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'Transformers: Age of Extinction' May Be a New, Terrible Kind of Cinema

Reviews
by Sam Adams
June 26, 2014 4:07 PM
11 Comments
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Optimus Prime in "Transformers: Age of Extinction"

It is entirely possible that with "Transformers: Age of Extinction," Michael Bay has perfected a new kind of cinema. It's hard to decide if it feels more like five movies randomly compressed into one or a 20-minute short bloated to eight times its original length. Scenes begin and end at random; days and nights pass without notice; characters jump around like board-game pieces shifted by an unruly child. It's not incompetent so much as supercompetent, transcending mortal concerns like coherence and causation in favor of a 32-oz serving of Kickass Joy Juice.

This new kind of cinema, it should established, is terrible, but it's terrible in an amazing way. "Age of Extinction" is, after all, a movie that features John Goodman voicing a bearded alien robot who is perpetually chawing down on what looks like a lit cigar—a detail that the movie makes no attempt to explain, because it is Awesome. The Onion famously featured an interview  with "the 5-year-old screenwriter of the 'Fast and the Furious' franchise," who explained his creative choices in phrases like, "I want the cars to drive fast and then some of them explode." Imagine that child as a high school sophomore with a permanent hard-on, and he could easily replace "Age of Extinction's" Ehren Kruger. In fact, he might have already—there's no way an adult decided that the metal from which the movie's shape-shifting robots are made should be called "Transformium."

As Kevin Lee pointed out in his "Transformers: The Premake," "Age of Extinction" resembles nothing so much as the imperatives of global capitalism made manifest. When Stanley Tucci's ruthless tech entrepreneur wants to demonstrate his ability to manipulate Transformium, he does it by bidding a cloud of metal cubes to turn into a seat of Beats speakers, complete with prominently displayed, perfectly lit corporate logo. After he survives a near-death experience in Chicago, Mark Wahlberg's Cade Yaeger sifts through the rubble and grabs a handy bottle of Bud Light, snatching off the top to grab a sip of watery foam. (This, you may be aware, is "product integration," a more remunerative form of product placement.) The Wikipedia page for "Age of Extinction" duly lists all of the movie's Autobots and Decepticons as well as the make and model of the vehicles into which they can change: Drift, who dispenses fortune-cookie wisdom in the voice of Ken Watanabe, "transforms into a black and blue 2013 Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport Vitesse," because hey, who wouldn't.

For no apparent reason—except, again, because it is Awesome—the Autobots spout macho trash-talk as they go about their business; Goodman's Hound calls an enemy "bitch" before blowing she/he/it away, because even alien cars know the power of a misogynist epithet. (While we're at it, why do creatures who can assume any shape persist in using weapons that resemble guns and swords? Because shut up, that's why.) Cade's 17-year-old daughter, played by Nicola Peltz, is revealed to have an sexual relationship with Jack Reynor's rally-car driver, but it's totally not inappropriate, let alone statutory rapey, because they dated briefly when he was a high-school senior. It's right there in the "Romeo & Juliet" law, Texas Penal Code, Section 22.011(e), which Raynor keeps on a laminated card in his wallet because, you know. (Is it possible the movie was set in "Texas, U.S.A." solely to justify their barely legal bond?) Did I mention there's a scene where T.J. Miller's character, who travels with a surfboard on top of his car even though he lives in Texas, does a funny nerd run before he's engulfed by an alien heat wave and turned into a human cinder? Or that Titus Welliver's military contractor wears a black duster like a Western desperado? Or—Jesus, I could go on for days.

Of course, I'm a critic, and critics hate these kind of movies. Even when critics say they like a movie like "Captain America: The Winter Soldier," they're lying—at least according to "Transformers" producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura, who told ScreenCrush's Mike Ryan, "My experience with the critics is that when they like a big movie, it's because they're afraid they're going to so go against the tide that they act like they liked it.... I think it's baloney." That's why "Age of Extinction's" Rotten Tomatoes rating sits at a dismal 20 percent—while I was writing this article, it dropped to 18—including notices from several critics Paramount flew to Hong Kong for the premiere and a review from RogerEbert.com's Glenn Kenny that doesn't strike me as particularly "Fresh." 

