I know by now it’s popular on the internet message boards to make fun of director Michael Bay and he does have many faults as a filmmaker but like I said in my response article to his comments to MTV, I think he is more than capable in making a fun and exciting adventure. The first “Transformers” is proof of that. When the film was first released I absolutely loved it, and had a fun time with it. It had its flaws but most of them could be overlooked. It’s follow up “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” however had so many flaws that I couldn’t possibly overlook them. This is where most of the Michael Bay frustration comes from. The plot made no sense and the action, at times well done, did not let up and so many of the supporting characters were annoying and irritating. I could go on about why “Revenge of the Fallen” does not work but I’ll let that have its own review.
The second sequel “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” was a bit of a step up. The story was better, the action was better shot and choreographed. The spectacle was large and grand. The movie that had a large number of flaws, mostly in the first half but I liked it enough to give it a positive review. Still not nearly on the level the first one was, and like “Hangover Part II” I can completely understand why someone wouldn’t like it.
Now we’ve arrived to the fourth entry in the series, “Transformers: Age of Extinction”. I was under the impression that the third one would be the final one but when your last film grosses a billion dollars worldwide (mostly from foreign markets) it’s easy to understand from a business perspective, why there is a fourth one. This film looked a bit more fresh with a new series of human cast and robots and maybe could revamp the series. Sadly it’s films like these that make it hard for me to defend Michael Bay. “Transformers: Age of Extinction” is the worst film in the series thus far, with a bloated length and script that is poorly written with unexciting action, this “Transformers” film should be sent to the scrap yard.
The story roughly 5 years after the events of “Dark of the Moon” and the battle of Chicago. The Autobots are now being hunted by the U.S Government because of the destruction of the city and also because “they don’t need them anymore”. While a mechanic down on his luck in Texas is trying to find a way to put his daughter through college, he then stumbles across an injured Optimus Prime. Now he is a fugitive from the law for helping Prime as they both race to try to figure out what the Government up to?
The script is written by Ehren Kruger, the man behind the previous 2 “Transformer” movies and even “Scream 3”. Amidst many problems this is no doubt where the crux of them begin. The film is just so poorly written and is a jumbled mess. There are many things that could have been written out and many plot points don’t make sense to even have in here. You know your script is bad when the Decepticons have no purpose.
This is no exaggeration either. The main villain in the film is newcomer Lockdown. He is neither Autobot nor Decepticon. He is a bounty hunter, helping the humans hunt for the Transformers. From his introduction to the final climax, he is presented as the main villain. So what is the purpose of the Decepticons? The much anticipated big screen debut of the classic Transformers villain Galvatron feels strangely forgettable simply because of the lack of purpose. What does he do? He shows up in the middle for a fight then gathers together a bunch of unrecognized Decepticons to stage one last big battle in China, a fight that goes on for a while but shows very little of Galvatron. Most of the focus is still on Optimus and Lockdown. They cut to the battle of the Autobots and Decepticons and show them fighting here and there but if all of the focus of this battle is Optimus and Lockdown, and so has been the entire story of the movie, then that begs the question why even include Galvatron?
Why not instead save that character for the fifth movie? They keep mentioning “the creators” and the end shows Optimus off into space to go and find them. Why not maybe make “the creators” create Galvatron and thus make him the main villain for the fifth movie? Maybe one of “the creators” is Unicron, which then could be the sixth and final film. Having Galvatron in this film just creates extra baggage and serves as a poor introduction to what could have been a great villain. Plus then you can eliminate Stanly Tucci’s drawn out storyline where he tries to create Transformers for the Government. By the end he serves no purpose except to be loud and annoying, much like John Turturro’s character in the previous trilogy ended up becoming. In all actuality all his character is exposition and to explain part of the plot anyways. Just by taking out Galvatron and putting a sharper focus on Lockdown, you already have a cleaner and more coherent story. Still that doesn’t absolve it of its other sins.
Another problem is the dialogue. It is really cringe worthy to say the least, with such lines as, “My face is my badge” and Galvatron yelling like in a Saturday morning cartoon show, “No! The Autobots are ruining all of my plans.” There are so many lines of dialogue to pick apart.
There is even a commercial in the middle of the film with the worst usage of product placement I have seen in a long time. It takes a lot to bother me with product placement. Even “Man of Steel” had a ton of product placement but even that didn’t bother me. Here we have Mark Walhberg pick up a Bud light beer,(after crashing into a huge Bud light truck spilling all of the Bud lights everywhere. ) and looks almost directly into the camera breaks it open and takes, not just a sip but a huge gulp! I am almost shocked that he didn’t turn his head an inch more towards the camera and say, “buy this Bud light!”
The worst offender of dialogue is in an exchange between Mark Walhberg and Jack Ryner’s character Shane Dyson. In this couple exchanges of dialogue, Shane explains why, under Texas law, it’s okay to have sex with someone under the age of 18 when he is 20. It’s just an uncomfortable scene that just has no purpose. Why did the character have to be 20? There are no characteristics about him that couldn’t have allowed him to be 17 or 18. I’m not a prude and I understand that some of this happens in real life and as the character explains it’s okay under law in certain circumstances. Just again what was the point of throwing those lines of dialogue into the script? It’s not funny nor does it add anything story wise so again that begs the question what’s the purpose? Is it Michael Bay or Ehren Kruger trying to say something? Perhaps I’m reading into this scene way to much but there was just no purpose for it.
It’s cliché now to make fun of Michael Bay for all of the over the top explosions in his films (there are a lot of them in this as well) but being an action director you’d think he would use them with purpose and also make some entertaining action scenes along with it. You would think right? The action is so drawn out and longer than it needs to be that already less than halfway through this 165 minute film, you’ve become numb to it. Nothing after that becomes exciting. Instead it’s just loud and hollow. Things that should thrill me, don’t. Partially because there is no variation between the action scenes in this and the previous ones. Also there is so much of it that feels like there was little effort behind it, unlike the past 3 films. Even when those movies stretched the action out longer than it needed to be, still I felt the effort of everyone involved. In this it feels like Michael Bay is giving us a bad clichéd cover song of his past three films instead of something new and awesome.
I think another reason why the action doesn’t feel as riveting or enthralling as it should is the structural problems the script has. Halfway through it felt like what should have been the final act but then the movie kept going and going and going and going and going and going to the point where it becomes unbearable to continue to sit through watching this film.
The special effects were good under the direction of Industrial Light and Magic but it doesn’t feel as polished as the previous efforts. The budget is higher than the last three films yet all of them look better than this one. Still no doubt that these are good but not as good as they should be.
I really shouldn’t spend more time on this than I have already have. Then I would be making the same mistakes as this film did and never knowing when to end it. I haven’t gone into the bad acting (even Mark Walberg felt miscast) or the Dinobots not showing up till the last 10 minutes (at least in the first “Transformers” Megatron not showing up till the end made narrative sense.) But why bother going into greater detail? If I could say something more positive of the film it’d be they did a much better job of giving us distinct Autobots that we can tell apart from the rest of the Transformers like the first one did. That was a big plus. Also Lockdown was a cool and stylish villain.
Again I love the first film, disliked the second, and enjoyed the third. I don’t hate “Transformers” because this is the popular thing to do on the internet right now. But this 4th film truly is awful. It makes it hard to get excited for the 5th one, even though I know the trailer will be good looking and draw me back into the theater. I hope the next one is at the very least as good as the third one.