Watch out, I’m going to be swearing a lot more than usual here so…cover your ears…or close your eyes, whatever works.
Some slight spoilers may exist here but really, if you’re going to be disappointed by what I may divulge, this is a Transformers movie I’m talking about here…
You know, I had hoped a few weeks ago, that this movie would be awesome. That it would be a movie that I could just sit back and enjoy the orgy of glorious special effects that required me to turn off my brain but just revel in the spectacle. I hoped this movie would be good. But, once the movie passed the 30 minute mark, the words of the great James May came to mind…
You see, I should have known better. I was a stupid, stupid, idiot for even thinking that there would be more pros than cons in this movie. I mean, the advertising really did help it in this regard because it was very nebulous surrounding actual specific plot details. I had no idea what to expect when I walked into the theater so I give it props to that. What I cannot excuse myself for is believing that this wouldn’t be so bad. Perhaps, the sad part is that this might be the second best out of all the Transformers films…which is not exactly a hard feat to beat considering the trainwreck that was Revenge of the Fallen and the absolute snoozefest that was Dark of the Moon. Age of Extinction has its moments but they’re just so sloppily executed that it ends up grating on everyone’s nerves in the end.
Despite his assured statements that there wouldn’t be a fourth installment, Michael Bay has now returned to bring a new trilogy (oh yeah, they’re going to make two more of these…at least) of the Transformers characters you know and love. Or at least two of them. Yeah, out of all the Autobots from the first trilogy, only two actually make the cut here (with one mainstay killed off in the first ten minutes of the film). And with Bay comes crappy screenwriter Ehren Kruger, who wrote both the second and third films. Kruger is one of the worst screenwriters out there at the moment because he has never written anything that was a critical hit and every movie that has used one of his scripts has been a sloppy mess that is just a hodgepodge of the worst cliches in the business. I’m surprised he hadn’t been fired yet and that the studio begged the first film’s writers, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman (Star Trek), to come back, as they are considerably more talented.
Bay’s style of directing has not changed at all either. For that matter, AoE is like a caricature of a Michael Bay movie. Explosions, explosions, goddamn explosions all over the f**king place! We get it, Bay, you like explosions. But, for the love of god, when the audience starts to get bored by explosions an hour into the movie, you’ve done something wrong. Explosions are not supposed to be boring! Jesus tap-dancing Christ, man, is he not aware of how obnoxious his filmmaking is? Add to the fact that the explosions are not particularly good looking as many of them look like fireworks are added to give them more “sparks.” I don’t even think that Bay knows what an actual explosion looks like. They’re all cheesy and they all look the same, no matter how many are thrown in your face.
The story, though. Hmm…well, it shifts the focus to an entirely new cast of characters from the first trilogy, which is good, I guess. I mean, we’re focusing on an adult as the main character instead of a whiny high-schooler so that gets the movie a point. So, said adult finds a disused truck on the job and brings it back to his workshop, looking to strip it down for parts and eventually sell it. He soon realizes that the truck is actually a Transformer and that Transformer is Optimus Prime. Since the events of the third film, the humans have been colluding with a Transformer bounty hunter, Lockdown, into tracking all Transformers down and killing them, in order to by into the American people’s illusion that they are “safe” from any alien forms of life.
Both Autobot and Decepticon are targeted which made Optimus hide in the first place. The big, bad government eventually shows up to snuff Optimus but he, along with his human companions, escape them and meet up with the rest of the Autobots. From there, they team up after they learn that the Transformer technology is being reverse-engineered (again, like in the first film) so that America can make weapons. These weapons come in the form of human-produced Transformers, with the main prototype code named Galvatron (the actual existence of which just made me elicit a big sigh). Hijinks ensue as the Autobots try to stop the humans from their experiments (shooting up Chicago for the second time) as well as they race to thwart a plot that could mean the end of the human race through very rushed, and very pointless scenes of exposition! Hooray!
The story is a bit darker than its predecessors and it does maintain your interest for a time, which is more than I can say for the last two films. Unfortunately, it could have been shorter. A lot shorter. At a runtime of over two and a half hours, you could have cut 45 minutes from this movie and it wouldn’t have made a goddamn difference. There are aspects of this film that could have been completely written out or setpieces that ended up being completely useless with the aid of some proper cutting. I kept on checking my watch throughout the film because I was getting irked that it just kept going…and going...and going…
If you came to watch this for the story, don’t even bother. You just came for the effects, right? Sorry to burst your bubble, but they suck. You have the same problem as you have with the previous films. The Transformers look too cartoonish, their heads look way too human, and the editing of this film is just godawful (it could be night in one scene and then immediately day in the next. Sometimes actual lines of dialogue are cut off when the scene changes.) The human made Transformers have a weird transforming effect that looks like a bunch of little cubes and lines that morph into whatever product they come into contact with. It has to be one of the worst effects I’ve ever seen in my life. It looks unfinished, like those wire-frame effects that you see the guys at ILM fiddle about before the movie is even released? Yeah, it looks just like that. Another inexcusable effect was the fact that during a slow-motion scene in which every piece of debris was flying at your face from an explosion (of course), I could see that a CGI piece of rubble somehow disappeared instantaneously from the scene because some animator forgot to do his f**king job! How can you miss something like that???
