At one point Optimus Prime says. “I vowed to never kill a human, but whoever is responsible for this is going to die.” Do you think maybe he just screened his own movie?
“Transformers Age of Extinction” is our fourth trip into a world where giant robot aliens are part of our existence. Michael Bay once again directs, but this time trades in Shia La Beouf for Mark Wahlberg as a caring father caught up in the clashing metal war around him while trying to keep his teenage daughter safe. Of course since it’s Michael Bay she’s shot more like the PG-13 version of an adult film actress than an actual human 17 year old, but you get the idea. And honestly, that’s probably the best review I could give for this movie, we get the idea by now. Transformers 4 is a Michael Bay Transformers movie like the three before it, and if you found something to like in those, you might find something here as well. Not so much for me.
I mean I guess I still do love Optimus Prime, who seems to be the last vestige of my childhood nostalgia for this property. Existing somehow as the only thing about the toys that Bay hasn’t devastated. There’s just something about the gravitas of him as a leader that feels genuinely admirable and worth rooting for. Let’s just call him the best thing about the film, considering his moments of leadership were the only moments a felt anything vaguely reminiscent of joy or fun. Which is crazy when you consider how much special effects action is in this beast of a movie. I’ll give Bay this, he knows how to put on a spectacle, the problem is it’s hard to appreciate the beauty of the symphony when all the instruments are playing different songs as loud and fast as they can. It just becomes a bit mind numbing.
But mostly Bay just doesn’t understand storytelling or audience engagement. Trying to distract us with lights and sounds so we don’t notice there isn’t anything going on underneath. You want a worst thing? So many choices. First, the movie’s too long, spending so much unnecessary time on slow motion character development that never really gives us any reason to care about these people anyway. Speaking of which, second, the acting is terrible, in that it doesn’t allow anybody a chance to be anything but a cardboard cutout spouting, third, terrible dialog full of cliches and awful comebacks. Fourth, Bay still doesn’t get that MORPHING IS NOT TRANSFORMING. The coolest thing about Transformers is that they actually could be two different things, not that they were some sort of mystical substance that could morph into anything it scans. Which is why, fifth, Bay has no sense of the process of an action scene. It’s all a jumble separated by key moments. Rather than being engaged by the process of the movement or how these moments play out, Bay just hopes he can yell at us loud enough to keep us from noticing how little sense it makes. Which, number six, is the same for the plot, there really isn’t one. Seriously, I think if you googled “Transformers 4 plot” it would load up the no results found page. OK maybe not, but Google should totally make that happen. Look, overall, It’s just lazy storytelling at it’s absolute peak, so lets land there for the worst thing, because that skip the middle mindset pervades everything about this movie. Not just the action, but the plot. Anytime anything needs to happen in the story it just does, with little or no explanation. Characters need into a highly guarded facility, poof, they’re in, need knowledge of how to operate alien technology, viola, granted. Michael Bay is like the plot genie, granting every wish with a wave of his hand forgetting that suspension of disbelief is quite different from suspension of reality. In truth. the hardest part of storytelling is often the how, so Bay just skips it, from the plot, to the action, to the basic way these robots transform, it seems he just hopes we won’t care. And so at the end of the day he shouldn’t be surprised I’ve decided not to.
Overall, Transformers Age of Extinction is as Shakespeare once said “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”. If you enjoyed the visual cacophony of the first three you might enjoy this as well, but for me, it’s only my remaining love for Optimus Prime that raises it to a generous D.
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