I am not a fan of the Transformers movies. I didn’t even care for the first one which is the one most generally accept as being ok. I remember being with a group of about 10 people and felt odd that I was the only one who didn’t seem to like it. How could I be the only one who found the action incomprehensible, the characters unlikable and the jokes atrocious? The sequel is one of the most confounding films in history with a plot that makes no sense, even worse humour, and tons of insane shit like robot testicles and robot heaven. The third movie was sort of a step in the right direction though it took Sam Witwicky to levels of douche that made me hate every second I had to spend watching him.
Age of Extinction was billed as a new start for the Transformers movies but don’t let them trick you, this is the same shit you already saw in the last three movies. In fact, this could be the most Transformer-y Transformer movie to date.
Oh and I’m gonna spoil shit so you have been warned.
One huge plus is that the cast has been completely shifted so we don’t have to deal with Sam’s douchiness or John Turturro’s refusal to not be terribly unfunny. Here we have Mark Whalberg as our lead, playing Cade Yaeger, which is either the dumbest name ever or the greatest name ever, I’m not sure which. He lives on a farm with his daughter where he fixes broken electronics and invents shit like a robot guard dog. He has a teenage daughter who is so tanned and fake looking I kept waiting for the reveal she too was a robot he made. They also have a very unfunny friend played by TJ Miller but don’t worry we don’t have to deal with him very long and the movie doesn’t seem to give a shit when he’s gone.
So after the fight that decimated Chicago in the third movie, the government has severed all ties with the autobots. Kelsey Grammer is hunting down the autobots with the help of the bad guy from Lost and his team of….mercenaries?....though I guess the government thinks he is actually hunting down the decepticons. Should I be capitalizing their names? I don’t care. He is giving the parts to Stanley Tucci who is a Steve Jobs-esque character that is using the parts to further his company’s research that will allow humans to create their own superior transformers. Kelsey Grammer is also in cahoots with these bounty hunter aliens in huge ships who have been sent by Optimus Prime’s creator to capture him but also Megatron is back because Tucci used his severed head to gain information and he has taken over their man made robots and then there is this “seed” they are all after that will blow things up and make more robots? Maybe? Also robot dinosaurs happen.
Ok the plot of the movie is kind of a mess and in a movie this long there is really no excuse for that. With a run time of 19 hours and 8 minutes, there was plenty of time to tell a decent story but clearly this movie wasn’t interested in that. The idea of the autobots having to fight man made transformers is pretty cool and has potential, but they do nothing with it and it all just serves as an elaborate excuse to bring Megatron back, though he is clearly being saved for the fifth movie.
Not surprisingly the characters are quite weak as well. It’s another example of a movie featuring characters that are clearly meant to be the comedy reliefs, but everyone else around them is also saying and doing silly shit so what is the point? TJ Miller is dreadful. He doesn’t even have dialogue really, he speaks solely in unfunny one liners. He never stops, no matter the scenario his character refuses to turn down his shitty joke dial. I get these movies are in no way realistic but is too much to have these people treat the situations as though there are some stakes involved? If they keep making jokes and don’t care, then why the fuck should we? You guys are fleeing for your lives from alien robots in a world where the sun is perpetually setting, how does that not scare the shit out of you?! The daughter and her boyfriend are dull and there is no reason to care about their relationship. Stanley Tucci does have some funny moments and Grammer can do menacing very well so they do alright. There is also a female scientist character who repeatedly shows up, does nothing, and then leaves. No clue why she was there.
But plot and characters isn’t why people go to see these movies right? It’s about the action isn’t it? Well there is certainly plenty of that. Too much I would argue. I would say 60% of its 81 hour and 11 minute run time is spent watching robots clang against each other and shoot robot guns and it’s exhausting. The first couple of action scenes are actually pretty good. The first attack on the barn and the ensuing car chase is quality and I also enjoyed a scene involving ropes suspended high above the city. The rest though, I just couldn’t get invested in it. Yes the movie blows things up well but it’s really the only trick it has up its sleeve. By the time we get to the final fight, we’ve already seen these robots fight like 4 times so who cares? Are you going to do something unique this time? Oh robot dinosaurs? Ok….ok I’m listening.
So yes the dinobots make their appearance in this movie. They show up in the final battle, do a few cool things, and that’s about it. They are undeniably cool and a bunch of robots riding dinosaur robots is the kind of dumb I can certainly get behind but it’s too little too late. By that time I was completely burnt out on smashy smashy robot time so I just didn’t enjoy it as much as I could have had their appearance been earlier or the action had been a little less relentless. In my Godzilla review, I defended the lack of monster fighting by saying that the final fight would have had no impact if we’d already seen them fight a bunch of times. This movie further solidifies that opinion as the final battle here should have been awesome but we’ve already seen a bunch of the same shit, so whatever. I was just ready to be done with it and go home.
There isn’t even that much of the usual Michael Bay weirdness here. There’s not enough random moments or scenes where you just think “The fuck was that about?” There is a scene where an old man waxes poetic of the movies of the old days, saying he is sick of remakes and sequels. He is then written off as senile and out of his mind, so clearly to Bay, only whack jobs dream of the days where movies tried to be original and good. Also the scene where Whalberg chases a realtor off his property was pretty random too. Still though, not enough of Bay’s patented brand of crazy.
There may be a lack of crazy but there is certainly no lack of product placement. Holy shit. This movie has the most product placement I have seen in a film since Josie and the Pussycats, and that one was doing it ironically. Every time a new car shows up, we hit up slow motion and it becomes a car commercial for the next 20 seconds. A bus branded with Victoria’s Secret is put centre frame for like 10 seconds (what a shock that Bay would be a fan of that brand). A Bud Light truck is destroyed, spilling a bunch of bottles into the street, once of which Whalberg picks up and drinks. Oh and I’m not even kidding you, there is an Oreo branded robot at one point. He may have been my favourite character actually.
If you are able to enjoy these movies all the power to you but after four attempts I still don’t get it. I keep thinking it will eventually click and I’ll understand the appeal but it certainly hasn’t happened yet and this 101 hour and 45 minutes didn’t help matters. I’m certainly capable of shutting my brain off and enjoying a movie, but with these I feel as though I am beating my brain into submission and causing irreversible damage. I really feel these movies could be great but we just keep settling for these and writing if off as “oh what did you expect? These movies aren’t supposed to be good.” They could be though! We just have to stop rewarding these same people so somebody else gets a crack at it! Though who I am kidding, I’ll be right there for part 5 with the same hopes so I guess I’m the one at fault in the end.
Also if you hate your liver, take a drink anytime: you see an American flag, characters are shown next to a setting sun, characters are shot from a low angle looking upwards, or one of the autobots says “bitch”. By the time you hit hour 1 of the 189 hour and 51 minute run time, you will be dead.