“Dad, we can’t go home. They blew it up.”
Transformers: Age of Extinction doesn’t deserve a star rating. It’s so mind-bogglingly stupid and mindless at times that the film should only receive a half a star, if that. But, other times, the film is soo batshit insane and absurd that you can’t help but watch in total awe and amazement and not be impressed. I’m so torn by this movie that it’s ridiculous. But, no matter what your thoughts on the franchise as a whole are, you can’t deny that whoever replaces Bay as the director for the next film has some MASSIVE shoes to fill.
Speaking of Bay, this is easily the definitive Michael Bay movie; it even manages to top his 2003 sequel Bad Boys 2 in total “Bay-ness”. I have never seen so much senseless destruction presented on-screen before and in such a manner that I’m even having a hard time describing it. It’s not bleak and depressing like Dark of the Moon or fun and playful like the first film. No, no, no…Age of Extinction is in its own damn category of craziness. Think Pacific Rim mixed with the likes of Crank: High Voltage. This film tries soo hard to feel like a once in a lifetime event that it actually turns out being one, even if the story doesn’t support this wild vision that Bay had for the film.
In fact, the films plot is pretty simple; a shady black-ops organization attempts to hunt down the remaining Transformers so that they can create their own from the DNA of the fallen robots from the Chicago incident. But, a single father stumbles upon one of the Transformers in hiding, causing him, his daughter, and her boyfriend to get caught up in a secret war. Simple enough right? Well, when it comes to a Michael Bay movie, there’s always more than meets to eye (sorry, I couldn’t help it).
The lead villain, Lockdown, is where the film starts wearing its stupidity proudly. It would have been alright just to have him be a badass bounty hunter, but to work with the humans, specifically Kelsey Grammer? I mean, come on. First off, how did they even come in contact to make this “deal” to take out the Transformers? It’s not like they had a lovely long-distance phone call, right? But, you know, fuck me sideways, because the film doesn’t give a rats ass if you realize that or not. So, like the plot of the film, I’ll move on.
Next, the film sets up what the audience is led to believe will become the “true” lead villain with this massive set-up and the fact that, you know, the films plot changes because of this character and his motivations. But nope, I guess we’ll just have to deal with the bland villain that’s only purpose is to capture Optimus Prime. “What’s he supposed to do with him after that? And what about that other villain?” you might ask. To which Michael Bay responds, “Hahahaha, your guess is as good as mine. Maybe the sequel will…BAM!!!!!! Did you see that explosion?”.
Enough with the villains. Let’s focus on the humans. The first hour or so of the film is spent building up certain characters that we assume we’ll follow and learn more about as the film progresses. Wrong. Mark Wahlberg‘s character is really one-note: try to act smart, be an asshole to his daughters boyfriend, and constantly talk about how cool the alien gun that he has is.
Speaking of the boyfriend, it’s revealed that he’s older than his girlfriend and that it’s illegal to be with her due to her age (I didn’t know Michael Bay wanted to add some elements of his life into the story…). All kidding aside, that was kind of creepy and as a father, I’d be furious about that. But not Walhberg, because one scene later they’re all “buddy-buddy”. I guess that’s not really a big deal at all.
Now, it’s time to talk about the most asnine, absolutely preposterous element of the film: the Dinobots. Just let that sink in. Dinobots. If that name didn’t make you cringe already, just wait until you see Optimus Prime ride one of them into battle. Yeesh.
Okay, okay, now it just sounds like in ripping this film a new asshole, but now I’m onto the good. Trust me. Because despite all the negatives I just pointed out, there actually is a lot to be amazed by in this installment.
Remember when I brought up how the film tried to be bigger than the plot had any right to be? Well, because of this, Bay gives audiences what is probably the most narratively confused and jumbled plot that any film has dared to take ownership of. But, this film embraces that and takes you along for the ludicrous, but undeniably entertaining ride. You, like the filmmakers, have no idea where the plot is heading, sending every character and you, the audience member, into a frenzy. This is actually interesting because I honestly had no idea where the film was heading towards the end.
Also, some of the actors involved seem to have realized how dumb the movie actually was, so they hammed up their performances up to the absolute max. The actor that comes to mind when I say this is Stanley Tucci. He is responsible for a lot of the films laughs and is honestly the only character the film actually decides to develop in its nearly three-hour runtime. Watching him yelp and cruse at old Chinese ladies made me realize that he’s perfect for Bay’s type of idiotic humor and should work with him more often.
Also, the film focuses more on the Autobots instead of the human characters after the first section of the movie. This is probably a negative to most people looking for a thought-provoking movie, but this is Transformers, so fuck you. The action was exhilarating and had my jaw slumped on the ground more than a few times. Somehow, Bay managed to top the Chicago finale in the last installment, and that’s no easy task. Just keep those damn Dinobots away. That’s all I ask.
Not only that, but the film also has moments where it genuinely tries to be a “good” movie. The artsy camera shots early on, the whole scene about how humans make mistakes, and other moments that feel powerful (well, for a Transformers movie) and you feel like Bay has finally stopped dropping acid for a second to try and actually tell a story in between all the glorious mayhem.
All in all, Age of Extinction is a mess of epic proportions. It refuses to follow any sort of three-act narrative and just mashes the middle of the film into the climax, which leads to an exhausting viewing experience. The filmmakers don’t seem to care if it all makes sense or not either, they just want to make sure the damn thing worth the price of admission on a huge movie screen. Not many films actually warrant the need to see it in a movie theater, so I give Bay some respect for trying to outdo every action movie to give people spectacle like they’ve never seen before. And if any film demands to be seen on the big screen, it’s this bad boy.
This sequel/reboot is probably the most relentless and insane blockbuster that I’ve ever seen. Not only that, but I’m honestly convinced that this is the first big-budget movie that has actually strived to be daft and moronic as well. Thank you Michael Bay for the experience, even though I’m not entirely sure if I loved it or just absolutely hated it.
“How do you say “get the fuck out of the way” in Chinese?”
3.5 out of 5 (but in reality, this film defies an actual rating)