I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

Transformers: Age of Extinction

tn_trans4For God’s sake don’t take this as high praise, but TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION is the most legitimate movie in the TRANSFORMABLES saga so far. Not too legit to quit while they’re ahead, but competent in ways the others weren’t, and overall much less annoying. The downside: less crazy. Michael Bay has earned an expectation of escalating preposterousness and headscratching whatthefuck moments in each chapter, but this time he verges on tasteful, at least by the standards of his filmography. Only mild racism, no leg humping, only one scene with a hero threatening an old lady with a baseball bat. Robot hyenas with fur and a trigger happy fat Transformer with the voice of John Goodman seem kinda tame after the robot baby factory on the moon, Robot Heaven and peeing and farting robots of previous chapters. And we’ve gotten acclimated to the robot beards. He’s gotta go further than this if he wants to shock us.

And guess how he did it? I cannot fucking believe I’m typing this, but Michael Bay – the George Washington of the cinematic movement that forced me to invent the Action Comprehensibility Ratings system – has made a movie with genuine action clarity.

The robot designs are still ugly and overly complicated, but for the first time in the series they are clearly shaped like humans. They have strong silhouettes, I always know which body part is which. They even have different colors and shapes to be pretty easily distinguishable from each other. Most crucially, the scenes are not over-edited like most Bay movies. The camera stays back, holds on one thing long enough for the human eye to register it. Hell, it even bothers to linger, and the spinning is relatively under control.

The few bits of human on human fisticuffs are a little too close for my tastes, but we’ve all seen way worse all the time. There are some good action scenes, with nice slo-mo money shots like the one where three (if I remember right, maybe it was two) Transformers flip and transform and catch the main human characters in their hands in mid-air. There’s also a very good climactic robot kill which involves a robot being impaled and puking before having his head bisected by a novelty oversized sword.

acr_transformersageofextinctionHoly shit, I’m doing it. I’m giving it a 4.5. And an argument could be made for higher. I could be holding back just out of fear of the world exploding if I gave the boogie man of action filmatism a perfect rating. But congratulations to Michael Bay for his best action scenes that do not make MTV Movie Award winning entertainment out of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. For comparison, the first TRANSFORMERS woulda got a 1 if the ACR existed back then.

IMPORTANT FORMAT NOTE: I saw this in 3D Fake Imax, and it’s shot partly for that format so it’s possible that some of it is cropped and not as good on regular shaped screens.

The one major factor holding the action back is the larger context. I don’t know if they accidentally showed Peter Jackson’s extended cut or something, but the version of the movie I saw was way too long to sustain this little substance and variation. I like a good long summer blockbuster, but this is sure as shit no ALIENS (or, let’s face it, ALIEN 3) and it definitely would’ve worked way better if it was concise and to the point. I saw it at a matinee but by the time the very long end battle scene even started I was way past ready to go home. I would even go so far as to say I was kinda enjoying this movie for a while, but I was exhausted and bored by the end… even though it had robots fighting other robots while riding on robot dinosaurs! It is a shame that the joy of such a sequence only occurs to me in retrospect. That’s a failure.

I wonder if they ever tried test screening it with just an entire hour lifted out of the middle? I’d be surprised if it didn’t go over way better that way.

I saw this as kinda like three episodes of the world’s most expensive TV show, and the first one is a decent pilot. Mark Wahlberg is introduced as the new main character, and even though Shia LaBeouf was still likable at the time of the first TRANSFORMERS this is clearly a huge upgrade. Wahlberg plays a down-on-his-luck repairman and wannabe inventor/roboticist in “Texas, USA” who buys an old beat up semi truck and figures out that it’s actually the comatose Autobot Party Leader Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen).

I think it’s actually a good sequel concept: since their last battle, the Transformers have all been killed or gone into hiding, because the government sees them as a danger and is trying to wipe them out. The head of the CIA

grammer
(Grammer) is leading the purge, but secretly working with a Decepticon “asset” named Lockup (it’s like working with the Mujahadeen or the Contras). And they’ve also been selling the robot parts that they gather to Stanley Tucci’s tech company, who are trying to copy Transformers technology to sell to the military as well as civilians. I mean, that’s actually a logical idea about what would happen in the world set up in the previous movies. You don’t expect logical in a TRANSFORMERS.

Previous TRANSFORMERSes and Bay movies in general are worshipful of the skills, heroism, machismo, and weaponry of the U.S. military. This one takes a left turn, completely abandons the special military unit run by Tyrese and friends and replaces them with these dirty black ops dudes, who are the bad guys. It does briefly continue the portrayal of Obama’s administration as a bunch of pansy bureaucrats, having a Chief of Staff (Thomas Lennon) who’s scared of Grammer and makes it clear that the president has no clue what he’s up to.

Episode 1 has some corniness with Wahlberg and his Daisy-Dukes-with-the-pockets-hanging-out-wearing teenage daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz), but not as bad as previous Shia stuff. Remarkably for Bay, most of the comedy in this portion is confined to a specific comic relief character played by comedian T.J. Miller, and he’s actually pretty funny and likable.

But then (SPOILER) he gets fried by robo-flames in a kind of unintentionally funny “my foot is stuck!” incident. I didn’t see that coming and it’s actually kind of a bummer, I wouldn’t have minded him sticking around. It’s like Bay was really trying to improve his movies by snuffing this guy out early. He’d seen the comedy spewed out by every character in all his other movies and assumed this one was gonna be just as grating.

Episode 2 probly starts around the time when the battle-scarred, flat-nosed-semi Optimus morphs back into the shiny flame-painted leviathan from the other movies (a huge fuck you to fans of the cartoon, a nerd explained to me) and then “gets the band back together” mostly with Autobots we never saw before: Goodman’s Fat Transformer, Ken Watanabe as Samurai Transformer (yep), and Jason Statham Transformer (John DiMaggio), and they flip around and jibber jabber, making sure we remember why these movies suck so bad. Weirdly, Optimus Prime, who used to seem like a wholesome John Wayne type of good guy outside of battle, is kind of a lunatic in this one, yelling alot and bragging that he’s gonna break his vow to never kill a human.

This middle episode has kind of a MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE deal where Wahlberg and the Autobots have to break into Tucci’s company. He gets captured and Grammer is dirty enough to threaten to kill the daughter if he doesn’t tell where Optimus is. It’s weird that he would never tell, and also that they’re even asking, because the answer is “right outside,” and then the Autobots attack the building.

Well, the dumb human sonofabitches have Megatron’s severed head wired up in the lab and they’re trying to make a new robot called “Galvatron” that’s based on Optimus Prime but it gets infected with the late Decepticon president’s robochlorians and Megatron is reborn (now with the original cartoon voice Frank Welker, the nerd explains to me, as an apology for the earlier fuck you with the truck). And it occurs to me now that I’m explaining too much of the plot but you know what, when I did that for part 2 it was actually to challenge myself and see if I could do it. In this one it’s mostly pretty clear what the plot is! So congratulations I guess to SCREAM 3 writer Ehren Kruger.

Later in episode 2 Wahlberg has less to do and Tucci’s character, previously an evil asshole, becomes reluctant good guy and comic relief. Hey, assholes can be redeemed, says Bay. This happens in Shanghai, where Bay filmed with the cooperation of the human rights abusing government, for business purposes. There’s also some scenes in Hong Kong, where apparently Michael Wong from ROYAL WARRIORS plays the chief of police, but I didn’t notice him. These scenes are partly redeemed by Li Bingbing (DETECTIVE DEE AND THE MYSTERY OF THE PHANTOM FLAME, STEVEN SEAGAL’S DRAGON SQUAD), who plays one of Tucci’s business partners, but seems like his bodyguard, which is more fun anyway. There’s a little part where a random guy on an elevator does some punching. I thought it might be a cameo for a martial arts star I couldn’t quite recognize, turned out it was amateur boxing champ and Olympic gold medalist Zou Shiming.

And then I guess episode 3 is better than episode 2 because it would be the fighting on dinosaurs stuff, and I appreciate that the movie ends with Optimus flying into space threatening to kill God. That was pretty good. I coulda used more of that kinda shit.

mp_trans4Over the years my relationship with Michael Bay movies has changed. When I first saw ARMAGEDDON, and then realized what it was that made me not like THE ROCK as much as everybody else, that shit really offended me. I was more hot-headed then but also the attack on basic cinematic language was a new and shocking crime that most people didn’t seem to have a problem with. Even in movie buff circles, at least the ones I communicated with at the time, most people thought I was an idiot for caring about this stuff, and that come on dude what did you expect hamlet it’s just an action movie it’s supposed to be badly made love it or leave it.

All these years later I still hate that disorienting editing style and the influence it continues to have. But after the People of Nerdiness community turned on Bay for transgressions against robo-canon the floodgates were opened and it became more normal to hate Michael Bay and notice how confusing his editing is. So it’s hard to get as upset about it, there’s no reason to turn on the air raid sirens, it’s just a thing now. And maybe I’ve grown as a person and what not. And now all the sudden Bay has improved in that one aspect.