Look, we've lost the battle against the "Transformers" of the world. So what if "Age of Extinction" plays as if it was badly translated from English into another language and then badly translated back again? It's got Bumblebee, and Optimus Prime, and it has robots that turn into dinosaurs, which is enough to thrust the portion of the movie's audience who haven't yet gone through puberty into full-on manhood. More importantly, it's got Awesome, of which some audiences can apparently never get enough. 

More reviews of "Transformers: Age of Extinction"

Matt Singer, the Dissolve

Give "Age of Extinction" this much credit: Of all the Transformers movies, this is the longest. And save for a few visual centerpieces and a couple of amusing supporting turns, it’s also an endless, incoherent mess. 


Scott Mendelson, Forbes

It’s not that this new "Transformers" film is aggressively good so much as it’s not nearly as aggressively bad. As someone who hated the first two and somewhat enjoyed the last one (mostly for the last 90 minutes of unparalleled carnage), this seems like a baby-step in the right direction by virtue of toning down much of the human-based deficiencies.


Eric Kohn, Indiewire

Despite its hefty running time, not much happens in "Age of Extinction." The autobots engage in some nicely rendered battles with the mutant robot known as Galvatron, eventually heading to Beijing and resurrecting some transformers from the past to help out. As usual, Bay constructs a barrage of showdowns remarkable for their ridiculous propensity to feature explosions and slo-mo, gravity-defying feats. They're all unmemorable but equally loud and visceral. The popularity of "Transformers" suggests that's everything viewers want from them.


Kate Erbland, Film School Rejects

Time moves back and forth, as the sun sets, at least until the next scene, when it’s daylight again. Pitch-black night turns into bright midday without pause or a sequence change. It’s all so loosely connected that even the film’s third act location change, moving the action to China (because why not? probably because the Transformers franchise is one of the country’s favorites), doesn’t scan as out of place – but that’s not a good thing. "Age of Extinction" breaks your brain until nonsense is normal.


Richard Lawson, Vanity Fair

The film makes some attempts at winking to the audience with what I’d have to imagine is deliberately corny dialogue, but those clumsy stabs at ironic humor actually just serve to aggravate more. Oh so you knowthis is terrible, and yet you’re still pummeling us with incomprehensible action sequence after incomprehensible action sequence until our eyes and ears are bleeding? Thanks a lot.


Devin Faraci, Badass Digest

Just because is the main plot motivator of this film. Sequence after sequence happens ‘just because.’ In a shorter movie this could give the feeling of breathless stream of consciousness, an approximation of the way children play with Transformers toys (it’s hard to remember in this, the fourth in a series of hyperviolent, politically neolithic films, that this shit is supposed to be for little kids), but at an unbearable two and a half hours this ‘just because’ plotting makes the whole film a disjointed heap of shit, like a five hour movie where all of the connective tissue was removed.


James Rocchi, About.com

Fueled by nostalgia, corporate profiteering and a beer-commercial aesthetic mixed with hypocritical "values," Transformers: Age of Extinction isn't a bad movie; it's the worst possible product of a big Hollywood system drunk on a cocktail of fermented nostalgia and rancid profiteering while driving moviegoing into the ground. 


Richard Corliss, Time

The final half-hour devolves into a kind of abstract-expressionist chaos, with commercials. Nothing coheres. Movies usually try to come together at the end; this one falls apart. If that’s Bay intention, then cinema has finally entered its Age of Extinction.


Glenn Kenny, RogerEbert.com

The poker-faced way that various and sundry of the cast reflect on the idea that Transformers have “souls” and that this is why humans should be allied with them, is rather confounding; do the filmmakers actually believe in this idea enough to want its audience to believe it, or are they just being unbelievably cynical, and which would be worse if true? 


