Transformers: Age of Extinction

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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.

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10 sequels that tarnished the brilliance of the original

You would be hard pushed these days to go a week without hearing about, or seeing, a movie sequel being stuffed down your throat. The desire to turn movie’s into franchises, money making juggernauts, means that integrity and genuine creativity goes right out the window. To stick our finger up to lazy film making, here’s our top 10 sequels, to brilliant films, that didn’t really need to be made.

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1) The Matrix Reloaded (& Revolutions) – When The Matrix was released in 1999 is was so god-damn good, so unbelievably cool, so original and well made, it collectively blew the minds of everyone who saw it. When we found out it was a trilogy, we were excited. Giddy some might say. Then we watched the sequels and it all started going a bit wrong. What had begun as clever became slightly confused, and what had been original felt stale by the third film. It wasn’t that The Matrix Revolutions and The Matrix Reloaded were bad, the special effects and action sequences were first rate, it was that the idea from the original Matrix was lost. Rules that had been created were broken and by the end no one had a clue who or what the fuck Neo was. I’m still not sure to be honest…

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2) The Hangover 2 – The Hangover franchise has garnered a lot of criticism over the past few years for it’s undeniably awful sequels, but we really have to remember that the original was pretty darn funny. The jokes were fresh, story well put together and Zach Galifianakis was new, exciting and not the most annoying man on earth. Cue a totally unnecessary and lazy sequel and all the credibility for the original goes out the window. Boring, unfunny, annoying and shit; the most heinous of mercenary film making.

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3) Star Wars Prequels – Fuck you, George. I hope you and Jar Jar Bollocks find a small hole to crawl into where you can waste away and hopefully no one will ever remember you existed. You proved that the magic of Star Wars was due to the collective thinking of a larger team, and if it had been down to you we may not have even had the original films. Given sole creative control you royally fucked it up.

Check out what George Lucas didn’t actually said in 2011:

“I took a lot of crap for Jar Jar Binks, But let me say here once and for all: He was the best damn character in any of the six movies. He was by far my favorite. He was funny, he was kind and moral and he ended up playing a pivotal role in setting the course of the Emperor’s actions in motion. If not for him, the story would’ve gone nowhere. Nowhere.”  You’re still a hack director, George.

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4) Men in Black 2 – Now, unlike some of the other stinkers on this list, Men in Black 2 wasn’t wholly horrific. There were some new aliens, some cool new weapons, Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones were in it…. It was just so distinctly average, and compared to the original it was bad. Men in Black was action-packed, scary (yes that cockroach guy was terrifying), funny and it was a delight to watch. Left at just one film Men in Black would be a cult classic. As it is we’ve had another two, over-egged the pudding and what could have been a single delight has been replicated and killed. R.I.P M.I.B.

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5) Kronk’s New Groove – Now Emperors New Groove is by far my favourite Disney film. If you haven’t seen it, stop what you are doing and go and watch it right now. This is a film that pitched the humour so perfectly it appealed to adults and children, so it pains me to have to include the straight to DVD follow up in this list. However, not as much as it pained me to have to see my favourite characters wheeled out to try and milk some of the success from the first movie. Patrick Warburton is a genius voice actor and, arguably, Kronk made the original film, but the sequel goes to show you can have too much of a good thing. When the comic relief becomes the film, then the jokes quickly dry up.

This looks nothing like the original. WTF is up with his hair?
This looks nothing like the original. WTF is up with his hair?

6) Son of the Mask – The gif is back, but there really in only one way to express how I feel about Son of the Mask.

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Can anyone in L.A let us know if you have got out alive?
Can anyone in L.A let us know if you have got out alive?

7)  Escape from L.A. – Escape from New York has a classic, 1980s sci-fi premise; in near-future 1997, New York has become so overrun with crime that it has been turned into a maximum security prison. When the President’s plane crashes in Manhattan, the only person that can save him from a heinous buggering is convicted burglar, Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell). Directed by John Carpenter, this seminal piece of science fiction delivers thrills, one-liners and a Die Hard-esque tone. Escape from L.A. doesn’t have half the heart & soul of the original despite being directed by Carpenter, which is a shame because Plissken is a badass.

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8)  [Insert Genre] Movie – I’m taking genre liberties here (I’m so postmodern) and am going to consider Scream (which is one of the best horror films ever made) the mothership to the scores of terrible ‘parody’ movies that have come out since; Scary Movie started the ball rolling, then we got [in no particular order] Date Movie, Scary Movie 2, Epic Movie, Disaster Movie, Scary Movie 3, Not Another Teen Movie, Meet the Spartans, Scary Movie 4, Superhero Movie and Scary Movie 5. If you, or anyone you know, were involved at any level of production on any of these movies, hang your head in shame. Parodies are great…when they are done like Airplane or Blazing Saddles.

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9)  Saw 2-1000 – [music] Duh duh DUH, duh duh duh duh duh DUH duh duh! Saw was awesome. Regardless of the acting, which at some points was pretty melodramatic, the twist at the end of the first movie was EPIC. The first time I…saw…it, my jaw hit the floor. Then I see’d Saw 2 and it was no way near as good, despite having some pretty good gore. Then the rest of the franchise came out, and by this point I was indifferent to the imagery, jaded if you will, and the films never really recovered. Saw 3 was probably the best out of the rest in my opinion, but Saw was the movie which, if you haven’t, you all have to see.

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10)  Transformers 1-4 – Bla, bla, anti-Bay circlejerk, bla bla. That’s what is often spouted online but without much to back it up. However, the affection I have for the original Transformers cartoon from the 80s is huge. I own the series’ on DVD, have still got my favourite figurines, and that’s why I cannot understand how the Transformers movies have done so well. Originally concepted as a way to sell Hasbro toys, the cartoon had an 80s innocence. It was good vs evil, a true 80s narrative. Cars, planes, trucks and robots, maybe with a white conservative Christian subtext, but who cares? It didn’t work on me anyway, and I just loved the battles and one liners. Then I saw the first Transformers movie and my heart collapsed in on itself. I’m sure there are some idiots out there that enjoyed these movies, but when you go from selling toys to a sexist, machinist wankfest, you know your childhood has been pillaged and left to burn inside a bum’s rusty bin.

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.