At least the one-on-one fight scenes were halfway decent. With these, you could actually tell what was going on but there were problems that plagued this too. For one, the roster of villains makes the film feel bloated because the script tries to give both Lockdown and Galvatron ample screen time as they try to take on Optimus. It doesn’t help that Galvatron just runs away from the final battle (setting up the sequel in the process), leaving Lockdown to do the heavy lifting. I will say that the final fight is reasonably good as it gives good action on that front, just focusing on the intensely personal fight.
Composer Steve Jablonsky returns to score the series and his usually obnoxious score is mixed in more to the background. The instrumental music provided by Imagine Dragons (ugh…) is out front and center, sometimes at inappropriate moments. Jablonsky still holds onto his methodology of having incredibly synthetic sounding scores that dwell primarily in the bass region. String ostinatos, BWAAAMS, and at times, a complete rip-off of the Dark Knight theme are held up prominently. I don’t even care anymore, I was already expecting the score to be a disappointment anyway (Jablonsky hasn’t made a decent soundtrack in years).
Peter Cullen returns for his most famous role as Optimus. The leader of the Autobots is given a darker personality here but the script just completely wastes any potential development of his trait, as he just goes from being a revenge-seeking robot of death to a peaceful (yet epic) guardian of the universe. It’s all well and good because the character of Optimus Prime has always been a bit dull in my opinion. Bumblebee’s voice is still shot after four movies, so no VA for him. John Goodman, Ken Wantanabe, and John DiMaggio portray fellow Autobots and they do well inside their cliched roles (also, no character development for them either! Two and a half hours and no one’s growing in this film!)
The Transformer Lockdown is one of the better villains in the series, I must admit. He’s a wild card in the whole game that is set up on Earth, allied with neither Autobot or Decepticon. He’s a capable fighter, but also completely predictable as, you guessed it, there’s nothing compelling about him other than a chilling voice for anyone to care about. Veteran voice actor Frank Welker plays Galvatron (who doesn’t bring his Transformers: Prime chops as Megatron, weirdly) and is decent in the five lines the character has. God forbid if we can ever get decent robot bad guys.
A huge mistake that the script makes is that it still focuses too much of its time on the human characters. The audience doesn’t want to know every facet about the personal lives of humans! It says “Transformers” on the title, so give us our f**king Transformers! Mark Wahlberg is a much better lead than Shia LaBitch, granted, so it’s nice to have a protagonist that isn’t annoying and who doesn’t have weird, awkward parents that get drunk or eat hash brownies. On the other side of the spectrum, is Wahlberg’s daughter, played by Nicola Peltz, known by her most infamous role as Katara from the abomination The Last Airbender. Someone should stop giving Peltz movies, she sucks as an actress. She’s completely flat (tonally, you perverted idiots), she whiny, irritating, and there isn’t a scene where she’s not wearing any makeup (too much makeup, to be honest). Kelsey Grammer is in this movie…but is completely one-dimensional. And AoE manages to make Stanley Tucci completely terrible, as the script requires him to overact in every scene. It’s painful to watch, to be honest. To see such an accomplished actor having to choke down his wretched lines just for a paycheck at the end of the long, long tunnel. Oh, Stan…what have you done?
There is one more thing that I have to mention: the Dinobots. Oh yeah, you forgot those were in this films! After all, every single aspect of the movie’s advertising showcased Optimus riding the leader of the Dinobots, Grimlock, into battle while wielding a ginormous sword. Apparently the movie forgot too as the Dinobots don’t show up more than two hours in. Two…f**king…hours! I mean, every poster had the Dinobots front and center and you’re telling me that the only payoff we’re going to get is less than ten minutes of actual screentime? The really sad part is, with a few hours of editing the script, you wouldn’t need the Dinobots in this film in the first place. They were most likely forced here as a marketing gimmick so that Hasbro can sell millions of toys through the fact that the Dinobots were technically in this film. Let’s face it, it’s a stupid concept and it was handled stupidly.
If you’re a die-hard Transformers fan, then you might actually get your money’s worth with this film. As for casual fans, I recommend that you steer clear for you will never get the two and a half hours back from your life, two and a half hours that you could spend watching…something else. (I’d recommend waiting for the next Planet of the Apes movie). So yeah, Age of Extinction gets my vote as the worst movie of the summer so far as it features terrible directing, terrible acting (…but nothing on par with Shia or Megan Fox, thank god), and horrendous special effects. There is nothing in this film that suggests that humanity or Autobot is on the brink of extinction as the stakes weren’t as high as the title had you believe. False advertising, exaggerated stakes, and a bloated script pretty much drive this film into the ground for me as not even worth a free second showing. Want my advice? Seek out the infidelity better TV series Transformers: Prime to satiate your desire for fighting robots…or you could just punch Pacific Rim into your Blu-ray player. Trust me, either one is a much better alternative.
Final Score: 20/100
For Reference: I’d give Transformers 1, 2, and 3 a 75, 5, and 15 respectively.