They say that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Just imagine directing the same types of movies for decades and always hearing that you need to change what you’re doing. You’d think that after a while, you’d might listen up and take some criticism into consideration. One could do that, or they could only get worse about what they’re doing and ignore those who go to see the movies entirely. Who really cares about other people, so long as you’re making millions and you’re blowing things up? Don’t forget the added perk of paying young women to stand around and be exploited for their sexiness. This has got to be the way Michael Bay thinks, right?
It’s been some time since the events of Transformers: Dark of the Moon left Chicago in rubble and now the world has turned against all Transformers. Autobots and Decepticons alike are being hunted by the U.S. Government, on strict order of Harold Attinger (Kelsey Grammer). At his helm is his top operative (Titus Welliver) and his Transformer ally, Lockdown (Mark Ryan). They’re all on the hunt for Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen), who just so happens to be discovered by an inventer named Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg). Cade, his daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz), and his friend Lucas (T.J. Miller) awaken Optimus and bring a flood of government officials to their home. Fortunately, Optimus and Tessa’s rally car boyfriend Shane (Jack Reynor) get them the hell out of dodge.
Once safe, Optimus calls for any surviving Autobots to aid him in stopping Lockdown and the corrput humans and a ragtag group answer his call. Bumblebee, Drift (Ken Watanabe), Hound (John Goodman), and Crosshairs (John DiMaggio) all join the effort to stopping the bad guys and with the help of Cade, they manage to get to the root of the issue. Little did they know, the evil alliance goes further than anyone could imagine and even includes artifacts that were around 65 million years ago. To defeat their enemies, this small group of the good finds themselves in China attempting to stop the bad guys, before an event occurs and humanity is lost forever. *cues explosions and gratuitous shots of women*
Transformers: Age of Extinction had a lot of possibility behind its premise and with its cast, but it finds every way to ultimately ruin what could’ve been a good film. It’s not all bad, but the bad certainly outweighs any good there is to be found. I was really disappointed when I left the theater, because the story wasn’t half-bad and the visual and sound effects were unreal. It’s just a shame that the film is nearly three-hours and decides it wants to spit in the face of its audience about half-way through. It’s clear who this movie is made for and that is not your average movie goer.
Let’s get the good out of the way first. For all his failings and horrible habits, Michael Bay knows how to make a good-looking film. The direction in this film is stellar and filming it all in IMAX 3D was a solid choice, because it was one of the most crisp-looking films I’ve ever seen. The visual effects blow away all the competition, as even the most minute details of the Transformers look like someone spent an eternity fine tuning them. You also can’t forget the sound effects, mostly because they flood your head and induce a headache at some point, that are also top-notch and will likely remain unchallenged for most of the year. The explosions and the action are all kinds of awesome, but that’s sort of what we’ve come to expect from Bay. With someone like Michael Bay, he’s not great at much, but he’s outstanding with what he’s great at.
For the little good he does bring to the table, Michael Bay also brings everything else that sucks. His self-indulgence reaches a whole nother’ level in this film, as he goes beyond the point of no return with everything he’s known to do poorly. The film is nearly three-hours. There are many shots of an 18-year-old in booty shorts. There are explosions that don’t make any sense at all. There’s blatant racism and crude depictions of anyone who’s not a straight white person. The product placement is not only seen, but heavily interacted with. If that wasn’t enough, Bay abandons his American flag and heads to China to blow things up because he knows that the Chinese audience is his largest cash cow. It’s just sick that he finds so much enjoyment in offending people and not caring what people are going to think of his movie. At the end of the day, his film is going to make millions and he’ll smugly sit on his throne of atrocities and smile.
Speaking as someone who loves the idea and the robots of Transformers, I was pissed off by this movies depictions of the main Transformers and with how they were handled. Optimus contradicts himself at every turn and is still spouting off speeches every chance he gets. He and Lockdown get the most screen time and don’t do too much with it. Every other character is a poor caricature of some race or figure and we never get to see what they can really do. Some have giant Ninja blades that are rarely capitalized on. Some have the possibility to be so cool, if only we got to spend a little bit of time with them. When they’re not cracking terrible jokes and pushing each other around, these possibly cool Transformers are just background noise and are set as distractions from how poorly made this film is. Let’s also not forget the Dinobots, who only show up for the last 20 minutes. Why couldn’t we have more of them?
A big issue with both the humans and the Transformers is that they have some of the most god-awful dialogue that you’ll hear all year. There’s never any reason for relatively new Transformers to be making offensive jokes about a certain group of people, nor should they also speak about the stars being their souls. None of it makes sense for who they are and it comes off as cheesy, or offensive. As for the humans, they all suffer from trying to be who they’re not (with the exception of funny-man T.J. Miller). The daughter only whines, the boyfriend can’t choose an accent and is a douche to his girlfriend’s dad, and the dad is always thinking about inventing. Stanley Tucci‘s character is based on Steve Jobs and half of what he does is yell. The government men all talk about government stuff that really doesn’t matter. You also can’t forget characters who are inserted for a few minutes to try to get a laugh and then are never seen from again. It’s just bad all across the board.
Transformers: Age of Extinction could have been something entirely different that worked on most levels. I expected Michael Bay to do his usual stuff, but I never would have guessed that he would go so overboard with it. The Transformers are really cool, but they’re never given the chance to operate without human interaction. I don’t mind some humans in the film, but don’t make them the central point in a film about robots and even Dinobots. I don’t need forced love and crappy jokes. I want a serious take on giant machines that take themselves seriously too. With the budget and technology that Bay has, you’d think that he could do something better and more worthwhile. While I did laugh some and for as captivated as I was by the sights and sounds, the rest of this film wore me out in the worst way possible. Hopefully (and this is a big hopefully), the next couple Transformers films will be handled with better care. Isn’t that what we’ve always hoped, though?
Transformers: Age of Extinction Review