I don’t believe in the concept of “hate watching,” but I do have a thing these days where I’m genuinely excited to see what Bay will come up with next even though I know I won’t like it. I mostly don’t enjoy them in the ways intended, but I do enjoy analyzing them. He is an artist, and judging by what he has expressed in his art he’s a total douche. The personality that comes through is that of a crazy asshole, so it’s hard for me to like, but easy to be fascinated by. Michael Bay: The Auteur You Love To Hate.

That’s why despite being technically better and not as dumb as the other TRANSFORMERSes this one is a little bit disappointing. You want to see what kind of insane shit that toxic brain of his can spew out. You want to see humvees gleefully crushing shantytowns, cadavers bouncing on the freeway, random cutaways to dogs fucking, wrecking ball testicles, etc. Maybe he should only make part 2s.

There is less emphasis on crazy shit this time, but there’s some, so let’s discuss it.

First of all, the opening scene has a herd of dinosaurs fleeing from flying saucers and getting covered in metal. That’s straight up elementary school playground awesome. The weird part is that they set aside this explanation of the Transformosaurs for later, but then after 2 hours when it comes up again they have a completely different explanation, those dinosaur robots come from some “legendary warriors” that were locked up on a space ship for some reason until Optimus freed them and beat them up to prove he should be their leader. If there was some connection between this and the prehistoric prologue I must’ve missed it during one of my two piss breaks. Sorry for too much information just tellin it like it is friends.

And of course there’s the treatment of the ladies. Bingbing and Sophia Myles (as a corporate scientist with a conscience?) are okay in their supporting roles, but the female lead, Tessa, is a younger looking version of the human Bratz dolls that former Playboy Video Centerfold director Bay specializes in. The Bay Girls. Her treatment is double condescending because she’s both presented as a sex object and as the subject of constant “cover up” comments by her overprotective dad. This is a Bay motif: dads who threaten to kill boys for wanting to fuck their daughters, and in this case I do believe you’re supposed to relate to the dad while also wanting to fuck the daughter yourself. Or maybe this is his version of the “something for the kids, something for the parents” approach, just the kids are supposed to get boners and the dads are supposed to get upset. In one shot Bay’s camera sensually ogles Tessa’s ass and peeks up her shorts while her dad is complaining about them being too short. Have/eat cake.

Peltz is a more natural actress than Megan Fox was in the first one, but the character makes Fox’s buxom mechanic seem like a great hero for young girls. Tessa’s arc is all about letting her dad and her boyfriend save her, and about her dad accepting that she can “take care of him” too… by which she means bring him dinner and beer while he’s working in the garage. During the action scenes she almost gets them killed by being too scared to continue, and her big climactic achievement is just to put a hook on something. Dad’s other major character growth is to learn to transfer protection responsibility into the trust of her boyfriend.

(That Optimus keeps calling the three of them “this family” and assigns Autobots to protect them made me worry about the boyfriend. They’re too young to be making life decisions and shit, and that will be one awkward breakup if it happens. Can you stay friends with the Autobots if you ditch the girl? Do you have to worry about Bumblee coming after you? It brings up alot of questions.)

One of the most puzzling elements is right at the beginning. Near-dead Optimus chose to hide inside a closed movie theater. It’s an ornate palace from the ’30s, now dilapidated and trashed. The moviegoing experience, Bay seems to be saying, is in the Age of Extinction. Wahlberg and Miller talk nostalgically about having gone to this theater growing up, and it seems like Bay must be lamenting the loss of this beautiful theater. How could he not? But maybe he’s not, because he’s also making dismissive jokes about it. The owner (Richard Riehle, EXECUTIVE DECISION) tries to claim the old projectors are digital and Imax, which is laughed off, because who would want 35 mm projectors?

Riehle’s character name drops EL DORODO and blames the theater’s death on today’s crappy sequels and remakes. And the AGE OF EXTINCTION audience knowingly chuckles. Or not knowingly, because I don’t know what this meta comment is supposed to mean. I’ve seen many interpretations and none of them seem like a definite answer. Part 2 I believe had a more subtle joke where John Turturro’s g-string-wearing, robot-pee-smelling character complains that a story needs to have a beginning, middle and end, but this one is more clearly meant to be picked up on by the audience, like that part with the grave digger in JASON LIVES:

Is it a SHARKNADO type “ha ha, we’re in on the joke, we know this is dumb, so it doesn’t count as bad”? Is it a cruel “ha ha, this is the fourth time you dipshits paid for this crap”? Or what about a “ha ha, this old man is out of touch, he doesn’t like awesome movies like we do”? Maybe even a “it’s not my fault, Hollywood will only let me do this kinda stuff, they got mad when I did PEARL HARBOR”?

What is it saying? There’s no way to really know. You’re just supposed to recognize that it’s some kind of meta joke and give a little chuckle to show that you’re in on whatever it is.

So to me the end result of AGE OF EXTINCTION is similar to PAIN AND GAIN: no matter how much Bay grows, he’s still gonna have the same brain. I give him credit for technical improvement. He admirably addressed his two most obvious problems by creating comprehensible action scenes and at least toning down his preference for constant, terrible comedy. And yet he still ends up with a stupid movie, bad overall pacing and muddled ideas.

So I guess what I would like to see from Bay next is a movie with this type of care put into the action scenes, but with no jokes at all, and yet with the unleashed tastelessness of BAD BOYS 2, the preposterous cartoonishness of REVENGE OF THE FALLEN, and a little shorter running time. And more dinosaurs might be good. I don’t know.

Ah hell, he should just do what he wants. Who cares. As long as nobody holds these up as the standard for summer entertainment I’m happy to scratch my head at them once every couple of years.

My other TRANSFORMERS reviews:

TRANSFORMERS: THE MOVIE (with BAD BOYS 2)

TRANSFORMERS

TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN

TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

This entry was posted on Thursday, July 3rd, 2014 at 12:47 pm and is filed under Action, Reviews, Science Fiction and Space Shit. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

104 Responses to “Transformers: Age of Extinction”

  1. The craziest Bayism in this was witnessing an airborne car literally punch a black-ops guy in the face in slow-motion.

  2. I didn’t see 1 or 2, but saw 3 as a joke and kind of enjoyed it. I thought it was a better movie than THE AVENGERS (which I only compare because they both have the same end action set piece).

    From what I understand, Bay shot 3 (and 4) in 3d and this forced him to stop moving the camera. Which in turn makes the films actually watchable.

  3. I haven’t seen this one (or any of the Transformers movies after the first one), but I guess Bay is invoking the fact that Rio Bravo, El Dorado, and Rio Lobo are all variations on the same plot to justify the current trend of endless remakes, sequels, etc. As in, ‘Don’t blame me. Hollywood’s always been like this and if you didn’t know that, then you’re the one that doesn’t know anything about movies.’ And on a certain level, he’s right. That doesn’t make him any less of a dick, though.

  4. First ever comment, long long time reader!

    If I remember right, after he laments the number of sequels and reboots, doesn’t the other guy say “Oh nevermind him, he’s completely senile” or something? My interpretation of the moment was that anyone who thinks that way is clearly out of their god damn mind.

  5. Shawn: Welcome to the party! I don’t agree with that interpretation, though. It’s the theater owner’s son who is the effete, money-grubbing, non-movie-loving douche who claims the projectors are IMAX and that his dad is senile. Then Wahlberg immediately tells that dude to take a hike. There’s no way Bay would ever intend us to be on that guy’s side, so he must be trying to invoke some Spielbergian nostalgia for the Golden Age of cinema, despite that era having very few gigantic explosions and upskirt shots.

    It’s nice that even as Bay’s filmatism increases in clarity, his themes remain as muddled as ever. I mean, look at Optimus. Who is this guy supposed to be? A warm and supportive father figure? A remorseless spirit of vengeance? A skilled military leader and tactician? A total madman who gets everyone around him killed? A one-size-fits-all merchandizing platform? I have no idea. He’s like Abraham Lincoln crossed with Paul Kersey crossed with Tickle Me Elmo.

  6. Dikembe Mutombo

    July 3rd, 2014 at 2:27 pm

    Wow, I really didn’t expect to see that ACR score when I clicked this. If it weren’t for you saying that it’s a lot less insane than the other films I’d be tempted to attend a matinee just to see for myself. I haven’t paid to watch any of these movies yet though and I’ll probably keep that streak going.

  7. As well as Wahlberg’s inventor(hey, don’t laugh, at least he wasn’t a science teacher this time), there were a couple of other characters who helped keep this one more grounded – Grammer played his CIA boss straight and nasty, and his Numero Uno(see Mouth, Aussies don’t mind using foreigners words) Black-Coat played by Titus Welliver was a straight-up badass. I really like this Mr Welliver, Titus they call him. I first noticed him in Affleck’s GONE BABY GONE and THE TOWN where he played tough-guys, and thought he was great in a small dramatic role in Van Sant’s PROMISED LAND as the shopkeeper who helped McDormand’s city girl keep it real. He’s got an authentic air about him.

