Richard finally catches up with Michael Bay’s latest billion-grossing destructathon. Was he impressed?
Do you want to know what my feeling is after watching Transformers: Age of Extinction? It’s one of slightly annoyed indifference. If I was to give it a two-word review, I would directly quote a line from the character Jay Sherman in the TV sitcom The Critic: “It stinks.” But since I paid a full admission price to see this in the cinema, I think I should go into more detail. The film is essentially just Michael Bay on auto-pilot. What I mean by that is, he just doesn’t even seem to be trying anymore. The first Transformers film was, I admit, an action blockbuster which was somewhat groundbreaking for its time. I don’t think it was that great a film but it was a reasonable enough watch for what it was, and I agree with the people who say its the best of the franchise. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen was, as we all know, a failure on all levels, and Transformers: Dark of the Moon was basically Revenge again, but with a longer running time.
So, for the fourth instalment, has Michael Bay learnt any lessons and hopefully made up for the previous lacklustre sequels? Well I am sorry to say he hasn’t. Age of Extinction has all of Bay’s usual tropes such as an almost incomprehensible plot, loud flashy explosions, unlikeable and uninteresting human characters, and in-your-face lens flare that never gives the eye a break. Oh, and the Autobots who are supposedly the good guys all act like crazy psychopaths. Yeah, this movie is marketed to kids. Want to know what was going on in this film? I couldn’t tell you because it never stops to explain anything adequately. Who are the Dinobots? What is this McGuffin called the Seed? Why have the humans suddenly turned on the Autobots? I don’t know and I don’t care because the film never gives me a reason.
To know what’s going on, you have to ask Kelsey Grammer, who’s only role in this film is to deliver exposition and essentially play America. I know his character has a name, but he is for all intents and purposes representing the old US of A. All his talk about freedom and protecting the country is such obvious symbolism and meant to reflect the way many post-9/11 Americans feel about terrorism and their place in the world. Grammer is a walking, breathing version of the United States, and the Transformers are Al Qaeda and illegal immigrants. Since Bay doesn’t know what subtlety is, this obvious flag-waving jingoism is meant to tell you that America is great and everyone else are either terror suspects, illegal aliens or racial stereotypes. Bay might be good at a couple of things, but social commentary is not one of them, and his obvious message just feels forced and heavy-handed. And there is no point in talking about any of the other characters, since they are not protagonists in the true sense and are essentially archetypes representing how Bay views his nation. It’s about as narrow-minded and eye-rollingly annoying as you think it is.
The plot is a mess and the action scenes are loud, juvenile and almost impossible to follow. I couldn’t see who was running where, or shooting at what, or who was chasing who, and since Bay doesn’t try to engage his audience in any way, then why should I care when a character is in danger or close to death? The fact of the matter is, this film is basically everything you have seen before, with the franchise’s director clearly not giving a damn by this point. I grudgingly respect Bay for not caring what film critics think. But most directors have a tendency to evolve over the course of their careers and move away from what they’ve done before. I’m not saying that Bay shouldn’t make Transformers movies since he has the right to make whatever Hollywood claptrap he wants, but I would at least expect him to have progressed and tried to make up for some of the mistakes of his past, but you just don’t get that with Extinction. He even said that he let everyone down and that Revenge of the Fallen was “crap.” Sadly, he has regressed back to the infantile mess of that first sequel. Mainly because Bay is not just using offensive racial stereotypes or annoying childish humour to try and make us laugh, he now thinks statuary rape jokes are funny. Again, this film was marketed towards children and a lot of kids have already been to see it. Quite frankly, they and film audiences in general deserve better than this.
Do I have anything positive to say about this movie? Well Shia LaBeouf is no longer in it and has since been replaced by Mark Wahlberg to play the lead human. But Wahlberg is not given anything interesting to say or do; he is easily a much more convincing action star than LaBeouf but that is not saying much and Marky Mark’s character is more or less forgotten about the second the movie finishes.
Overall, I would say that the bloated length is a desperate attempt to try and convince people that the Transformers series is now equal to epics such as Lawrence of Arabia. But there is just no reason for it, and it felt like there was no reason for this film to exist in the first place anyway. Michael Bay just wants to tell us how great America, is but I think we have all got the message by this point.