful scene in any Transformers movie. Even the handling of the Transformers mythology is better here, with the screenwriters taking advantage of the theme of extinction. It follows up on the climax of Dark of the Moon and in response the Autobots must go into hiding, finally adding some consequence to the universe. Two threatening villains played by Kelsey Grammer and Titus Welliver, the latter of whom has the best motivation a villain has had in this franchise. There’s some missteps with the comedy involving T. J. Miller but nothing painful to watch, and Mark Wahlberg gets some good lines to balance it out. I even like the father-daughter relationship in here because it’s not played up too much and is even a little bit subtle. For once there’s stories and characters that even skeptics could follow and enjoy. For the first 30 minutes…
After that, Transformers: Age of Extinction becomes everything everybody hates about the Transformers movies. Optimus Prime shows up and from that moment it becomes stupid again. The turning point for me is when a character shows up in a car and – in mid-air – knocks somebody out with the tire. Not a Transformer, a human being complete with a punching noise and slow motion grunting as a reaction. Now this might belong in something like Revenge of the Fallen or Dark of the Moon, but Age of Extinction has set up a darker tone than the previous movies, and this completely throws that out of the window. Bye bye pathos, characters you can enjoy, and plot you can follow. It’s as if Michael Bay did a line of cocaine right when the movie was supposed to kick in and get better. There’s a metal inside of Transformers called “Transformium” (that’s not a joke, I swear that’s what it’s called), and this malleable metal can become whatever who possess it wants to at the time. The same can be said of this movie. It goes from somewhat dark, to mindless action film, to absurd comedy, and everything in between whenever Bay feels like it.
The problem with this movie is that it’s a culmination of everything we hate about each Transformers movie. The first had bad pacing and dull characters, the second had a story that didn’t make any sense, and the third was overlong with ridiculous comedy and characters that had no motivation. It’s no worse here – it’s just that after such a good opening it’s that much more painful. What is worse however is that this is the worst case of rehash I’ve ever seen in a sequel. The Hangover: Part II you are forgiven. Ghostbusters II, I’m so sorry. In this movie they acknowledge how played out sequels are. They even acknowledge how Michael Bay fetishly shoots women in tiny shorts. Every shot in here is a duplicate from another Transformers movie. It’s utterly mind numbing. Let’s do a checklist. Spin around action shot, check. Low shot of somebody stepping out of a car in slow motion, check. Travel scene on the road that looks like a Chevy commercial, check. Wide shot of a human character talking to Optimus Prime without making eye contact and then the camera slightly swiveling up to focus on Optimus, check. Even the editing and the pacing of the car chases is straight out of not only Transformers 1-3 but Bad Boys II, with a few moments of action and then some dialogue. I know I know this is nitpicking and I’m sorry but I just had to mention how repetitive the filming of this movie was.
Supporters of this franchise will proclaim “what do you expect? It’s a Michael Bay Transformers movie”, and to an extent they’re right. We all have an idea of what these movies are and if you’re going to like them or not. The reason I bothered with this movie is because I thought critics unfairly bashed Pain & Gain and wanted to give Michael Bay a chance. That said I want to be entertained and there are moments with inventive action or some good lines. I think with the first Transformers, Bay kind of leaned on the novelty of having giant robots and then as the movies progressed his action got better and better. My problem with these movies is that they’re too damn long. If I wanted to go in just for the action and enjoy it I have two hours of story to get through. A story that makes absolutely no sense and is impossible to follow. I can turn my brain off and not follow a movie’s story if it’s action packed and 90 minutes long, because I don’t need to enjoy the story to enjoy the movie. This movie is about 20 percent action and 80 percent story. Transformers fans, if there is an edit of these movies that completely takes out exposition, character development, and even better the human characters, please let me see that and I’d give it a 5 star review. But unfortunately I have to sit through all that to get to the action. I don’t want a deep story, just something I can follow and some clear cut motivation.
The characters in here are all annoying except for Mark Wahlberg’s, and even he comes close to that line due to bad scripting. Bumblebee acts juvenile, which has been the case in all the previous movies, except here it’s endangering the mission and peoples lives. They’re on the way save a character and for no reason at all Bee decides to scan a car and change colors. This movie is full of who’s, what’s, when’s, why’s, and how’s. Who are these new Autobots? Why does one of them say ” the gang is back” as if we have some familiarity with them? Why does one have a beard? Why is one a Samurai? The character design in this franchise is horrible too, especially coming off How to Train Your Dragon 2 where all the dragons have inventive looks. All the Decepticons look exactly the same. There’s two major Decepticon villains in Lockdown and Galvatron, but they never give any Autobots names, and they all look identical. Furthermore the screenwriter decides to explain the characters after introducing them. Why? If these movies are supposed to be simple kids movies that are just for spectacle why make them so needlessly complicated.
If you enjoy these movies, good for you. No movie is that bad that people shouldn’t be allowed to enjoy it. If you like previous Transformers movie, this is just more of the same, but I can’t help but feel like as a fan this is a step below Dark of the Moon. Is this the worst Transformers movie? I’m not sure, but it’s definitely not the best. Transformers movies are different stages of the same terminal illness. Well what did I expect right? I don’t think I’m asking too much of a movie to be able to watch it without being infuriated, or be able to at least follow the story, or not have to check my watch. This movie fails on the most basic level of storytelling and then falls below that. And if you come in looking for Dinobots, they’re barely in the movie and have no lines. They did to Grimlock what Fox did to Deadpool.
I hear all the time people saying “Transformers is the perfect summer blockbuster” and I resent that. This year alone we’ve had Captain America: The Winter Soldier, How to Train Your Dragon 2, and X-Men: Days of Future Past. Are those not great summer blockbusters with characters and stories you care about, and action where you can at least point out the bad guys from the good guys? The summer blockbuster has evolved from schlock like this. People complained about how Godzilla had boring characters, but this makes Godzilla look like The Dark Knight. I pray to god Michael Bay did this so that the studio will allow him to do more smaller projects in the future. Nobody in Hollywood with this much talent can squander it this bad. And no, Micheal Bay is probably not capable of making Goodfellas or 12 Years a Slave, but he’s certainly better than this.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ / Movie: ★
Anthony Stokes is a blogger and independent filmmaker.