Okay, every once in a while since I’m an author, I like to review a novel for the sake of this blog. However, this time I will do my first review for a movie. No, it is not a movie based on a book, and no there is no higher reason as to why I am doing this. It is simply my inner nerd coming out, because I am a freak for the Transformers. So here it is, my review for Transformers: Age of Extinction, complete with the good, the bad and the ugly about the film. For the ugly though I am not going to focus on this one film, but on what has become some recurring themes throughout all four movies, in the hope that maybe the filmmakers could right their mistakes before the next two movies are finished—yeah like they’ll listen to me.
Action! Action, action, and action. Some have complained about the long running time of the movie clocking in at 2 hours and forty-five minutes. But since most of that time is spent with big robots fighting other big robots, I am happy with it. The major complaint from the critics is that is it just mindless action, director Michael Bay just blowing things up and robots fighting each other—which is exactly what fans of The Transformers want. I wish these critics would stop judging every movie based on if it would win an Oscar and instead if it carried through on its promise. This movie was supposed to provide action, and great special effects. It did just that.
Speaking of the effects, another great improvement in this movie was the faces of the robots. In the first movie sometimes you could barely make out the difference between a face and an arm. Take one look at Drift’s face and you know things have changed. The robots are more detailed, their mannerisms more defined. John Goodman’s Hound has a beard and a cigar in his mouth. This movie upped the ante in the detail in the Transformers.
This installment also made a great improvement in the human cast. Sure it was cute in the first movie—a kid and his first car. But as the action and suspense grew throughout the first three movies, we all kind of got sick of Shia LaBeouf, and his string of unbelievingly hot girlfriends. The kid cannot play anyone tough—did you see him in the Crystal Skull—and these are action films. Mark Wahlberg has proven himself as an action star, and his shooting up robots comes across more naturally. It looks like the first trilogy was LaBeouf-Bumblebee, whereas this one will be Wahlberg- Optimus Prime. The difference in that combination is a whole other level of action.
The Dinobots were finally introduced to the series. My problem with them was not their little time on the screen—the very end of the third act. My problem is more of the nerd in me who cares about the story for these robots, and the truth is, the Dinobots did not really have one. There appeared to be some attempt to explain the Dinobots, but either one important scene did not make the final cut, or the writers just figured we could read their minds. The movie starts off 65 million years ago with all the dinosaurs being destroyed by some ancient race that destroyed all life on earth and introduced this mineral called Transformium that the Transformers are made out of. Then in the artic a lady find a dinosaur made out of metal. Jump to the end of the movie where there are these “Legendary Knights” that are imprisoned in Lockdown’s ship, who turn out to be Dinobots, but they are not actually Autobots, nor do they have any idea who Prime or Megatron are. They only fight with Prime because he bested their leader, Grimlock. No, no dots have to be connected here. And that is all they had for an explanation. But who needs more. It’s all so clear their history right?
But what lacked more than the screen time for the Dinobots, was the almost absent screen time for the Decepticons. While this movie did do a good job of establishing a new team of five Autobots since three from the first movie—Jazz, Ironhide, and after the first few minutes of this movie Ratchet, are all dead—there is not even three Decepticons with names in this movie. Lockdown the main antagonist of the movie, is not part of either faction. Galvatron—the resurrected Megatron—gets only five lines, and Stinger—Bumblebee’s Nemeis—does not even say one word. The rest of the decepticons are just used as fodder for the Dinobots at the end of the story. There is no story for the Decepticons, but the Decepticons should not be just nameless bad guys like Stormtroopers. In the animated show each of them have their own characters and personalities—Soundwave, Shockwave, Starscream. In the first movie they had their own personalities—Barricade, Blackout, Frenzy—but as the series has progressed it appears the producers are feeling the Decepticon characters are less and less important. This cannot be further from the truth, and this vision is most apparent in this movie.