  8. Mr. Majestyk: Thanks! Hopefully I’ll be able to post a lot more, been meaning to for a while. You’re completely right, I forgot a lot of those details about the scene. I didn’t just imagine the Oreo branded robot though right? Because his 2 seconds of screen time may have been my favourite “wait what the hell was that” moment.

    The product placement in this may have been the most intense I’ve seen since Josie and the Pussycats and I remember that movie doing it as a joke. That Bud Light scene was one notch away from Whalberg pointing the bottle at the camera and smiling.

  9. If ever there was a way to prove that you tell it like it is, it’s by almost-vaguely-sort-of endorsing a fucking TRANSFORMERS movie — although I realize you didn’t mean it that way. Now I’m even less motivated to see it as part of a “hate watching” binge, as you put it. What’s the point of a tasteful, restrained and subtle Bay movie? That’s like making a vegan hamburger out of tofu. The only way that Bay can make something worthwhile is by deliberately (and almost methodically) upsetting people that have a sense of taste, restraint and subtlety. The moment he applies good judgement, his only reason for being evaporates. Thus, in a sense, he found the only way in which he could still shock us: By upsetting our expectations to the point of his own irrelevance.

    Good quotes for the poster, though:

    “Verges on tasteful …” -outlawvern.com

    “Michael Bay – the George Washington of the cinematic movement …” -outlawvern.com

  10. The Original... Paul

    July 3rd, 2014 at 4:17 pm

    ACR 4.5???!!!!!

    I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. If there’s one moviemaker who gets what the “people” want, a lot more than I do (to judge by the “Transformers” movies’ rampant success), it’s Michael Bay. Now that even the ‘Formers fans don’t stand for that shit any more, he changes up his game.

  11. “Hollywood has to start finding more original stuff … They’ve got to start by not depending on, ‘What can we churn back out? How can we regurgitate this?’ That’s why I want to redo the feel of Transformers. That’s why I wanted to start with a new cast. You want it to feel fresh, and you want to make it feel different than the other three.” – Michael bay

    That might help shed some light on the “meta joke.” Or it might make it even more confusing. But Michael Bay doesn’t consider Transformers 4 a crappy sequel or remake. He considers it a brave new direction.

  12. Vern’s ACR assessment is kindly ignoring/forgetting at least one foot chase and one car chase that approach [anti-]visual incomprehensibility, but still, I can dig it. Huzzah, death to the George Washington of quick-cutting gibberish action; long live wide-shooting Michael Bay anchored by 3D cameras.

    Most of the terrible comedy is indeed confined to the first movie of this 3-movie movie, thank Spark-christ, so maybe we can theorize that the multiple, muddled meta-statements suggested by the early dilapidated cinema setting point to the notion of Bay leaving his old ways behind, at least for most of a couple hours.

    -There are 2 or 3 Asian human being characters, I think (not counting extras).
    One of them has zero dialogue.
    Two of them are fighting experts. And their fight skill displays come out of nowhere.

    -I liked the blonde in this one better than the blonde in the last one. This is partly due to the Shia[, Guilt by Association With] Effect, I’m sure.

    -The dragon-bot-osaurs confused me, too (and I didn’t take any piss breaks), possibly because by the 3rd movie I had forgotten some of the first movie. Have they been held captive on the space bounty hunter bot’s ship for like 65,000,000 years or did they just get there recently after being scooped up from the Arctic, where they languished for 65,000,000 years or did they come from somewhere else and why didn’t Boba Fett-bot cash them in with his mysterious multi-galaxy god he works for and also are there more dragon-osaurs on the other ships of his fleet or were these the only 3 or 4 that happened to be stored on the one ship that the good guys happened to hijack and also there’s that sword there that Optimus Prime grabs and uses like an unlocking mechanism and he knows who they are and why they initially are going to want to kill him but then his punching-diplomacy works but why, what connection is there?

    They were big and cool, though, so hey let’s eat our popcorn and stop looking for Shakespeare guys. This movie only cares about Shakespeare if his work can be referenced as a joke about a Texas law regarding statutory rape. In your face, continuity nerds.

    -I’ll never complain about Bay’s camera movements and cinematographicalistic style. There ain’t a single standard medium shot / reverse shot construction here, and that’s fantastic. Yeah, it gets repetitive in a 3-movie movie to see so much swirling and so many ankle-height upward-angled looks at Kelsey Grammer’s chin as he utters some banality, but by god if the joints & rails on Bay’s crew’s cranes & dollys stay lubed then why the hell not go ahead and make every visual a swooping visual.

    This style has the pleasant side effect of obviating the effectiveness of still shots or screen grabs — almost nothing in a Bay joint can be captured by a single frame, nothing turned into a painting. One must consider the several frames before & after, as there is so much motion. I love it. @OnePerfectShot can go fuck itself, right after it buys a ticket ($15+ at IMAX 3D, motherfucker).

    -Believe it or not, I think there may be a deleted scene from the moments right after the boyfriend insists on driving the SUV near the end. He re-announces his awesome driving skills and why they should be glad he’s there to take the wheel, but then it looks like the only skillful thing he does is go in reverse at 30 mph for a couple miles. Seems like there should have been a couple shots of some more sharp-turning, drifting, hitting a makeshift ramp & going up on two wheels to avoid a big stretch of flames on the highway or something…

    -Pretty cool that Cade has a barn with a high enough roof to accommodate Optimus Prime standing up.

    -And also a sub-floor spacious enough to accommodate Optimus Prime crouching & hiding.

    -Also, too, the American flag, a Texas flag, and another mostly red/white flag I didn’t recognize.

    -And also, too, as well, a welding helmet painted as an American flag.

    -Also Cade (Walhberg) is left handed, as a quarterback and as a marksman, so that poster’s mirroring retouch is either a fuck-up or a corporate focus-grouped effort to only appeal to the righty majority.

    In conclusion drink Budweiser, Bud Light, Gucci, Victoria’s Secret, and Beats by Dre and then drive home safely in Lamborghini, Bugatti, Camaro, Camaro SS, and whoever else paid me to appear for 5 seconds in this talkback, thank you.
    {insert government-approved Mandarin & Cantonese translation of above comment here, for maximum readership & participation}

  13. Dikembe Mutombo

    July 3rd, 2014 at 7:48 pm

    Here’s a cool thing on Bay’s style that I just watched https://vimeo.com/99798626

  14. My favorite piece of product placement was the Beats by Dre speaker pill. Because clearly, if you had a miraculous new metal that could become any object on earth, the first thing you would do is create a very specific brand name hunk of consumer grade portable stereo equipment. Not, like, a robot monkey or a jetpack or a hover board. Nope, you’d immediately go for something you could pick up for $199 at Best Buy. That’s how genius billionaire computer magnates roll.

  15. I find it interesting that the thing a lot of people complain about “too much CGI” has actually helped filmmakers do comprehensible action scenes.

  16. I like that it can be an hour too long, make no sense whatsoever and still be the best of the series.

  17. In the last few years, we have seen a number of ultra-conservative franchises suddenly question the government. They were all gung-ho America during the Bush years, but now in the latter day of the Obama presidency, they are suddenly questioning authority. Personally, I think most of these films are not taking into account how horrific their previous morals may have been (ie: a ‘patriotic’ weapons manufacturer who validates preemptive strikes and pushes the idea that a privatized military force is both more effective and more humane) but rather just more of the same.

    This is a Tea Party movie. So is Captain America: WInter Solider.

    Keep a look out for more action films about, “Taking back our country.”

  18. Transformers 4 is by far the best in the series. I could describe the plot after it ended and I didn’t fall asleep even once during the runtime. I cannot say that of the first 3.

  19. My take on the meta moment is that Bay is basically excusing himself: “it’s not my fault I’m stuck doing another one of these, so here’s 150 more minutes of this shit.” This is all our fault.

    Really, it almost feels redundant to just keep beating up on these movies, but I’m honestly shocked at how dull this last one was. I would rather be assaulted by a total affront (like the second one) than be subjected to a big, long, empty movie that’s just going through the motions. Of course, a lot of this feeling would be mitigated if the movie were more like 90 minutes long.

  20. There was mild racism in this? I couldn’t taste it at all. Are you sure it wasn’t extra mild racism?

    Also, didn’t Wahlberg’s character buy a film projector and later praise it to his daughter? Though they must have cut the shot where he turns to the camera and says, “Film is a wonderful medium and should be preserved.” so I can see how the confusion about the movie’s message on the subject would come about.

  21. I thought the Dinobots were frozen in the arctic, and when Sophia Myles discovered them, their government subsidies sold them to the Decepticons for more transformium. Hence they were being taken away on the prison ship.

    Can we talk about transformium? That’s a fuck you to James Cameron’s unobtanium, right?

    I thought the meta joke was confusing too. It’s like they know there should be a meta joke,but they didn’t know what the joke actually was. I love all your interpretations though.

