Film Review – Transformers: Age of Extinction
Transformers: Age of Extinction
Imagine the most obnoxious song you can think of. Now think about that song playing on a booming sound system, cranked up to the highest level. While that’s happening, pretend you’re punching yourself in the face repeatedly. Try to maintain this state of being for three hours, non-stop. That is what the experience is like when watching Michael Bay’s Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014). It is an assault of stupidity on our eyes, ears, and intelligence. You would think that after three films, Bay would find some groove with this material. If anything, he’s regressed. This is a filmmaker who has made yet another over bloated and mind-numbingly uninteresting action movie.
Bay appears to exist according to the motto “bigger is better.” He does not allow the action to steadily increase to a crescendo. Instead, he constructs every set piece like a climactic battle. Along with screenwriter Ehren Kruger, Bay does not do enough to establish a foundation where we care about what’s happening, or feel any kind of gripping tension. He jumps to different locales (Texas to Chicago and then Hong Kong) like a traveling circus of explosions and destruction. Because he goes so big so quickly and so often, he bombards the audience tirelessly. How many car chases do we need? How many times do we need to see buildings get torn asunder? The special effects may be impressive, but so what?
Sadly, Bay and his team apparently don’t care if what they’re making is actually good. They have the backing of a popular brand name, and three previous entries that have made a zillion dollars. This property is almost invulnerable to negative buzz, people will go see it anyway. Don’t we have anything better to do than to sit in a theater for three hours while a filmmaker offends us for the purpose of making money? I know what some will say: “This is only a dumb action movie, you shouldn’t take it so seriously.” I’m sorry, but this doesn’t get that excuse. There is a difference between a “good” dumb action movie and a “bad” one. This is a “bad” one in the worst possible way.
It is shameless to the point of arrogance. From the racial insensitivity to the blatant misogyny, the film adheres to the lowest common denominator and revels there. The Autobot Drift (Ken Watanabe) is played as a Japanese stereotype, wielding samurai swords and speaking in haikus. The screenplay believes this is an appropriate implementation of a “character trait.” During the Hong Kong scenes, random Chinese citizens (these are background characters, mind you) reveal themselves to be expert martial artists. Because all Asians know Kung Fu, right? And worst of all, nearly every female is objectified as sexy, helpless victims in need of rescue by men. Even the characters that can kick ass are designated as the object of sexual desire. All are played by gorgeous models wearing tight shirts with plunging necklines, and skirts that rise up so high they might as well be considered underwear. Bay makes sure to capture as much skin as possible, because of course he would.
Story? What story? Anything that gets introduced in the first act is forgotten about later. Sure, we learn about Texas family man Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg), a struggling inventor trying to make money to send his daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz) to college. But the writing is openly not interested in that. In fact, the script focuses more on justifying the idea that it’s ok for this 17-year old girl to date her older boyfriend Shane (Jack Reynor). There’s even (and I’m not joking about this) an extended conversation about a Texas law allowing people to date those that are underage. Bay uses this as an acceptable reason to have Peltz wear short shorts, and permits adult men to comment on how “hot” she is. I feel creeped out just from writing that.
The plot (or whatever you call it) involves Optimus Prime and the other Autobots turning into fugitives from the government five years after the events of Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon (2011). We have shady CIA directors (Kelsey Grammar), greedy tech tycoons (Stanley Tucci), and deadly secret agents (Titus Welliver) thrown in, but they’re all second fiddle to the battle between the good Transformers and the bad ones. If there is one highlight, it’s Mark Wahlberg. He is a definite upgrade for a lead compared to Shia LaBeouf’s previous outings. Wahlberg even has the opportunity to help take down the enemy, instead of just running around yelling (which he also does).
Beats by Dre, Goodyear, Bud Light, Victoria Secret. These are just a few of the countless product placements that we see, not even including the car brands. And that’s what Transformers: Age of Extinction boils down to: a big, loud, expensive commercial. There are so many other action movies out there that are more creative and more exciting than this one. Heck, you could probably watch a few of them in the same time it takes to watch this once.