Transformers: Age of Extinction

T4

In a strange mixture of zero planning and coincidence, I found myself at Vue Angel Islington this weekend watching Michael Bay’s latest Transformers film, and this is what I thought.

When a philanthropic businessman (Stanley Tucci) unlocks the Transformers’ genome, a program that is supposed to save humankind from extinction threatens to spiral out of control. Can Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg), a Texan inventor and doting father, use his tech savvy in a mission that looks like it will involve the certain death of him, his beautiful daughter and her loving boyfriend?

Bay is not renowned for his use of subtext. I have not been his biggest fan in the past, I must admit, which is why I was so shocked while watching Transformers: Age of Extinction; Michael Bay has matured. Gone are the days of vacuous action and insulting representations of minorities. Woven into the texture of this movie was a thick, culturally-relevant allegory about acceptance, tolerance and liberalism, all while delivering a series of expertly shot action set pieces and rich, multi dimensional characters…

…is something I would say if I was twated on bath salts.

I will start with the good. Michael Bay can shoot sweeping vistas very well. He has the ability to point his camera at a vast expanse, which then makes for a sequence of compelling frames that I can look at for an extended period. This talent must be because he has eyes. Also, Stanley Tucci is actually very good in this film. I made a noise with my face about twice when he said some of the script.

In all fairness, that’s where I have to stop with the good.

Transformers: Age of Extinction (or How I Learned to Hate Optimus Exposition and his merry band of AutoBlands) rehashes the same old formula from the previous three movies but cranks everything by the Nth Degree. Not only are the characters so superficial they make Mickey Mouse look like he was written by Harold Pinter, but once again we get overloaded with style yet are forced to accept a critical lack of substance.

Wahlberg is at his The Happening best here as Yeager. The “All-American” hero Bay paints Wahlberg as – somehow he is a whizz with a sheepskin and can fix a Sony Walkman – is flag-waving patriotism at it’s most insulting; I think the stars and stripes flag is actually one of the supporting cast. Bar Tucci, the rest of the characters are just awful; Yeager’s daughter (the beautifully-dull Nicola Peltz) is one grimace away from inverting her face and don’t get me started on the “comedy sidekick”. And it wouldn’t be a Bay movie if we didn’t get a horrifyingly stereotypical portrayal of an African American woman, complete with “aaah, heeeeeeeeewll naaaaaaaaw”. Yes, it really is that bad.

Superficial characters who make incomprehensible decisions aside, this film makes very little sense from a narrative or world-building perspective;

  • Throughout the film we see Optimus Prime travelling everywhere by road, yet after the final battle sequence versus Lockdown, and after putting Yeager, his daughter and THE WORLD in danger, Prime just flies off with some rockets anyway, and I am like “why didn’t you fly back at the beginning of the movie, dude?”
  • One of the Autobots smokes a cigar, and they all cough when injured; do they have robotic lungs?
  • Yeager calls himself an old man, yet his daughter is 17 and he had her the day of his prom, which would make him 32-35. Is that old?
  • Breaking into a high security complex? Better pull up in a pimped out muscle car
  • Statutory rape is apparently funny
  • If all of the Transformers are made of transformium (which is a programmable alien metal), why don’t they all fly around as supersonic fighter jets?

This could be seen as clutching at straws to find something to hate because it’s Bay, but when you are sitting down for 161 minutes, don’t do something at the beginning of the film that contradicts what you are preaching at the end.

It’s also edited weirdly, with conversations paced and toned like Bay has never interacted with another human being in his life, and throughout we have to tolerate the director’s music choices; almost every scene is punctuated by either a heavy metal guitar or a song that would fit perfectly over the nauseating codswallop at the end of Armageddon.

I think what summed up how terrible this experience was occurred 90 minutes in, just over halfway through the film. By this point, Optimus Prime was out and proud, looking for his Autobot friends; for a number of scenes we see a the character traversing the sweeping vistas of the rocky American deserts, and it hit me – I had paid £15.60 to watch a heavy goods vehicle drive around…in 3D. That moment of self-awareness made me laugh out loud, much to the confusion of the 25 or so people in my screening.