    Vern, I thought the father complaining about his Michael Bayed up daughter in a Michael bay movie was the most interesting example of unaware contradictory craziness of the series. I found this a lot crazier than the joyless third movie and I didn’t feel bored at all. If something’s awesome, I’ll watch three hours of it. Four even. Of course, this is the bare minimum. It’s not like Peter Jackson’s KING KONG or anything. But I liked the stuff that was happening for all three hours. Sometimes ironically, but Decepticons dropping boats on hong kong was legitimately cool.

    I mean, I hate the HOBBIT movies but I think I’d hate those at two hours, or as one two hour movie too. I mean it’s just not interesting. They go to places, fight some things, people like dragons. I kind of think exhaustion is the point Michael bay is going for, and it is an interesting phenomenon to legitimately achieve battle weariness through the medium of film.

  22. Tawdry, interesting observation about Tea Party movies. I thought WINTER SOLDIER was a Huffington Post movie though. Did I misread it?

  23. Jake – the mild racism would be Ken Watanabe’s samurai robot and the Asian characters all knowing martial arts. Nothing compared to Mudflap and Skids or my prediction in a previous review of bucktoothed Zero-bots.

    Was it a projector he bought? It looked like just a lens, but I think someone else referred to that too. Was that what he used to project videos on the wall, or is that a coincidence?

  24. Samurai-bot is no more racist or stereotypical as a stupid depiction of a Japanese entity than Goodman-bot is as a caricature of Americanism, if we interpret him that way —
    he’s fat, irrational, pugnacious even toward his ostensible allies,
    loaded with a comical amount of guns & ammo & grenades,
    says he “just needs to kill something,”
    acts on the urge to kill something by pointlessly murdering the little [vagina?] creature in a 100% unnecessary, ugly scene, etc..
    He’s more of a buffoon than anybot else here, so I choose to view them all as cartoons and not racist projections. Or as both.

    Could transformium be used to construct a bomb so powerful that not even a transformium bomb shelter could protect you from it?
    (deep thoughts)

  25. To project that video footage, Cade somehow used the little KSI drone he swiped while letting his daughter be torture-executed & his house be blown up instead of talking about O.P.. I assume his mad inventor skillz explains how he tinkered with it to unlock the machine’s memory (or KSI’s cloud database) and to make the bug drone into a big screen projector with audio.

    Kinda shocking that a multi-billion dollar military/intel contractor agency has so much highly sensitive, damning information on all of its tiny airborne devices that they use when confronting massive robots with massive weapons. Personally I’d worry that one of those mech-birds might fail or be damaged during a mission and then someone would discover it and unlock it like an iPhone and see all that black ops material and then we’d have a new Bradley/Chelsea Manning ordeal on our hands. KSI should fire someone in my opinion, or at least reset all their passwords.

  26. I think I must be really racist then. I always want to see Li Bingbing throwing down in her business suit. And I admit to being kind of surprised when the elevator guy didn’t seem to know kung fu. It looked like he was just punching the guy. Which if he’s a real life boxer would explain it. But I don’t see why a samurai robot would be racist though. It just seems like a cool idea for a giant robot. Or a lazy idea, if you prefer to look at it that way. I go with cool myself. I would have also accepted ninja robot as a final answer.

    As for the projector, I just remember the scene in his barn with what appeared to be the projector from the theater and his daughter either hit it or called it junk or something and he said, “Hey, that’s a some model name!” Implying it was something of value.

  27. I thought that tiny mini-bot they had locked up in Tucci’s lab was a borderline racist caricature. I forget the little fuckers name but he complained about doing slave labor or something and his voice sounded like an old black dudes. He sounded like Cab Calloway from Blues Brothers every time he spoke. I could be wrong, maybe it’s just me, hope this doesn’t mean I’m a stereotyping racist asshole. Pretty sure I’m not.

  28. Am I the only one who is very excited that this is a tentpole blockbuster that actually bothers with using professional voice actors like Jon DiMaggio or Frank Welker in at least SOME crucial roles, instead of just casting only celebs?

  29. did they get the “soulless mass produced Transformers” idea from fucking END OF EVANGELION of all things?

  30. Is now every giant robot movie getting accused of stealing its ideas from EVANGELION?

  31. Tucci seemed to have a racist/masochist thing going on with his Chinese assistant. Early on when he’s doing a tour of his facility he puts her down after she speaks by saying he can’t understand a word she says.

    Only Chris Tucker can get away with that –

    Y’all look the same

    – and only when he says it to Jackie Chan, because Chan can turn around and say –

    I will bitch-slap you back to Africa

    And by the end of the movie Tucci has a massive boner for her because she can kick ass.

  32. Has Optimus Prime always had those leg-jet-engine things that allow him to fly? Cuz he could have saved this country billions in infrastructure & road repair if he had used them more often in previous battles. (Yes I am racist for not giving a shit about how much of China’s highways & skyscrapers his footsteps chew up.)

  33. I’ve never seen these movies, but every time they release another Transformer film, I’m always excited to read Vern’s take on the films/Bay’s psychological state.

    CJ – I didn’t realize that DiMaggio and Welker had prominent voice acting roles in this, but it does generally bother me that voice actors have been all but shut out of animated movies in favor of unnecessary celebrity cameos. Pixar at least does a reasonable job of picking actors who are right for their parts, but most animation studios just grab whichever celebrity is willing to make a quick buck at the time.

  34. A 4.5 ACR? Ho-ly shit!

    Looks like I’ll finally check for scenes of a TRANSFORMERS sequel for once. Albeit once it hits basic cable or better yet when someone on the net makes a compilation video of all the action scenes but nevertheless.

  35. Have to take slight issue again with the ACR because I’m pretty sure (and glad to be proved wrong) we don’t get to see very clearly how Romeo & Juliet take down whatshisfacebot at the end (just before Prime’s de-swording first aid and then his brutal triumph). I understand there is some circular driving and some cables being wrapped around bad guy’s legs, similar to battle tactics we have seen used against an imperial walker in a couple of those star trek movies, but I only got the ‘sense’ of what was happening without actually being shown clearly what was happening.

    This was an editing fail in my opinion, or it was a sequence that conveyed rare laziness or budget-cutting on the part of the CG technician-artists & camera crew (and producer$) who couldn’t get a full wide shot of the bot’s legs being tangled and couldn’t show where exactly the Australian guy’s carjacked truck was in relation to everything else he was driving around. Maybe it was a greenscreen/location/interaction issue, but I bet the scene would be crystal fucking clear if they had had a truck sponsor whose logo could proudly prominently be displayed during the fight.

  36. Darren: You though Joe Pesci Bot was supposed to be a black caricature?

  37. Vern, what are your thoughts on the “vagina dentata” Film Critic Hulk wrote about?

  38. The Original... Paul

    July 4th, 2014 at 10:48 am

    Mouth:

    “Also Cade (Walhberg) is left handed, as a quarterback and as a marksman, so that poster’s mirroring retouch is either a fuck-up or a corporate focus-grouped effort to only appeal to the righty majority.”

    This is why this forum needs you. Who the heck else would even notice a thing like that?

  39. mild racism: I really didn’t find it offensive, I just couldn’t justifiably say that this chapter was free of racism when it has this common stereotype that all Asian people know martial arts. And is there any chance they could’ve cast Academy Award nominee Ken Watanabe as any of the other robots? Of course not, he would only be a samurai or ninja.

    vagina dentata: I only vaguely remember that part and certainly didn’t notice any of the sexual symbolism Hulk alleges. I actually thought he was talking about the little tablet robot “Brains” (who is not Joe Pesci bot – the voice actor is Reno Wilson) but it was explained to me that it was some alien monster that was also in a cage. My mind must’ve wandered off to Robot Heaven during that part.

  40. I still don’t get why that would count as racist. If you are going to have a samurai robot in your movie why wouldn’t you cast Ken Watanabe? Or the only other Japanese actor that exists, Hiroyuki Sanada? You have to cast a Japanese actor or you will be accused of racism and whitewashing. So why not get one of the best? And weren’t you recently saying you wanted to see Watanabe play more samurais? Wouldn’t that same logic imply that’s racist as well? I guess I just see the word racist thrown around so much nowadays its meaning seems to have really been watered down. Racist inflation.

  41. I think the point is that it’s not racist for Watanabe to be playing a samurai, but it’s racist that the only reason Bay would have Watanabe in his movie is to have him play a samurai. Bay would never hire a Japanese actor unless his nationality was signposted by an obvious stereotype. It’s like if he had a Transformer that turned into a Puegot, it would have to be a pretentious snob who surrenders at the first sign of danger and is played by Jean Reno.

  42. “Bay would never hire a Japanese actor unless his nationality was signposted by an obvious stereotype.”

    That’s a bold statement. Though I do remember thinking all the ninja blowguns in PEARL HARBOR were probably not historically accurate. I guess I was right.

  43. Michael Bay loves stereotypes and misogyny. I even expect those tropes to make it into the Turtles movie he’s producing just by proxy. He can’t help himself. It’s as much a part of his artistic voice as creating mayhem is.

