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.

 

The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006) – Full Speed into Unintentional Hilarity

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“The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift,” is unintentionally hilarious. There are some good things this film does, which I will get into. It is better than “The Good Son,” but that isn’t saying much. It also has problems “The Good Son,” doesn’t have. The reason I chose this film is because a good friend requested on my facebook like “The Good Son” (I’ll be making my way through the other bad films and ones you request). Fair warning I have never had any desire to watch any of “The Fast and the Furious” franchise so this is the first of them I have watched. I don’t know if the others are better or worse and I am only taking this movie on it’s own.

Before I get into the review the premise is a high school student from Alabama named Sean gets into a stupid race for a football player named Clay’s girlfriend (Women as trophies…WHAT!)…which leads to a lot of property being wrecked. This leads to him going to Tokyo to escape going to prison to stay with his Dad. From here he introduced to the underworld of racing and the story unfolds as another stupid rivalry starts with a nephew of  a Yakuza boss named DK.

Without further ado, here is the assessment:

Pros: The Cars – I’m not a car person but these cars do in fact look lovely. They are fast and seeing the races are fun in a visceral sense. Just like video games of racing are fun as well. It is essentially watching that as a movie on the few actual good scenes.

The music – I was surprised how much I liked the music. It is electronic at some points and has some catchy rap on other scenes. This make scenes that drag because of the acting actually bearable.

The cinematography – This film was shot really well. You can tell the director Justin Lin loves cars and racing because it captures the tension of both those things amazingly.

Okay: Han – The character Han who (Spoiler) get’s killed by DK for stealing from him and is best friends with the lead is the only interesting character who isn’t either boring or a dick. He postulates freedom against society at one point in regards to Japan which is actually kind of neat…he is the only person with motivation…which is why I won’t put him as a con. Sung Kang is the best actor in this entire film.

Cons: The characters – Like I said before everyone is pretty much one dimensional or props (The women). DK is needlessly cruel as is henchman which leads no reasons why the main love interest Neela would even like him. Neela is all (don’t get involved) but than wants him to get involved. Twinkie played by Bow Wow should not act. He is comic relief in this entire thing and ends up playing up the White Savior trope with Sean who is flat and is one of the worst actors I’ve watched in any film. The races didn’t mean anything at the end because the only good character was dead and all the rest were so bad that they meant nothing to me.

Machismo/Sexism – This one has to have a thing here because the try and fail to address this through Neela. Every women in this picture is a trophy to be won. They aren’t characters they are things…and worth less than the cars in most cases. Can’t stand that…poor storytelling for pointless action. Meant to look pretty and nothing more, like the cars…but the cars are active units at least. They get broken and reborn and remade. They help the hero succeed. None of the women do. They are usually two faced in this film and just after the fast vehicle. This film has nothing good to say about women…

The ages – The characters are supposed to be in high school but they look like they are in their thirties…clearly no thought went into casting…but that isn’t saying much since no thought went into this film.

White Savior Trope – This movie takes place in Japan but the only Japanese hero dies. It’s like “The Last Samurai” this way but worse. Sean saves the day and in the end Vin Diesel from the other films appears to race him…so Japan is literally just a location and means nothing except the Yakuza in regards to the film. I would have liked at least one Japanese character to survive and be more than a prop or a villain…but that doesn’t happen. It is all about Sean…the weakest character of the entire film who is from outside who saves the day and gets the girl…who like at the beginning has become a trophy. Why even have this movie in Japan plotwise? Anywhere in Europe or the U.S.A. would have worked just as well and avoided this problem a little more.

The action in this film was enjoyable but if you aren’t going to have fully fleshed out characters and not treat people like human beings than what is the point? In the end you accomplish nothing but playing a nice racing game. This is a movie I’d recommend for the laughs because the acting is just that terrible and it shows you a lot of “What not to do,” in regards to casting and script writing. Visually it is great and some of the music is good, but that is about all I can say for it positively. Was recommended as a bad movie for a reason and it has earned that spot. A movie needs more than visuals, it needs story and characters.

My final score for this film is 4 / 10. So bad, worth one watch and if you like cars go check out some of the races and chases from the film on youtube.