So what are we The Critics missing that the rest of the world is getting? On Rotten Tomatoes, each Transformers movie gets a worse rating than the last, while the studio keeps green-lighting another one because of how much money they make (I hear this fourth movie is just the beginning of a second trilogy of Transformers movies).
It’s also easy to take a swat at Michael Bay. But there he is, making movie after movie and money hand over fist, while we toil away in our cubicles for peanuts. Who’s the real schmuck here?
And really, isn’t the marriage of Bay and the Transformers made in heaven? These are movies about toys, for Pete’s sake; and you want high art? These movies exist as an excuse to have large robots wreak havoc on cities while beating each other up, and that’s all. And Bay delivers that in gobs.
He also delivers on his actors. Gone is unimpressive Shia LaBeouf, whom I’m convinced could have his ass handed to him by almost anyone I know; replaced by a rather hulky Mark Wahlberg. Gone is eye-candy Megan Fox who couldn’t act her way out of a wet bag; replaced by drop dead gorgeous Nicola Peltz who actually brings some depth to the lousy dialogue written for her. Bay also thankfully brings in Stanly Tucci, who almost saves this film (I said almost). But don’t worry; there’s still plenty of shots of Peltz in short-jorts and Marky Mark in sweaty muscle shirts to go around.
Still also present is the unnecessarily complicated plot for what is essentially a big-budget kid’s movie, lots of lousy aim or lucky shots (whichever, whenever the script demands), robots as racial stereotypes, cringe-inducing dialogue, human beings easily surviving abuse none could ever hope to walk away from, and explosions galore. You know; just what you’ve come to expect from a Transformers movie.
But even with the improvements to the actors, there are problems. Wahlberg is a more believable action here, yes; but he’s totally unbelievable as an eccentric inventor who fins Optimus Prime as wreckage and nurses him back to health. He’s also not as relatable as LeBeouf was in the first installment. And even though Peltz has more range than Fox, she is still little more than a one-note stereotype.
And Earth is once again the setting for yet another confrontation between Autobots and Decepticons (and Dinobots!), this time made worse by the presence of an off-world bounty hunter and the devious machinations of humankind. Hit the bathroom before this one starts, as it clocks in at a bladder-busting 165 minutes long. If you need a potty-break somewhere in there, you could probably skip the entire sequence of Peltz’s character “Tessa Yeager” getting rescued from the bounty-hunter’s ship and not miss a beat since it’s completely unnecessary. Then again, you’d miss a teenage girl overcoming Decepticons with little more than a tire iron.
What you won’t be able to avoid no matter how many times you run to the loo is the music; it’s god-awful from beginning to end. Never have more obvious emotional cues been wrought – and wrought badly – than in this film. Every time the background chorus swells to celestial heights it’s an inadvertently laughable moment (especially when they drop in a Queens Of The Stone Age rip-off in there for a few seconds).
But they do love their PG-13 rating, as the s-word shows up mere moments into the film, and Tucci gets to deliver the one f-word maximum. “Bitch” makes a more regular appearance, and it stands out like a sore toe-thumb whenever it does.
But if the length of the movie doesn’t get you, the tiresome stretching out of battle sequences might. Then come the questions: Why leave The Seed with the humans for safekeeping when Autobots could probably do that job so much better? Why go to China (other than to have another location to destroy)? Or was that just to help the international box-office? Are all scientist-types schlubs who eat too much? Why the silly GoPro shots from car doors? Is a whiplash break from the action (with the accompanying change in music for 3 seconds) to have our Young Heroes In Love deliver some silly dialogue worth it to get a smooch in? If you decide to slow down Marky Mark’s fist pound to the point of comedy, is it still a good idea? Is your audience really so dumb that you need an upgraded Megatron (now called Gravitron) to mutter just before the pre-credit Optimus Prime speech that we’ll see him again since he’s been reborn?
Who knows? Who cares? You didn’t come to see Transformers: Age Of Extinction for the solid plot, witty banter or austere filmmaking; you came to see robots destroy cityscapes while beating each other up. But the excessive and unnecessary length, awful music, and too much time spent on people and not enough time on robots fighting brings this installment below the average even for a Transformer movie.
Rich’s Movie Grade: C-
Directed by: Michael Bay
Written by: Ehren Kruger