  44. I just watched PEARL HARBOR. Nearly every shot featuring the Japanese has a Japanese flag flying in the background. Just in case you forgot what they were and had started to think of them as, you know, people. That’s just how Bay’s mind works. People like himself are “normal.” People unlike him (women, minorities, foreigners, gays, fat people, alien robots) are defined by that which makes them different than Bay.

    I say this as this sight’s most outspoken Bay fan.

  45. Is there any reason I should actually go watch this in a theater? I have the same relationship with these movies that Vern does where I don’t love them or hate them (well, I hated the first one) but I’m sort of fascinated by them at the same time. But I also don’t really want to support them with my money unless there’s a good reason. Do any of the action scenes or beauty shots make it worth seeing it on a big screen?

  46. I don’t know if the ads mentioned it, but TRANSFORMERS: MARK OF THE WAHLBERG is a Transformers movie directed by Michael Bay. If you take that information and look into your heart I think you’ll find that the answer of whether or not you will find it worthwhile to see in the theater has been inside you the whole time.

  47. Yeah Mr M, I thought Whatever-The-Fuck-His-Name-Is-Mini-Bot was a racial stereotype. The first time we meet him he’s locked up in a glass cage(of emotion? Do robots dream of being free? Or electric sheep even?) and he’s complaining about doing all this mundane work, and he has an old black guys voice. Maybe Bay has created a litmus test by default to bring out the worst in humanity, and it could just be me(but I don’t think so).

    If my interpretation is wrong and extreme, then at the least this mini-bot is a sweat shop worker.

  48. RJ – Beauty shots hey? Well, there’s a lot of nice shots of the Texan sky at dusk, the bright orange sun as Bay likes to put in all his movies. I would see it for the WTF moments, like Guy Gets King Hit By Car. Never seen that one before.

  49. Darren: That’s not an old black guy’s voice. That is your basic ersatz New Yawk/New Joisey accent.

  50. The Samurai bot is far more offensive than the Goodman because there are other representations of white Americans in the film. Having the samurai bot speak in haikus and call Optimus “Sensi” is fucking ridiculous because he’s a ALIEN! It makes no sense, unless all Asians are a monolithic force and being Asian-culture-inspired is more defining than being a giant, intergalactic, sentient machine. The essentialism is absolutely racist.

    Also glad someone else picked up on the vagina dentata.

  51. Did anyone else feel like this movie was a retread of Prometheus?

  52. Darren – the tiny robot is named “Brain” and he is absolutely a step-n-fetchit.

  53. Are we thinking of the same robot? The one I’m thinking of is the little wheelie guy that America’s Sweetheart Megan Fox tortured with a blowtorch HOSTEL-style in the second one. Unless they drastically changed his voice characterization and I didn’t notice, he was not supposed to be a black stereotype. He was supposed to be a weasely urban white guy stereotype.

  54. Yeah I think there’s a bit a mix up here – it’s Brain I’m talking about, thanks Tawdry. And he’s voiced by a black guy, Reno Wilson, thanks Vern.

    Too many Bots in this movie to keep up with.

  55. The Original... Paul

    July 6th, 2014 at 8:52 am

    Now this is just too much. There seems to be absolutely nothing out right now in my local multiplexes (I have two of them, but I’ve already given my views on the Odeon and the direction it’s been taking recently – suffice to say I’m not a customer of theirs any more unless I absolutely can’t see a stellar-rated film anywhere else.) The top three grossing films right now at my local ‘plex are:

    1) Mrs Brown’s Boys – D’ Movie. A film that has been compared, negatively, to “Kevin and Perry Go Large” in its reviews.
    2) “Transformers 4” by Michael Bay. See above.
    3) X-Men: Character Motivations – Who Needs Them When You Have Two Minutes’ Worth of Sentinels In Your Movie?

    And not a sighting of “Snowpiercer” anywhere. (Given how badly “Edge of Tomorrow” performed, I guess that’s not a big surprise. Apparently I’m one of the few guys left in Wales who likes big-concept science fiction any more.) Not that “Snowpiercer” sounded like the best movie ever made, but it did at least manage “interesting”. Apparently it’s gonna be like “Man of Tai Chi” where it doesn’t even make Netflix.

    So far 2014 has been way better, quality-wise, than 2013. But unlike 2012, where it felt that good movies were actually making it into the cinemas, 2014 seems to have followed 2013’s lead in only putting the worst crap there. The sad thing is that this strategy seems to be paying off. Not that I can judge “Mrs Brown’s Boys” or “Transformers 4” since I haven’t seen them, but the reactions from critics at least seem pretty unified on both films. And yet people are still paying money for them.

    My takeaway from this is that the big studios have very much learnt that you get more, financially speaking, from good marketing than you do from good movies. This depresses me.

  56. “As long as nobody holds these up as the standard for summer entertainment I’m happy to scratch my head at them once every couple of years.”

    Vern – Has anybody else notice how unlike the summer of the first TRANSFORMERS movie, I’ve not noticed anybody online really propping Bay up as the supposed standard for blockbuster fare.

    I could speculate many things, but I suppose its that time has passed Baynito Michaelini by and in fact Faraci sometime back made a claim that most modern blockbusters are much better now than they were 10 or so years ago. Whether that’s true or not, I’ll let others debate that but I think it might be true perhaps.

    But its worth noting what has changed since that fateful summer. We’ve got Marvel Studios. Nolan has made several big money making spectacles. J.J. Abrams did his STAR TREK films, and well we’re getting more STAR WARS thanks to him. WB in the next few years will try to create their own Marvel-ish film universe. We have the APES franchise now. X-MEN has gotten a second wind in its sails after DOFP. And so forth?

    Hell what did I once claim before about Justin Lin? I thought with his FAST & FURIOUS films that he’s basically the good alternate reality version of Bay. Well if you think about it, he is Bay-esque but with better action filmmaking chops, less stereotyping, a sense of humor, thoughtful moments. Can one argue that he’s Michael Bay for people who don’t like Michael Bay? (I could be wrong but I think his last two movies had higher Rotten Tomatoes scores than any TRANSFORMERS movie yet.)

    That’s not to say Bay is a has-been. TF4 is on pace to make a billion and more. He has his fanbase, which apparently consists of most of the world. But he’s not longer the only game in town for blockbuster spectacles. Once a big fish in small pond, now its alot more crowded.

    Would like to hear your thoughts on this, Vern. Am I onto something or did I just chop that camp counselor’s head off pointlessly?

  57. My thoughts on which part? I do think blockbuster movies have changed, I’m not sure if for the better or not. I think maybe there are alot more pretty good ones and a few less great ones? I’d have to study closer to be sure. I think Bay’s reputation has changed, he’s widely hated but also popular, but the people who like him know some people hate him.

    I don’t agree with comparing Lin and Bay though. They both like cars and sunsets but they’re opposites in most ways. Bay is renowned for his weird racism and homophobia, Lin is known for his multi-cultural casts and un-self-conscious male bonding. Bay’s tone is constantly flying in seven different directions with no indication that he knows whether he’s trying to be serious or funny or what, Lin is very good at balancing absurdity and seriousness. Bay always has an undercurrent of hatred and cynicism behind everything, Lin has a real sincere positive friendship vibe at all times.

    I guess maybe the scene in FURIOUS 6 where they make the guy take his clothes off.

  58. “I think Bay’s reputation has changed, he’s widely hated but also popular, but the people who like him know some people hate him.”

    Vern – Are you saying people back in ’07 (and other times in the 2000s) didn’t know that Bay was hated? I have trouble believing that. Nevermind that he was producing hit films too back then. Not on the billion dollar scale of Transformers 3 and this new one, but, but notable worldwide moneymakers regardless.

    All I’m saying is that if he’s still disrepsected online, I’ve noticed no longer on the level that it once was (“the antichrist!”) Why? Who knows. Maybe its my thoughts above about the changing blockbuster landscape. Maybe its that people have learned to accept that Bay exists and are tired of ranting about him? (AsimovLives will never stop though. He’s a Terminator in that department.) I don’t know. Its food for thought.

    Oh and on the Bay/Lin comparisons/contrasts, you forget something important: Lin doesn’t make movies with bloated running times.

  59. I saw this(my sister and brother in law were taking their kids, they wanted me to come along and I really had nothing else going on) and the relative clarity of the action really surprised me. Also the length of the movie, I kept sitting there wondering if the movie was ever gonna end, then when it was over I find out I’d been in the theater for like 3 hours…for a goddamn Bayformers movie.

    Also, the “Jason Statham transformer” line got a laugh-throughout the whole movie I kept wondering if that WAS Statham doing the voice…I knew I hadn’t heard about him doing a Transformers movie, but he HAS done voice acting before so I wasn’t gonna rule it out. And with that random elevator guy suddenly beating the hell out of that CIA thug, I too thought it musta been some martial arts star I didn’t recognize…when I got home I looked him up to see who he was(and found out he was a Olympic champion boxer, so close enough, heh)

  60. Wasn’t Statham actually attached (or at least rumoured to be attached) to this at one point, as the star, presumably in the Wahlberg role? Although I’m loath to think of him “progressing” from his modern day Bronson/Seagal path to more annonymous leading roles in generic blockbusters, I suspect that might have worked rather well with the father/daughter relationship serving as a kind of thematic progression from HOMEFRONT (from what I know/have seen of TF4, I haven’t seen it yet).

