While a transformer might be at its best when assembling, this movie is most deft at collapsing. “Transformers: Age of Extinction” (2014), directed by the one and only Michael Bay, begins somewhat promisingly but then quickly corrodes in front of our eyes from rusty writing, tin hollow plot, awkward jokes, and mechanical acting.
I have never not liked a Transformers movie until, possibly, this one? In the past, when critics would criticize previous versions and hurl barbed jibes at Bay I would gawk at their audacity. What could one not like about these movies? You come to watch a movie series like this to see things blow up and robots fight; to stare at the ultra cool machines we knew as kids and see how they morph, clink and blast their ways through to entertain us like big blockbusters damn well should. If you wanted intricate drama and plot complexity go watch “The Hours” (2002). To me the Transformers series were well filmed, sexy, witty, and had much to appreciate. But maybe now I can possibly see why it could also disappoint. This one lacked the spark.
It goes beyond dealing with change management, I promise, although, all the changes in casting do have an effect. Is it just me or after SNL made fun of Mark Wahlberg (Cade Yeager) is he hard to take seriously anymore? Did we ever take him seriously? For the life of me I keep blanking out on his past performances because they all seem to be replicas of one another: angry, suspicious, macho and eyebrow-frowning. There were as many flat jokes and failed one-liners in this movie as there were artillery misfires. Nowhere near as witty and loveable as Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf), Wahlberg was onerous and painful to watch: ever ranting and ever unable to go beyond a 2D cutout. We blame bad writing as well Mark, not just you.
Pelt away Nicola Peltz (Tessa Yeager) and bring us back Foxx—at least she had some spunk to her character and not a helpless “Daddy! Help!” talking mannequin. And the wimpy character of Shane (Jack Reynor) who reminds you of a lesser version of Christopher Hemsworth was more of a liability than a hero. How could you write a character so badly; and in what earthly logic would a father accept “that”, a surrendering buffoon who can only race, for a daughter. Meanwhile Joshua Joyce (Stanley Tucci) is too preoccupied dragging around the Seed from place to place like a sack of potatoes which was an outrageous waste of a good actor. The best performance goes to Optimus Prime, because that’s probably the aggregate level of quality we got from this cast. His deep archaic voice, mythic sounding words and his flashes of assaulting action pleased, reassured and comforted me. I like him; he’s badass.
|Operation Upshot-Knothole – Fed.|
Someone should also call a plumber because the plot holes were dripping story matter with spillage seeping all over the theater. One moment the car goes through a store glass window only to blast out of a building’s garage? Another moment they race through a corn field and miraculously take some green exit to the local highway? I’m surprised at Bay’s sloppiness with logic and transitions—these are the basics folks! The flow was so choppy we could see the chops hack into the film. Equally audacious was the orgy of product placement. Product placement is best used when viewers internalize the marketing subliminally, not when someone thrusts a Beats Pill speaker by Dr. Dre in your mouth or when blue Bud Light bottles start rolling on the road and the protagonist has to do a “bottoms up” on it. And of course having a burnt Victoria’s Secret bus come crashing through will make women load up on lingerie.
But still loyal to its core, the redeeming qualities of this disappointment resided in the A-grade line of specials effects. Michael Bay is a master and here he did deliver. It consisted of much of what we’ve already seen and that’s fine with me. The attention to detail paid by the CGI complimented by the aspect ratio: 1.90:1 (IMAX version) and 2.35: 1 made for a fine viewing. I could watch the Autobots thrash and wrestle all night. From the days of “Transformers” (2007) we were most fascinated by the transformations themselves—the sounding of metal clinks, vehicle parts making up the mass of the robot and how they click, lock and interlock, doubling in themselves to make the machine—all very realistic.
And yet, even with this, Bay pushes himself too much. By the second hour and the seventh explosion one can tell the clumsy difference between a staged runway blast sequence consisting of stray fireworks and what a real explosion caused by multiple demolition triggers must look like. Also distasteful was the look of “extinction” themed robotic dinosaurs. I liked the concept but when one looks at how badly designed they are, with an abnormally swollen head for the T-Rex and a ball of steely spikes that one could barely make out for a Stegosaurus. Poor Megatron meanwhile looked like the equivalent of a bumbling middle aged pot bellied man armored in Transformium with uncanny resemblance to Iron Man’s hole. There was something degradingly insipid, stocky and short about him that robs him of his previous towering grandiosity.
For someone who loves these movies, this was a scrappy disappointment. We know of another to come, our only hope is that Bay will listen and improve come the time. At the time of this positing this will be the lowest rating given for a movie: 5/10. Adieu.