Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014) – The Beginnings of Getting Transformers Right

Transformers: Age of Extinction

“Transformers: Age of Extinction,” was almost a good Transformers movie. It’s a shame that humans once again had to ruin the drama between the Transformers…though this time they weren’t completely bad and did have some good moments. Which is more than can be said for the the other two movies I’ve seen that predate this (The first “Transformers” and “Dark Side of the Moon”).

I have not watched all the “Transformers” films and it was something that I never grew up with as a kid. So for me what really brings me to these films is my love of robots and mythology. If a movie like this can pull that off than there has to be some good. I have never been a fan of Michael Bay though, he tends to capture a lot of what is wrong with Hollywood in his work…this time though he managed to limit that somewhat…so going to give him credit for that.

Now for the premise. The premise is that Autobots and Decepticons are being hunted down by a rogue government outfit called Cemetery Wind whose leader Harold Attinger is selling them to a company he hopes to get rich off of. He is being helped in his quest by Lockdown, a Transformer Mercenary who is serving the creators of the Transformers who nuke the Dinosaurs with “Seeds” at the beginning of the film. The main character Cade Yeager is brought into the drama when he discovers injured Optimus Prime in hiding and the story unfolds from there.

Now for the assessment of the film:

Pros: The Music – The music is good actions music and captures the robotic theme of the Transformers quite well. Only times it is out of place is when rock or pop songs with singers chime in.

Cade Yeager – He has some machismo issues, but those at least get addressed in the film as well as the conflict he feels over being a single dad raising a teenage daughter. He isn’t a douche like Sam from the past movies was and Mark Wahlberg’s playing him completely and overly sincere while also being a bit of a nerd makes him endearing in his own way.

Joshua Joyce – The creator of the New Decepticons (having used their corpses to create new bodies that he hoped to control) of this film and the idealistic tech. guy and CEO of KSI. He goes from antagonist, to anti-hero, to hero as he sees what he has wrought and sees the Transformers as sentient beings. Stanley Tucci does great (he is Caesar of the “Hunger Games” series).

Sue Yueming – Joshua’s assistant and leader of KSI operations in China. She protects Joyce through most of the film and is an impressive character. She has lots of agency and kicks a lot of ass. Definitely want to see Li Bingbing in more films after this.

Going International – It is nice getting past American Jingoism and seeing good people from all over the world in a Michael Bay film. I know part of it is probably to appeal to the new Chinese Market, but I’d say that is a good thing. We’ll finally get to see more talent from around the world in American films and get to see cinema used for good to break down stereotypes.

Lockdown – I would love it if this guy got his own movie about all the targets he has taken down. He like Boba Fett if Fett where the primary antagonist of a Star Wars film. He has honor though is Xenophobic in serving one of the first aliens and creator races of the galaxy. He knows so much that we never hear about but get hints at. I hope the creators find a way to resurrect him. He is better than all the human characters and most of the autobots.

Optimus Prime – The big hero really needs a movie about him alone, which we might get next time given that at the ending he is taking the “seed” back to the Creators of the Transformers in order to try and stop them. We see him at the weakest at the beginning of the film and him slowly become full strength again. We even see him talk about leaving Earth for real with his Autobots, which makes sense given how many have been killed by Cemetery Wind.

The Autobots – It is nice having memorable Autobots for once who aren’t racist or completely one dimensional. We have the working class heavy Hound (voiced by John Goodman) the calm warrior Drift (voiced by Ken Watanabe) the rebel Crosshairs (John DiMaggio) and Brains…and Bumblebee who I wish would either get his voice or die…such an annoying childish character. The Autobots almost go on a revenge spree against the humans…showing they aren’t perfect. This is a nice change of pace and adds character to them as a whole.

Dinobots – Transformers that change into giant Dinosaurs. Really amazing and an awesome threat on the side of Optimus. Wish they’d gotten more screen time and I hope they show up again.

Galvatron – Created by KSI and the reincarnated Megatron…Galvatron is great in his awakening his army that he used KSI the tech. company to create. He survives the film and will probably be the big bad at the end of this trilogy or series.

Lockdown Final Fight – Takes all the characters to beat him…super worth it. No character is useless in this fight. Hong Kong is pretty much destroyed in this fight too because of how deadly Lockdown’s ship is.

Okay: Attinger – He isn’t bad, but he’s not fully fleshed out either. Kelsey Grammar does alright with what he is given though. He manages to nearly kill Yeager…Wahlberg’s character, before Optimus Prime takes him out.

Tessa Yeager – She isn’t a fully 3 dimensional character but she at least gets some agency in this film…from choosing to be with an older guy and helping fight the Decepticons and Lockdown. Which is more than can be said for all female protagonists in the last 3 films.

Cons: Sexualization of Tessa – Tessa is the daughter of Cade Yeager and much of the film is emphasizing her being underage and wearing short shorts that are revealing. Her boyfriend is also 20 to her 17 and defends the relationship with Texas’s Romeo and Juliet law that makes it legal. It is really really creepy and I don’t know who thought this was a good idea.

Message – What message? There really isn’t a coherent theme to the film. Creators can mess up and that is okay…seems to be the only one, since Wahlberg says finding Optimus and fixing him was a mistake but was worth it…as well as having his daughter in High School. The problem with this is it isn’t coherent. It wants to be anti-government, pro-immigration and tons of other things but it seems like Michael Bay is just testing these ideas and doesn’t know how to coherently weave them in. He’s trying at least, which is more than can be said for the mindlessness of his past films I’ve watched.

Unlikable Humans – Most of the human characters suck…and making them pros is in comparison to past Michael Bay films. They are usually one note characters who are mean for no reason and have to get into constant contests of machismo. It is so childish and just brings down the film. I wish the Autobots and Decepticons could be in a film without humans. Cade and Tessa’s boyfriend are the best examples of this. The worst of humankind can usually be found in Michael Bay films.

The Writing – It is a “Transformers” film…this is to be expected. It is an improvement over the other ones I have seen, but still a con.

Cinematography – Way too many slow motion shots and lens flairs…thankfully you can actually see the robots fighting this time, but the the slow motion shots and the lens flair shots were really distracting.

Length – The film is super long, though I can see why. I think it would have been better to introduce Galvatron at the end though and set him up for later. Lockdown is threat enough without Galvatron added in.

I have not seen a lot of Michael Bay, but this is the best Michael Bay film I have seen so far. The creepyness goes away after the first 20 minutes thankfully and focuses on the characters and action and attempts to tell a coherent story (and luckily we have Cemetery Wind and Lockdown to get us through that horridness). I wouldn’t call it great and calling it straight up good would be dishonest. It is a fun film though and above average as an action flick. It brings the mythology with the Creators and we get to see Autobots finally be interesting (though Bumblebee is still alive and annoying with his radio voice). The reboot was needed and hopefully the next film will completely avoid the creepy sexualization and have agency for all characters.

Final Score for this film is 6.5 / 10.

 

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