  61. The Original... Paul

    July 7th, 2014 at 11:02 am

    Vern on blockbusters:

    “I think maybe there are alot more pretty good ones and a few less great ones?”

    I know what you mean, and it does feel like this. Fortunately I have a list of over a hundred movies to compare, so here we go…

    Looking over the blockbusters I’ve seen this year especially, and over the past couple of years in total… it feels like most of them are good, but almost none of them are great. There’s been films like “The Raid 2” and “Drive” of course, but I feel that both of them are more niche movies than typical “blockbusters”. But looking back over my lists from 2012 and 2013… basically NONE of the films I’ve put down as “great”. The ones that came closest were “Thor: The Dark World”, “Gravity”, and I guess “Frozen”. And even of those three, “Gravity” is hardly your typical blockbuster, and “Frozen” is a kids’ film that just happened to be excellent in many respects.

    2012 was way worse… I saw almost seventy films that year, and pretty much every single one I thought was at least “good” was absolutely not a blockbuster of any description. Hell, two of my personal three worst films of the year – and the only ones I thought were genuinely bad movies – were blockbusters. That says something.

    Coming to this year and for me at least, “Edge” has a legitimate claim as “best film of the year so far” of the ones I’ve seen (and it’s up against some stiff competition in terms of “The Grand Budapest Hotel”, “Her”, etc.) Personally I thought the “Captain America” and “X-Men” movies were mediocre, but “Edge of Tomorrow” absolutely nailed what it was trying to do, and did so in a way that had me both gripped and entertained throughout. It’s better than any blockbuster I’ve seen in the last two years without a shadow of a doubt. The problem is, of course, that nobody saw it. Does it even count as a blockbuster if it doesn’t bust any… erm… blocks?

    I think the takeaway from all of this is that the era of the “traditional” blockbuster might be coming to an end. Instead we’ve got on the one hand the “grand series” of movies (your Harry Potters, Avengers, Bat/Spidermans, even Saws) where individual movies are built specifically to be part of a franchise that appeals to a specific and loyal fanbase who can be counted on to keep coming back for more every time a new film comes out; on the other hand we’ve got the Oscar-worthy singletons like “Gravity”, that star big-name actors in typical blockbuster-esque situations, but try to add a lot more in terms of filmmaking.

    Would a film like “Jaws” or “Jurassic Park” even get made nowadays, at least without regard for potential sequels and / or franchise-building? I doubt it.

  62. The Original... Paul

    July 7th, 2014 at 11:07 am

    Actually, strike that last line. Those films might very well get MADE. “Edge of Tomorrow” was a “conventional” singleton blockbuster, after all – it’s classic big-concept sci-fi of the kind that basically provided most of Spielberg and Arnie’s paycheques back in the late eighties to mid nineties. The trouble is, I’m not sure whether there’s an audience for them any more. I’m not sure what it was about “Edge” that turned mass audiences off it – bad marketing? No marketing? Tom Cruise himself? – but it plainly didn’t connect with a mass audience in the way I think it deserved to.

  63. I honesty think this film is a satirical masterpiece. I’m not being ironic, it’s Transformers 4: Pain and Gain. Wahlberg’s character is a Daniel Lugo-esque total fucking moron with masculinity issues, Tessa is the one with the brain. It’s just masked by genre conventions, who the star is, sexism, and the way information is revealed.

    “Wahlberg and the Autobots have to break into Tucci’s company. He gets captured and Grammer is dirty enough to threaten to kill the daughter if he doesn’t tell where Optimus is. It’s weird that he would never tell”

    Wahlberg is an idiot and delusional. Every single decision he makes is appalling. He’s a fucking stupid plan to put Tessa through college by fixing walkmen for goodwill donations, when he’s already 6 months behing on the rent. He borrows more money to buy junk in the dream it will pay off. When it turns out be worth something he doesn’t hand it in for cash, because he’s convinced of his inventing brilliance (newsflash his inventions are all shitty/dangerous). He ignores her warnings about the danger, and nearly kills her with a missile.

    When the black helicopters show up he thinks he can out macho them but fucks his words up and nearly gets her shot in the head. Even in the escape attempt, she’s the one who thinks of the trick to escape the cars, but all the recognition she gets is a quip about her handjob skills. With Grammer (after Wahlberg gets caught when he fucks up his infiltration attempt), he’s literally offered a chance to put her through college, but he ignores it because of his masculinity delusions.

    “the character makes Fox’s buxom mechanic seem like a great hero for young girls. Tessa’s arc is all about letting her dad and her boyfriend save her, and about her dad accepting that she can “take care of him” too… by which she means bring him dinner and beer while he’s working in the garage. During the action scenes she almost gets them killed by being too scared to continue, and her big climactic achievement is just to put a hook on something.”

    No no no. She’s absolutely right that tightrope walking between Willis Tower and a spaceship is fucking stupid. They bully her into it and they all predictably fail. If it wasn’t for Bumblebee randomly turning up out of nowhere they’d all have plumetted to their deaths. They what, fall, crash a spaceship and Wahlberg’s all roided up on the street with his alien gun swigging bud light like he’s a hero. It’s a massive piss take.

    The ending is hilarilous. Optimus and Wahlberg think they can handle it and order Tessa to be whisked off under the protection of her idiot boyfriend and bumblebee, then they both get their asses kicked. The only reason they’re not straight out murdered is because she ignores them and gets everyone to turn around and saves Optimus, and they act appalled.

    “Weirdly, Optimus Prime, who used to seem like a wholesome John Wayne type of good guy outside of battle, is kind of a lunatic in this one, yelling alot and bragging that he’s gonna break his vow to never kill a human.”

    Yeah, and this is after he doesn’t kill the comic relief guy just because his gun’s broken, shoots the fuck out of the special forces at the farm, and causes a massive pile up of black vans.

  64. Lord help me, I kinda liked this one too. I would never watch it again, but soul-crushing runtime notwithstanding, there are pieces of a good movie in here – the action scenes (the first 25 of them or so) are much, much better than the last few movies- and call me crazy but are the explosions better this time? They actually feel meaty, more like the explosions in an 80s Schwarzenegger movie than the soulless explosions I’ve come to expect in movies as of late. I’d argue the Wellever/Wahlberg parkour battle/fistfight and the tightrope walk on the cables are some of the best work Bay has ever done. Wahlberg is a clear upgrade from Lebeouf (it helps that his character isn’t a completely unlikable asshole), the acting is surprisingly strong all around. Wellever and Grammer are actually very, very good, and I like that Tucci followed Frances McDormand’s lead from TF3 – he’s funny but resists the urge to overdo it the way Turturro did. Goodman’s character was kind of annoying as shit, but i was glad that I could actually tell the autobots apart this time.

    There are still giant plot holes but they’re not quite as deal-breakingly baffling as previous entries. (Sure, I don’t understand how they could have jumped onto that ship in Chicago, or why Optimus ended up in a movie theatre (I don’t think there was a giant hole in the wall or anything), or why Wahlberg couldn’t have just found him in a junkyard, but oh well, you shrug and you move on. Optimus isn’t as much of an asshole and at least he kills out of self-defense/to save others instead of savage bloodlust like the last few movies. The script isn’t particularly good, but it actually has characters who have clear motivations (well, except for the MAIN villain – I still am confused who Lockdown was and what he did). Bonus points for creating new Decepticons and bringing back Megatron in a somewhat clever way. (Though my friend pointed out – if the new Decepticons transform by breaking themselves into millions of tiny pieces, how are they so (easily) dispatched by chopping their heads off or punching a hole through them???)

    Side-note: I wonder if anyone’s researched the effect that Netflix/binge-watching has on the human-brain – ten years ago, nobody’s brain could handle watching hours and hours of the same content in a row. Nowadays, everybody I know will watch almost a whole season of a tv show in one afternoon like it’s normal. I figure this is the only reason why Bay feels making a 165 minute runtime for this type of movie is appropriate – I really did feel, like Vern, that I was watching 3-4 episodes of a really expensive show. I’m seriously wondering if this will become the norm, not the exception in the future.

  65. And Tawdry – yes, I got heavy Prometheus vibes from this one too – mainly the grey, prehistoric prologues showing life on Earth beginning and/or ending. (I actually mean that – I have no idea what the black goo was doing at the beginning of Prometheus and I have no idea what the metal bombs were doing in TF4 – I mean, I know they were blowing everything up and turning it to Tranformium, but if the whole earth was terraformed by the bombs, why is the earth not metal and why is it so rare?) And they both have the exact same ending, with the main character flying off into space to “ask my creators why they tried to kill me!!”

