No, just no. Despite seeing this film for free, I want a full cash refund. Or at the very least, compensation from Michael Bay for the near three hours lost witnessing him do the unspeakable; make an even worse Transformers film.
Despite time passing since I first saw Transformers 4: Age of Extinction, my disappointment in this film hasn’t subsided. Explaining to friends why I didn’t enjoy this film, I receive the same blank response; “well, what did you expect?”. But I wanted more, I say. After three strike-outs but Michael Bay Transformers films, dumb schlocky explosions at the expense of story shouldn’t be the default state. .
We live in a world where fans of 80’s cartoon and comics are not only a sizable chunk of the market, but are also the parents of the next generation of consuming kids who will cling to the their childhood cartoons in decades to come.
Audiences are smarter. They know what can and can’t be done within the constraints of modern technology. The illusions of CGI no longer wow us into ignoring plot holes and bad story telling. What did I expect? I expected better, I expected a renewed take on a beloved franchise that Michael Bay has turned into a mockery in its past two films.
Typically, criticism of Bay’s previous Transformers films has been leveled at Shia LaBeouf’s character Sam Witwicky (currently topping the polls for ‘character most desired to be stepped on by a giant robot’), or the token eye-candy female protagonists who exist solely for up-skirt camera pans. Classy stuff.
But don’t worry, the franchise’s standard level of inappropriate racial stereotyping is still present. Look no further than the Ken Watanabe voiced Drift, a shogun-looking Autobot. The question still remains: Why do robots have accents?!
With LaBouf and all the actors from the prior films gone, we have a new leading man; Mark Wahlberg as the down-on-his-luck country boy robot inventor Cade Yeager. Now MarkyMark, the man who once had his own funky bunch, is a much more manly character than LaBeouf’s Witwicky; looking much more at home holding an alien weapon. However, what he makes up for in manliness, he fails in over acting and delivering lines that seem more robotic than his giant Autobot buddies.
Outside of a terrible script, the forced dialogue, and Mark Wahlberg’s penchant for over acting, what has caused critics the world over to lambast the film? Let’s start from the beginning. The movie opens with wide beautiful vistas of the Arctic, where a research team have made an amazing find. This cinematography looks beautiful and fills you with hope for what will be the next 2 and a half hours of your life. Unfortunately, this style of filming ended there and was quickly replaced with poorly timed slow-mo and ground up angled shots at every available moment.
So many things don’t make sense in this movie – and that is saying something when you take into account viewers are already accepting of the whole ‘giant robots that turn into cars’ situation. Transformers 4 leads in only a few years after the third movie with the “Battle of Chicago” still fresh in everyone’s mind. Transformers are being hunted by CIA agent Harold Attinger (Kelsey Grammer), so the Steve Jobs-esque Joshua Joyce (Stanley Tucci) can harness the left over parts to make his own Transformers.
Are you still following? Good. So Attinger wants to kill all Transformers. But we are not sure if his motivation is money based, or just a hate for aliens, as this seems to change every 10 minutes. However he is also colluding with another Transformer called Lockdown who has a gun for a head.
Lockdown just wants Optimus Prime. And when he gets him, will reward Attinger and Joyce with something called “The Seed”. This is a large bomb looking thing which will apparently turn everything within a very large radius into a metal Joyce has dubbed ‘Tranformium’. Yes, I wrote that correctly, TRANSFORMIUM. A substance which will help him build more of his own robots. The characters motivations sway back and forth so often that they become more an annoyance than anything else. Stanley Tucci is actually a shining light in this regard. As in the second half of the film, it is apparent that he realised how bad his lines are and just plays them in a way that makes him downright hilarious.
Much like when the announcement came for the Transformers: Fall of Cybertron game, we all got excited because the Dinobots were coming. Finally our favourite crazy dinosaur transformers from the cartoon series are coming back! Anticipation about their appearance was high. The dinosaur robots are introduced to us in the movie as ancient warriors captured and imprisoned long ago by Lockdown. These bad arse warriors, these beloved characters from our childhood, these characters supposedly revered warriors by the Autobots are quickly shot down when Optimus Prime sucker punches the leader Grimlock and then rides him into battle like a horse.
It would be wrong of me not to mention the product placement. Sure, this is now common place in movies, but in T4 it is so blatantly obvious it adds in a large part to the unintentional humour of this movie. At times it shifts the film into being an advertisement reserved for that moment before the trailers start as you are finding your seat in the cinema. I understand why product placement is in big budget movies, but this is the first time I can remember when a movie actively halted its flow so the main actor could pimp Bud Light. There is also a scene where Tucci’s character is drinking some sort of Chinese beverage during a break in action on a roof top. Now I don’t recognise the brand, but the way logo was conveniently displayed and the drawn out time the camera spent focused on the logo, it became obvious what they were doing. It’s impact removing the audience from the cinema experience.
A lot of people are liking it to what they imagine would happen if you gave a small child with an imagination, 2 transformer toys and a 250 million dollar budget. It makes me a little sad that this is going to be such a gigantic blockbuster hit as there are much more deserving films for you to pony up the cash to buy a ticket to.
It isn’t impossible for there to be a good transformers movie. The original 1986 Transformers film has everything; it was emotive, driven by action and scored to a rocking 80’s soundtrack. You know what it didn’t have? Michael Bay.
– Ben Abbott