Holy shit is Transformers Age of Extinctions bad.
Granted I don’t think it is as bad as Transformers Dark of the Moon, but it may be a little worse than Rise of the fallen. The problem with this latest incarnation of the Transformers franchise is that given the cast, given the time off between this and the last film, given the potential for a clean slate, you kind of thought going in that this movie was going to correct a lot of the problems that existed with the last couple of movies.
Well it didn’t. Like at all. If the previous three movies hadn’t existed maybe you wouldn’t notice and take umbrage with all the classic Michael Bay things that are almost at the point of self parody. Let’s go through the list.
- Over the top explosions that never seem to hurt a main character = check (mostly)
- Hot actors who are constantly sweaty and covered in little smudges of dirt/grease = check
- Paper thin plot that completely disregards the previous films = check
- Classic Transformers characters introduced in a way that might look cool but has almost no resemblance to the original cartoon so many people love = check
- Robots that are simplistic racial stereotypes despite being aliens from another planet = check
- No still shots from a camera, and many scenes shot at weird angles for almost no reason = check
- A complete over estimate of how much punishment the human body can take from debris, crashing through structures, and being hit by giant pieces of metal = double check
- Almost comical product placements = check… OMG check
- So many American flags that you kind of get why other countries hate up = check
- Movie leads to an overly snarky and possibly unfair review by Mike Johnson = check
I could go on, but let’s look at that last one real quick. Yes, it’s easy to shit on Michael Bay films now, but I do kind of root for him none the less. First off he is making these movies for a world wide audience, and that probably means that at times you have to make a product a little less linear and a little more disjointed. The action is as always, very intense and might even be getting better with each new movie. The actors are good, even if the dialog is regrettable at times and their personalities are all over the map from one scene to the next. The scenes are beautiful even if you kind of get tired of constantly seeing only golden hour shots.
That brings me to what I think is the real problem with this and most of these Transformers movies. It has a terrible sense of balance. Yes you can do a slow motion running shot, but only once in a movie, not four or five times almost at random. Sure you can/should show an American flag blowing in a patriotic breeze, but why do it more than once. Doing it three more times doesn’t add anything to the movie. Worse yet there are times when a character will do something, well, out of character that either results in something cool/funny/awesome happening. While it might be excusable to do it once or twice because the pay off out weighs the moment of “why did our hero just try to give up like a coward” felt by the audience, the law of diminishing returns takes over where the audience starts to fixate on these breaks from internal logic and ignores the funny or awesome thing that just happened.
Remember in The Empire Strikes Back when Han and Leia and Chewie are hiding in the Asteroid field and at the same time Luke is training on Degobah. Well when you watch the movie you don’t really notice that they make it seem like Luke is training for days or weeks, while Han and company seem to only be on that giant asteroid/space worm food for a few hours. Because the rest of the movie is so tight, you barely notice stuff like that and even if you do notice it, you dismiss it as an aberration.
I’ll give you a specific instance of this in Age of Extinction. So they reveal this massive corporation is manufacturing their own transformers, and in order to do this they have discovered an element that is what the transformers are comprised of and it actually exists in rare quantities on Earth. The one lab scientist calls it “Transformium”. Obviously anyone who has seen Avatar had a hard time not groaning at this, and those that never saw Avatar had a hard time not groaning at this. My problem and point with this example is that half a beat later the lab tech and the CEO of the company have a quick back and forth about the market testing on the name “Transformium” that shows its popular in such and such demographic or whatever.
In another movie this one scene may have worked since they kind of explained why the name is so awful, and actually would be kind of taking a shot at Avatar. The company building these knock off transformers seems totally obsessed with image and licensing so the name really does work in context, cause you could imagine a mega corporation who names things by committee would come up with something that awful. Since the movie has been dog shit up to this point and everyone in the movie talks and acts like they have a super powered strain of ADHD, you can’t tell that the name is tongue and cheek, and not the name a writer came up with as everyone applauded him for the “totally science sounding name brah.”
If you want an example that more closely mirrors the Star Wars ESB time inconsistency, well there is plenty of those as well. Probably the worse is when the following series of events takes place.
- Mark Whalberg with no hint of a Texas accent tells an almost non functional Optimus Prime that he can fix him.
- He tells his assistant/partner (former CEO of Aviato, 10% partner of Pied Piper.com) to go into town and get a bunch of supplies, which is hilarious since just a few scenes earlier they are bitching about how none of them have any money to pay the electricity bill, let alone pay for parts to fix a sentient alien war machine.
- Optimus has a heart to heart with Whalberg about… who cares, I guess he wanted to know why he was helping Optimus.
- Kelsey Grammar and the CIA, who are straight up evil in this movie, get a tip about Optimus in Texas and dispatch a strike force to take them down.
- A decepticon climbs a wheat tower so he can.. I guess observe/sharp shoot optimus even though you can’t tell if the decepticon is even in the same state.
- The assistant returns with a small box of supplies one uses when fixing a transformer. (five and six might be switched, I can’t remember)
- The government rolls up in black SUVs and at puts a gun to Mark’s daughter’s head as Optimus hides in the barn’s basement.
Here’s the thing about all that stuff above, I, and I think several other people seated near me, had no idea how much time passed during the course of those 7 things. It could have been 2 hours, or a week. It was painfully unclear. There is a brief moment where it looks like it might be night when the evil CIA people first get in their SUVs, but I couldn’t be sure since every outdoor scene takes place right around either sunset or sunrise.
The fact that the assistant just returned with the supplies makes it seem like it was only a couple hours, but the daughter asks him what took him so long and he mumbles something about getting his head checked out by a doctor since Optimus clocked him a few scenes earlier, so maybe a day. Optimus still looks exactly the same, all beat up and beleaguered, so maybe a couple hours or a day, but when the fighting starts he seems like he is back to normal and even scans another big rig so he can take on a sleek new look and the subject of repairs is never brought up again… so maybe a couple days.. or a week.
I honestly can’t imagine that without the needed supplies, Mark was able (I have no idea what his character’s name was) to fix Optimus Prime to the point that he was 100% in only a matter of hours, or the course of a long night especially considering that he has proven to not be that good of an inventor/gadget guy throughout the beginning of the movie. The whole thing really bugged me honestly, mostly because they could have just shot the heart to heart scene at night to show the passage of a day, or even did a Michael Bay style montage where Mark is repairing Prime, and at some point towards the end of said montage the assistant sneaks off and phones the military for the reward money.
Cinema Sins is going to have a field day with this movie.
Once again, I really think the main reason this movie was sooooooo shitty is because it could have been sooooooo much better. Maybe it could never have been an Avenger’s type movie where most everyone liked it and was a huge international hit, but it could have at least not been awful. Even the premise at the beginning of the movie was intriguing until they threw in the 14th random plot point/twist that was more convoluted than a convoluted analogy at a metaphor meeting sponsored by the confusion lobby of America.
…. I just know Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is going to be dog shit now.