    Weirdly, while the birth of the Alien in Prometheus happens via an incredibly convoluted Mad-Lib style chain of “and then….” events, the explanation for the Dinobots (the focus of the marketing campaign, the tease of the prologue, and the entire movie’s raison d’etre), is ENTIRELY UNRELATED TO THE MOVIE’S OWN EXPOSITION. I mean, they obviously weren’t the same dinosaurs coated in metal from the prologue, and they (I guess) weren’t the same guys as the metal fossils found in the Arctic, right? Those were just other completely identical creatures? When Megatron was running through the labs magically waking everyone up (how??), couldn’t they have just thrown in a scene of him waking up the dug-up Dinobot fossils (for evil) until Optimus tamed them for good at the end? I mean, it’s not perfect but it makes more sense than whatever happened onscreen.

    And by the way, why is it in these TF movies, the Transformers all seem to know each other already? The Autobots already knew and hated the Dinobots (how?), Optimus already knew Lockdown for some reason, he seemed to know the (previously unmentioned) Creators, he already knew Sentinel Prime, I’m pretty sure he already knew The Fallen. Can’t wait for TF5 where yet another enemy from Optimus’ past shows up to help Megatron.

  66. I kinda like that part of it. They all know each other from the neighborhood, like Gino and Richie. When they say “Lockdown is working with the humans for such and such” the implication is “fucking Lockdown, man, you know how Lockdown is.” I assume they all fought each other alot on their savage planet of war-worshiping killbots.

    I did think it was weird though with John Goodman and Ken Watanabe and the other guy because they act like we as the audience are supposed to be happy that they’re finally reunited, as if we have ever seen these guys before or heard of them or had any implication that there were other Transformers like this somewhere on Earth that Optimus knew.

  67. “Anybody here seen Lockdown? Anybody know why Lockdown did Ratchet? I’m gonna keep coming back here until somebody remembers seeing Lockdown…”

  68. I find this a hard film to assess; this is far more tolerable than the earlier films in the series, and they’ve gotten rid of much of what makes those earlier films so bad, but I’m not sure to what extent that is down to a commitment to excellence rather than apathy. I don’t think Bay wanted to do this movie. I’m not really taking a pop at him, bear in mind this is a franchise he didn’t want to do in the first place, and which he thought he was done with after the previous movie. AND this is just after he finally made his passion project. He also seems pretty burned out from his interviews, saying he appreciates critics as they keep him on his toes; WTF? Who is this guy?!?

    Even though this is a semi-reboot with a new (improved) human cast and only 2.5 returning robots, ultimately it’s very, very similar to the previous movies. Although if they really do follow up on the final scene I guess we will be getting something a bit different next time, now was really the time to shake things up, ideally with a different director and writer, but at least with a fresher approach and a finale which isn’t just another big battle in a city. I find it strange how Bay seems to take some criticisms to heart but not others. He’s dropped the toilet humour and (to some extent) the racial stereotyping, but these movies keep getting longer despite NO ONE asking for that. I’m not naïve enough to think there’s a significant demand to jettison the more overt sexism and sexualisation of the franchise, but I was shocked there was a slow motion panning shot of Peltz looking in terrified awe at the destruction after the flack he got for the ludicrous similar shots of Whitely in the last movie. Although at least that was a reaction; so much gets destroyed in the middle of the movie with so little acknowledgement that I wondered if I’d missed a line about the city being evacuated.

    I think the biggest problem with the movie (SPOILERS) is that the whole Megatron/Galvatron sub-plot is ultimately just sequel bait, but while it’s playing it feels like its leading to a big payoff. Instead Galvatron makes a brief appearance in an action scene in the middle, forms an army and hides for a bit (I did get a good giggle out of Galvatron saying “No! They’re ruining everything!” or something equally petulant though). After Lockdown is killed, he references Welker’s work as Dr. Claw (probably unintentional) and flies off, for no obvious reason. Lockdown should have been killed by the end of the second act. If necessary Grammer could have made a deal with Galvatron to keep that plot going. The total anonymity of the other Decepticons was also disappointing, especially after the variety on display in DARK OF THE MOON.

    I have to say I enjoyed DARK OF THE MOON a lot more. It was tasteless and occasionally annoying in all the ways we expect and kind of want a Bay movie to be, but/and the action scenes had improved, there was some creativity on display and it seemed to take a certain amount of joy in its ludicrous premise. I still think the falling building sequence is the high point of Bay’s career; the tightrope walk here is good, but it’s over before it reaches its full potential.

    Overall, I guess for a 165 minute movie that never really excels it was still a pretty painless watch. For me the one really good scene in the film is when Ratchet is hunted down. That was genuinely quite disturbing; I can only imagine how effective it would have been if I could have remembered a fucking thing he did in the previous three movies. I do think the alien vagina scene needs more discussion though. Cockney Bot and Gun Bot taunt it, it shoots goo in Gun Bot’s face after which Gun Bot and Cockney Bot agree it’s “too ugly to live” and Gun Bot shoots it to pieces taunting “die bitch!”; *that’s* the kind of weird insight into Bay’s psyche I was missing from the rest of the movie!

  69. “Lockdown should have been killed by the end of the second act. If necessary Grammer could have made a deal with Galvatron to keep that plot going.”

    I think Galvatron needed to stay alive to turn on humans because of the political commentry. Yeah, I mean that seriously. I find this kinda fascinating. You have the Whitehouse not knowing what the CIA is doing, that’s the one bit everyone’s picked up on because it’s so blatant.

    But you also have the CIA working with ikky people on the basis of the enemy of my enemy is my friend, and it not working out (just as Bay sucessfully predicted Iraq turning to chaos after troop withdrawal in Transformers 3, keep your eyes on Syria). Warrantless searches being made in the name of national security. Detention without access to counsel, including the line “I need a lawyer, the justice department, someone I can trust”. A character passing on unreliable information after being tortured (with a bonus waterboarding comparison!). The CIA carrying out a drone strike against terrorists with indifference to civilian casualties. Tech companies in cohoots with the security establishment. Whistleblowers being pursued to Hong Kong before they can leak information. And MICHAEL BAY directed this film.

  70. Vern, don’t know if anyone mentioned it already, but you should definitely watch PAIN & GAIN. It’s an amazing film, easily one of the best big American movies to come out in the last couple of years and it has the power to make one rethink one’s opinion about Bay.

  71. Vern already reviewed PAIN AND GAIN. You know a hardcore Bayniac like Vern isn’t going to miss the maestro’s most personal and heartfelt joint yet. The review isn’t in the alphabetical listings, but it pops up if you do a search.

    http://www.outlawvern.com/2013/09/29/pain-gain/

  72. Teaser Trailer for TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT is up.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NIXE0fJEpmg

  73. This is how they get me: every. single. time. and I will not blame them because it is my fault now.

    After really not liking the original I swore off the sequel, then they told me it was about how Transformers built the pyramids. Then I was out, then I was told they made one about how we went to the moon to find Transformers and killed JFK to cover it up. Then I was done for sure but by that time it was too late and I finally learned to take these awful and stupid movies as is and I was kinda interested how much weirder and stupid they could get so this one saying King Arthur fought Transformers or some shit and Anthony Hopkins having to say the name “Optimus Prime” is just icing on the cake.

    In conclusion: I’m now part of the problem.

  74. One of us! ONE OF US!

  75. They do a good job of making it so it would seem like it might be a good movie if you didn’t know about the other four in the series.

  76. I immediately posted the trailer on Facebook and said “what a pretentious pile of shit”

    I didn’t see the fourth one but is the fight choreographer of the Transformers a pro wrestler now because that choke slam was cool.

  77. I’ve been burnt way too many times. Not seeing this one no matter what.

    Will eagerly await Vern’s review though.

  78. I’m not making any promises because God knows it’s NOT a good, or in many senses even competent, movie, even by the standards of this series but I think Vern, and certainly Mr. Majestyk our (if memory serves) most vocal Bayhem enthusiast, may get a kick out of THE LAST KNIGHT. I did, which is not to say I wasn’t bored or even actively irritated by much of it, but there’s so much crazy shit in it I couldn’t help but feel I’d spent my time well and gotten a pretty close approximation of what I wanted from those crazy trailers by the end.

    Although I was surprised how much the personally-described “Dorky Comedy” Bay weaned himself off of throughout the series returned in this one, almost with full-force. I was surprised by how closely in general this hues to the disowned second film. The Akiva Goldsman we know from that film we’ve been discussing isn’t gone either. There’s one moment here which may be the closest I’ve seen in a film to the Bat-credit card, in terms of jarringly broad almost forth-wall breaking humour, since the card itself.

    See you in the eventual thread (we hope!)