There really isn’t much to sum up anymore with regard to Transformers: Age of Extinction, or even with Michael Bay. There is absolutely zero soul in these films. It’s just mindless, insulting dialogue, awful characters, boring, boring action, and I am really upset with myself because that £15.60 will go towards making this the UK Box Office number 1, and the cycle of shit will continue. Oh, and if you’re expecting the Dinobots, I wouldn’t even bother, they are only in it for about 15 minutes.

Advertisements

The Rock

ROCK2

I touched down in San Francisco on Wednesday morning for a couple of months. One of my life ambitions is to take a trip to Alcatraz; I’ve been fascinated by The Rock for some time now, mostly due to the early 90s educational PC game, Mario is Missing. Maybe in some weird twist of fate, Michael Bay was captivated enough by the pre-school geography game to make his, hands down, best movie, set on and around the stony island prison.

A dissident commander of the US army and his merry band of mercenaries take over Alcatraz in an attempt to shock the US government to the very core. How? By destroying San Francisco, a notoriously aggressive, backward thinking city, with a terrorist attack of chemical proportions. The only people that can save the citizens of San Francisco are Nic Cage, a chemist, and Sean Connery, the only man to ever escape from the sea prison.

ROCK3

Much like Con Air – another Cage classic – The Rock requires you to check your brain out at the front door and just enjoy the sweeping crane shots, worm’s eye views and homoerotic characters for which Bay is notorious. Fortunately, this movie was made when Bay could tell a decent story, and regardless of some questionable facial expressions from Cage, this is one of the standout action movies since the late 80s. Soaked in rich colour, saturated with rip-roaring action set pieces (one of which inspired a level in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare) and replete with one liners, The Rock has a fun, pacey and self-aware tone that hasn’t been matched since in Hollywood action films of its type.

Cage, Connery, Ed Harris, and even the merry band of aggressive wankers absolutely nail their parts; the shift in character arc in the third act gets extremely patriotic, but it’s done in a completely knowing way, so it doesn’t feel like Bay is trying to deliver a message, which he has proved he cannot do. Without being too nice, this movie is an example of how Michael Bay, when on top of his game, can make something that doesn’t make you want to ram a pencil into your temple.

The Rock is not a guilty pleasure of mine. I am proud to say that it’s one of my favourites, maybe even favourite pure action movie since Die Hard with a Vengeance. Michael, please put down the $200m you made from Transformers and get back to making some proper movies.

10 Reasons why another Transformers film should not be made

1) The first one was ONLY alright (if a noise had to be attributed to the film it would be ‘meh’) and it didn’t even need a sequel; dat character arc… [read: explosion, explosion, Megan Fox’s arse, explosion, Wittwicky (what a weird name), end]

2) The sequel was just bad. And not even Adam Sandler movie bad, where you can laugh at it and feel smug. T2 was like being bog washed by The Undertaker.

3) Transformers are were super cool but Bay’s execution leaves you feeling exhausted and not in a good way. Watching these films feels like running up 10 flights of stairs whilst being chased by a rabid dog.

4) People will go and see it, thus enforcing the crazy notion that these films are decent, legitimate film making.

5) Michael Bay has stated that this will be the first in a new trilogy of films!!! When will the madness end?

6) Michael Bay will make lots of money and this is not good. He will keep on making money and making more films and the circle of banality will never end.

7) Mark Whalberg is set to star in the next iteration of Transformers. He doesn’t need to do this. His career has been on the up in recent years with some credible turns in films such as The Fighter.

What about The Happening?

*Fingers in ears*

8) Ehren Kruger is set to write the screenplay. His most successful works include the previous two Transformers films, Scream 3; the least plausible of the Scream films and Reindeer Games, arguably one of the worst Ben Affleck films ever made. Bay has argued that these new films are going to be completely different to the first. His way to do this? Hire the same guy to write the script as the last two?!

9) This is cynical filmmaking and needs to be stopped. There are new ideas to be explored and of course other cartoons to fingerbang with a rusty nail.

10) And finally. No one cares any more. The Autobots will win. Optimus Prime will be cool for like 5 mins and then we’ll realise we’ve seen it all before and hate ourselves.

I realise this is cynical and judgemental and could be so unbelievably wrong. If I’m not though Michael Bay won’t care. He’ll be too busy counting all his money and laughing. There will be lots of laughing.

PSA: This will be the first and last anti-Bay post you will see on here. Well, until he releases his next film.