Well, I finally saw it. The big gorilla that I avoided for almost a month: Transformers: Age of Extinction. I was rather content to forego seeing it, given the quality of the previous three movies and my own general disinterest in Michael Bay and Michael Baylike movies, but, as is always the case, my curiosity got the best of me and I saw it. And, to my genuine surprise, I don’t really regret it. Now, I will preface this breakdown by saying that, while I did enjoy the film, I fully admit that from an “objective” standpoint it was a bad movie, for reasons that I will try to outline later, but for now, let’s get into the things that I liked.
- Actual Robot Characterization and Screentime
This was something I really wasn’t expecting: the Transformers were actually characters! They weren’t just set pieces this time that had their heads randomly roll off when they die or anything like that! It sounds like faint praise, but its a huge leap from the previous three movies, where everyone was interchangeable except for Optimus Prime, Bumblebee and maybe Megatron. They all had decently defined individual personalities and screentime and, more importantly, they all spoke English. There was no Cybertronian bullshit or whatever, they weren’t extras in their own movie or anything like that; they were characters, for better or for worse.
- Actual Human Characters
Another thing I wasn’t expecting: the humans acted like real people. They weren’t cartoons or whatever the fuck you call the human characters in the previous trilogy that weren’t named Epps or Lennox. No, they were people, and I greatly appreciated that. They are not the most nuanced characters ever mind you, but again, they are a huge leap from the previous three movies. In the previous trilogy, Lennox and Epps were the only two humans that felt like real people. They weren’t eating pot brownies, talking about happy times or feeling up people in bathroom stalls. No, they were (mostly) rational human beings, which was great. In this, every character was like that, which was hugely refreshing. Sure, this movie had wacky side characters, but they either got killed off violently (Cade’s buddy) or had barely any screentime for them to become annoying and overbearing (the KSI scientists). Most of the movie was populated by people like Joshua Joyce, the scientist that wanted to revolutionize the world’s technology, only for it to blow up in his face, and Cade Yeager, the hard working dad who’s just trying to do what he can for his baby girl. They weren’t fully developed, three dimensional characters mind you, but at least they HAD character beyond “what Michael Bay thinks people act like”.
- No Plot Holes
This one is probably a HUGE leap on my part, but I didn’t notice anything in the plot that openly contradicted something else. It all seemed to flow without me getting taken out of it by a huge leap in logic or something distracting like that, which was great. The plot itself isn’t the absolute pinnacle of storytelling, cinematic or otherwise, but at least it was cohesive.
I’m deliberately giving him his own separate dot point, because I really liked him. Lockdown was great. He had a fantastic voice, a fantastic design, a great story and, best of all, he had plenty of great lines and screentime; something I absolutely wasn’t expecting. Compared to Megatron, The Fallen and, to a lesser extent, Sentinel Prime in the previous trilogy, Lockdown was a shakespearean character. The only negative I could come up with for him is that he died, which I sadly expected, but I wish it could’ve been avoided until the next movie, but alas. Regardless of his demise, Lockdown is the best villain in this current Transformers film series, as sad as that sounds.
Who would’ve thought that I would’ve liked the second resurrection of Megatron, a character who was only really good when he was a drunken, disenfranchised hobo in Dark of the Moon? Galvatron was a surprise. Frank Welker absolutely killed it, proving that you’re never too old to voice a villain like Megatron and also proving that he could’ve played the role way back in ‘07 instead of Hugo Weaving, and had some really good lines (my favourite of which being his response to Optimus’s “You have no soul!”: “That is why I have no fear!”) and screentime, despite the fact that he was mainly present in this movie to set him up as the big bad for the fifth movie; which thankfully guaranteed that he survived to live another day. If this movie was any indication, Galvatron as the big bad in movie five is going to be a-ok. Not to mention he might live, given Optimus’s flight into space at the end of this movie. Hooray for small victories!
- No Toilet Humour
This one’s a bit of faint praise, as there’s still some questionable humour in the film (which I shall cover later), but none of it was of the toilet variety that drenched and strangled the previous movies, so it’s an improvement. Somewhat.