Something about the new Decepticons that you will notice about them if not their lack of dialogue, is the way they transform. Or in other words—the way the reassemble. These Decepticons who are created by the humans, do not so much shift from one form to another. They appear to disintegrate into molecules and then reform into either their robot or vehicle mode. I have some problems with this. First off, it is too much of an advantage. When Bumblebee shoots at Galvatron, he turns into atoms, avoids the bullets and then reforms. If they are capable of this, then how can they every really be destroyed, nevermind how Hound himself appears to destroy twenty of them by himself at the end of the movie. But the problem I have most with this new style is that the normal transformation of these robots is one of the coolest things to see on screen. Never mind the sound effects which are great, the way you see the parts shift and move into place is awesome. All of this is lost with this new style, and instead it looks like a swarm of bees making some kind of car. I hope this trend is not in the next movie.
The ugly is not so much what is in this movie, but what is developing throughout all of the movies, and trends I hope the producers will stop before the fifth installment. The first problem I have is the increasing back story between the humans and the Cybertronians. In the first movie the backstory was that Megatron went after the All-Spark that had been hurled through space and crashed on the earth. I did not have much of a problem with that. The second movie, showed how the Primes used to harvest energy from suns, and the Fallen—though forbidden to harvest a sun from a solar system that has life—tried to harvest our sun, and for that the Primes punished him and hid the Matrix of Leadership in our pyramids. Still not too crazy to believe. Not as bad as the backstory to Dark of the Moon. I can see past the Moon landing conspiracy—in fact I find that kind of cool—what I cannot swallow is why there was a conspiracy with the moon. So Sentinel Prime while escaping from Cybertron, his ship is attacked, and out of all the places in the universe that his ship can land on, guess what, it’s our moon. The moon of the same planet that the All-Spark landed on and that The Fallen met his imprisonment in his attempt to harvest the sun. Seriously, monkeys would type Hamlet before I could believe those odds. Take us to this movie, where it is revealed the “Creators”—who I am guessing will be the Quintessons—decided to wipe out all life 65 million years ago (Except for those who survived so evolution could continue) to produce Transformium to make the Transformers on Cybertron. What a blessed connection our world has with Cybertron. Really, is there any other planet in the galaxy that Cybertron has any connection with?
Speaking of earth, those damn humans are still taking up too much screen time. Though I like Wahlberg much more than LaBeouf, still no one who is watching this movie gives a wet shit that Wahlberg’s character can’t understand that his 17 year old daughter is dating, that he is a failed inventor, or that there is a missile in the living room. Though the storylines of Kelsey Grammar, and Stanly Tucci are important, the ratio still needs to be more Transformers and less human. Maybe exchange some of that human dialogue for some Decepticon banter. The only reason I can excuse this is done is maybe for economic reasons. I’m sure it is far more expensive to have Prime and Hound exchanging lines, than Tucci and Wahlberg.
But I come now to the trend that is bothering me the most in all of these movies—the lack of story line that is given to Megatron. Let’s look at how Megatron is used in these four movies. In the first movie, he is really not seen until the battle at the end, since he was frozen for most of the movie. Then in the second and every other movie afterward he is the secondary bad guy. In the second movie The Fallen is the top badass. Then in the third the main antagonist was Sentinel Prime. The two Primes did have a great fight scene, but what was up with that five second fight with Prime and Megatron? And especially with what could have been the end of the franchise at the time. Prime makes one move and just decapitates Megatron—that’s it. That’s all we get for his death. Now in this movie Lockdown is the main antagonist, who is in it for most of the movie. Galvatron gets a few lines, only one fight with Prime—in fact why did Galvatron not fight any Autobot at all in the end of the movie—and then flies away in Lockdown’s ship. Megatron is not just the bad guy of the series. He is the yin to Prime’s yang. He needs more screen time, more character development. And if the sixth movie is the end of this trilogy, and possibly the franchise, then it should end with an epic Prime/Galvatron battle that was six movies and millions of years in the making. Megatron/Galvatron deserves this. And so do us fans.
Overall I honestly think this was the best of the four movies so far, and a must watch for any fan of The Transformers. I am excited about this Prime trilogy with Wahlberg, and the prospect of Quintessons and Unicron in the upcoming movies. This story is grittier, darker, most action packed and also far more fun. Those who disliked it and said it was just metal robots blowing stuff up, well idiot, that’s what Transformers is, and we love that about it. But it is also pure science fiction and the battle between good and evil. Get the popcorn out. It is well worth the price of admission, especially in Imax 3D. Even worth the price of admission to watch it a few times.