  79. It’s probably my third fav of the series, which means it could possibly one of the worst movies ever made still but dammit at least you can say it’s that way because of the artist and not bean-counters getting in his way. I eased up on these thing preciously because the crazy stupid shit they come up delights me (pyramids are Transformer weapons, moon landing was to get Transformer shit, Transformers hung out with King Arthur and Frederick Douglas and probably Rosa Parks, etc.). Plus starting with the third one the action is actually legible so I learned to pull the stick out of ass and enjoy the crazy stupid shit and (dare I say?) truly epic action scenes. Of coarse I get to still be called contrarian because like Vern I was given shit for hating the first one and now there is a not a single human being on Earth who will fess up to liking even that one (hint: This series was always really, really bad guys. It didn’t just get that way).

    What I was shocked with this one though is I actually legit liked it for the first hour or so (King Aruther and Mecha King Ghidorah, anti-Transformer government unit, orphan girl, honest-to-god commentary on the migrant crisis (!), prisoner negotiation with Megatron (I love how they straight up murder Autobots on sight but extremely dangerous Decepticons get arrested and put in jail (commentary? no, just sloppy writing). Then they dropped everything I liked about the first hour and went to Britain and the movie was basically Bay making a comedy with his awful, awful sense of humor. Then we have series tradition never-ending climax that has some admittedly astonishing sights to behold (especially in IMAX 3D like how I saw it).

    Highlights:
    -Optimus meets God and immediately tries to murder her
    -God has Minotaur transformer bodyguard/henchmen/army
    -aforementioned Transformers hanging out with every single major historical figure ever
    -Bumblebee single-highhandedly helped the Allied forces change the tide of war during World War II
    -Unlike my disappointing go-around with the 3D in RESIDENT EVIL THE FINAL CHAPTER earlier this year, the 3D was well worth it for this one.

    Specific downsides (other than the usual series stables of horrible plot and characters and nothing ever making any kind of internal sense):
    -They finally introduce a human character I like in one of these damned movies and they drop her half way through in favor of an obnoxious British lady and Anthony Hopkins
    -Anthony Hopkins is terrible in this thing. He is clearly not into it and is not on Bay’s wavelength when he tries to be (what Bay thinks is) ‘funny’
    -Nemesis Prime was a major focus of the marketing campaign and I’m pretty sure that entire plot line encompasses about an entire five-minutes of this over two-and-a-half-hour movie (which means Bay’s serial killer psychopath Optimus is barely in it)
    -They build up the new Decepticon gang and every single one of them get taken out super easy which makes you wonder why they built them up so much if they were going to treat them as disposable anyway (reverse Worf effect?)

    Like I said, it’s terrible but an interesting kind of terrible that would only come from a specific voice and vision of it’s director. Like the last two, if your’re not seeing it in IMAX 3D (or LIMAX like I saw it in) I can’t think of much of a reason to bother with it. What I’m saying is, like the last two I think I kinda liked it.

  80. The first one was so bad I refused to watch any of the sequels. I did find myself watching the admittedly awesome freeway sequence from part 3 on TV once and thinking it was the greatest thing these movies ever did. I’m sure it was also preceded by 2 hours of bullshit. I still don’t know one person in real life who still even watches this shit btw. It’s like Pirates of the Carribbean one begins to wonder how they even make so much money supposedly.

  81. I only saw the first TRANSFORMERS, didn’t like it and never saw any of the others, people have no taste.

  82. These films, or films like them, seem only to exist to provide YouTubers comedy material. Instead of me paying good money and then complaining about how terrible they were , somebody else pays money to go see it ,then complain about it and then makes money of that video so I can save my money and get entertainment through that filter instead. Synergy effect indeed.

  83. May I also be so bold to suggest that geoffreyjar go fuck himself?

  84. Transformers movies have all the marks of the type of film a lot of you normally champion.

  85. And now that basically no one is prepared to hold them up as ideal popcorn entertainment, a few of us kind of do.

  86. Sterny, you cocksucker,there is nothing about these movies that hold any attention worth mentioning. If you mean that they hold any comparison to the F&Fs. Well, I can´t find any of those worth mentioning. They are big and loud, but one holds meaning, the other one does not.

  87. They are all made with a singular vision filled with that directors idiosyncratic sensibilities.

  88. Shoot: I’m a bit slow on the uptake, why do I need to go fuck myself THIS time?

    Stern: Yeah that’s why I went from being an OG Bay-hater to still mostly not liking his movies but damn, at least their his. Even these TRANSFORMER movies which he clearly absolutely hates making.

  89. The TRANSFORMERS films are the 36th Chamber of the Auteur Fundamentalist’s training. Sternshein is correct in that they are a totally pure expression of a singular creative voice. They are also fucking terrible. As someone who is relatively agnostic to this site’s religious beliefs, I’m happy to go on hating/ignoring these movies.

  90. Yeah, a film can be the result of an auteurist’s vision and also be terrible. I’m sure Bay’s movies are interesting from a cultural studies standpoint, since they likely reveal some weird deep-seated recesses of the American psyche, but his movies are too goddamn stupid for me to sit through. The last Michael Bay movie I actually watched was Armageddon, and it was honestly so bad that I just swore off his films completely. I’ve been ignoring his output for ten films now, and I have no desire to wade back into that diseased pool. Still, I always look forward to Vern’s Transformer reviews.

  91. Obviously in the above I meant the 35th Chamber. Michael Bay is the advanced shit and in no way meant for Auteur Fundamentalist beginners/outsiders.

  92. I think Zach Snyder is about as good as Bay and you all seem to like his crap.

  93. I’ve heard the Zack Snyder/Michael Bay comparison a lot, and it doesn’t work for me. The only two Zack Snyder movies I actually like are Dawn of the Dead and Man of Steel. I don’t think he knows how to tell a story. But there’s no denying that he’s become a strong stylist. And he can actually direct an action scene, which is something that is mostly beyond the rudimentary abilities of someone like Michael Bay.

  94. As someone who used to have a bug up his ass about both directors let me just say that Zack Snyder’s worst movie is several million leagues better than Michael Bay’s best movie.

  95. SUCKER PUNCH was more creative and filled with more signature artistic handprints than anything Bay has ever done. I’ve only seen BAD BOYS, THE ROCK, ARMAGEDDON, BAD BOYS II, TRANSFORMERS and like the last half of PAIN AND GAIN but I’m positive that I’m still correct.

  96. I don’t disagree that Bay is an auteur. Nobody can frame a shot quite like him, and his take on Americana reflects a distinctive eighth grade sensibility. What’s interesting (as someone alluded to) is that the majority of his movies are only engaging from a cultural studies standpoint; they’re actually hard to focus on for more than 30-second intervals, which is probably related to his advertising background.

    Snyder’s war politics are less clear, which makes his movies sometimes really interesting. I don’t think he’s technically in an entirely different league than Bay (they’re both supremely talented), but his films don’t have Bay’s bully’s mentality, which counts for a lot. I often wonder if regular-looking people like Rebel Wilson and John Turturro always leave Bay’s sets feeling dissed.

  97. The freeway car chase in Bad Boys 2 is better than anything Snyder did.

    I like Dawn of the Dead a lot though. I thought Sucker Punch was a massive disappointment.

  98. If I could make out what was going on in that scene then you might have a leg to stand on! Also it would have helped if the whole time watching it wasn’t distracted by how THE MATRIX RELOADED had a freeway chase and it was better. Then it happens again later in that movie when Bay does his much inferior take on the POLICE STORY shanty-town drive-through.

  99. Im’ma just gonna leave this here…

    Has Michael Bay Fallen Out of Love With the Military?

    Amid the cacophony of "Transformers: The Last Knight," one thing stands out as strange: The soldiers are the villains.

  100. They’re giving this on TV right now and I actually find it to be……ok.

    Vern was right it’s easily the most legit one. For my money it’s better than the original by far and unlike the other sequels actually kept my attention. First decent Bay romp I’ve seen in quite some time.

    Maybe it’s because I like Marky Mark as an actor a lot more than I like Shia or Tyrese. Maybe it’s because the action is finally fully comprehensible. Maybe it’s because it has a car punch a government tool in the face with it’s front wheel.

    Maybe it’s because it’s a chase movie with badass robot bounty hunter chasing weathered giant robot instead of some fish out of water concept but I have finally found a decent transformers movie in my lifetime. Took a long time to get there but at least this one is a decent 2 star instead of the typical half star worthy trash these movies usually are.

    With that said I may steer clear of part 5 when it hits FX or TNT. The goodwill from this one might be ruined by the apparrent atrociousness of 5. Plus I don’t want to see anybody from the first 3 movies in any of these ever again.

  101. I concur. As stated in the LAST KNIGHT talkback, it is a regression rather than building on what they successfully did (well did okay/better) in this one so it’s best you skip it. I’ll still go to bat for KNIGHT’s first hour though still dammit.

  102. They’re making a Bumblebee prequel that takes place in the 80s but how is that going to work? Didn’t humans not know about Transformers until the first movie and the medieval time period? How are they going to have giant robots fight and without it being a big deal?

    Also, will John Cena be able to turn into The Rock by starring in a later sequel to a hit franchise?

  103. As Vern said in his LAST KNIGHT review, “This series is continuity-proof.”

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