- Great Musical Score
One of the things I did expect, given his scores of the previous movies, was that Steve Jablonsky would create a really good score for the film, and he didn’t disappoint. The score was great and Jablonsky continues his streak of being one of my favourite film composers outside the holy trinity of Zimmer, Williams and Horner.
- No Military Fetishization
This was a huge surprise, given how completely and utterly fetishized the military was in the previous trilogy. The military wasn’t presented as an undefeatable fighting force, complete with tons of shots of military aircraft taking off and doing, uh, stuff, or anything like that. In fact, the military wasn’t even a factor in this movie, so hooray for the slightest of progress!
- Murderius Prime
People like to hate on Movie Prime. A lot. And for good reason: he is a complete and utter sociopath who is ruthless and bloodthirsty, traits that are unbecoming of a heroic character like Optimus Prime. But, that’s precisely why I like him: he’s fun. He’s unpredictable. You never know whether he’s going to deliver a heroic speech or violently yell “I’LL KILL YOU” at an enemy. He’s completely different from every other Prime and his antics did not disappoint in this film. He didn’t rip off any faces, eyes or spines in this movie, but he did straight up murder a human in this movie, so he ticked another box off my “Murderius Prime Checklist”. Now all he has to do is chew or step on an enemy in the next movie and I’ll be set.
Now, let’s get into the things I disliked.
- The Runtime
This was longer than it needed to be. There is no disputing or debating that in my mind. I enjoyed it, but you could’ve easily cut 30-40 minutes out of the movie and you wouldn’t have lost anything of value. The movie would’ve probably benefitted from the cuts to be perfectly honest. I am convinced that the runtime was a result of them stuffing two movies into one and setting up characters for the next movie (Galvatron), so fingers crossed that the fifth movie isn’t 160 or 180 minutes long.
- Product Placement
I really want to just say “BUD LIGHT TRUCK” and be done with it, but I feel like I should just explain the point slightly. Product placement is everywhere in this movie and its…distracting to say the least. Its not as invasive as it is in Man of Steel, none of the Transformers kick someone through iHop for example, but its there and it catches your eye when it probably shouldn’t.
While it wasn’t as noticeable as it was in previous movies, there were definitely problems with the pacing. The movie definitely could’ve been tighter in a lot of areas, which is a side effect of the long runtime in my opinion. Had the movie being shorter, it might’ve being tighter…but I doubt that, given who the director is. “Bad Pacing” is practically Michael Bay’s middlename.
Now, let’s get into the things that are really bad.
- Sociopathic Autobots
This one is mainly related to the questionable humour I mentioned earlier, specifically in regards to a scene involving Hound. I liked Hound. I thought he was pretty great. I thought John Goodman did a great job. However, he did something during the second or third act that I think really underlined something ugly about the Movie Autobots. Whilst on Lockdown’s ship during the rescue of Optimus Prime, Hound encounters a cute looking alien creature in Lockdown’s Trophy Room. Hound tries to touch it and gets spat on, which causes him to freak out. Ok, that’s fine. It’s an overdone cliche but it’s not awful. But oh no, it couldn’t just end there. No, Hound decides to kill it for being “Too disturbing to live”. Yes, one of the heroes of the movie decides to kill an innocent creature solely because he finds it “disturbing”. What’s worse is that none of the other Autobots scold him for it, instead condoning it. Wow. And this wasn’t a serious thing or anything. Oh no, this was presented as a joke, which many people in my showing of the film laughed at. Hound and The Autobots themselves are painted as complete sociopaths for a joke. Michael Bay ladies and gentlemen! Sadly, this isn’t really a thing that didn’t happen in the previous films. No, The Wreckers were just as bad as Hound, if not worse, as they happily and brutally ripped a child apart whilst Optimus Prime made a heroic speech about how they abandoned humanity to make them realise that they needed his Autobots. OUR HEROES EVERYONE!
Overall, Age of Extinction was an incredibly flawed movie that I enjoyed. Would I highly recommend it to people or put it on a best movie of the year list? Probably not, but I had fun with it all the same, despite also fully understanding why it is so reviled by people. The last thing I will say about the movie is: FOOTBALL MURDER. Thanks for reading if you read this far!