Jordan Hoffman, Film.com

I can not tell a lie. I had a fun, enjoyable (albeit long) night at “Transformers: Age of Extinction.” Keep in mind, I went with about ten colleagues/friends and didn’t pay. That’s how it is for me with all movies, but with something like this it really makes a difference.


Reviews
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11 Comments

  • David | July 24, 2014 4:22 AMReply

    It was rubbish and I'm extremely forgiving of action VFX films. After Earth and I Frankenstein were 1000 times more enjoyable and they got less on the propagandised Rotten tomatoes.
    It was loud, disjointed, incoherent, massively overlong and interminably boring for the last third of the movie, I actually couldn't wait for it to end.

  • dL | July 18, 2014 9:32 PMReply

    The German translation was definitely gruesome.

  • Teresa | July 13, 2014 10:47 PMReply

    I don't care what these critics think...I thought the movie was awesome. So awesome in fact that I watched it 3 times and was satisfied everytime!

  • Robotech_Master | July 2, 2014 4:57 AMReply

    You know, I've really enjoyed all the Transformers movies so far. They're not Citizen Kane, but they're not trying to be. They're mindless entertainment with lots of explosions, giant robots, and that voice that immediately renders me ten years old, sitting on the couch in my parents' old house, glued to that TV.

    But you know what I think I enjoy even more?

    Watching all the critics get pissy that hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of people are enjoying this movie that they think sucks. They're critics, dammit! They know stuff! Don't you peons know you're supposed to hate this movie?

  • Basher | June 30, 2014 9:53 AMReply

    The story line sucks. It's the same banana. No nerdy guy could be that hunk or no hunk could be that nerdy.

  • sarah | June 29, 2014 2:53 AMReply

    While I was reading your review I started to wonder if yo had actually watched the movie ire just listened to other bits if information that other people had expressed to you. For example the cigar isn't random. It's a shell. As in ammo - since all transformers are basically giant weapons.

    The plot is explained quite fluidly throughout the film. Of all four of the movies this this one really hit me as s win. The new cast and the story. How often do you see a movie that relies on general awesomeness and not sex or some bullshit love story. It was well done -story, effects, cast abd managing to stay true to the transformer cartoon enough that Im excited to go find my old transformer toys.

  • Doesn't matter | June 28, 2014 10:48 AMReply

    I think you should actually watch all 5 movies and watch the entire movie through because a lot if what you are complaining about is explained in previous movies. And I guess I'm a musician at because I call men bithches all the time. It's sad to see journalism degrade to petty mud slinging. At least Hurst had the courage to retract statements that were blatantly false. Don't be lazy do some actual research before putting pen to paper and gushing on your subjective perception.

  • Bill (or Dave) | June 27, 2014 11:40 AMReply

    Great review, Sammy! Although I do have a bit of resistance with your description of the word "bitch" as a "misogynist epithet". I call men "bitches" all the time, particularly in my office.

    And suppose I will check this flick out at some point (when I can do so for free.)

  • denniz | June 27, 2014 6:34 AMReply

    I watched this movie 4 times. In my country, Indonesia, the film is always full house of both 2D and 3D and IMAX.People do not really care about the story line, they just want to see Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, and of course dinobots.They just connected with the robots.The special effects so spectaculer.2 hours 45 minutes it was still deemed fit me and not saturate the watch until the end.No matter what the critics said about this movie.They are only human who works for criticizing a movie.

  • Bennie Woodell | June 26, 2014 6:12 PMReply

    I know I'm in the minority, but I've absolutely loved this franchise because it gave me everything I wanted in a Transformers movie...giant robots fighting giant robots! I know there were a lot of complaints about story lines and what not for the first three, but I personally could have cared less for a deep emotional journey, there's plenty of other movies to see to get that from, how many movies do we get with giant fighting robots!?! So with that being said, I am on pins and needles for the new installment, especially for the Dinobots! I can't wait to see this this weekend!! It's going to be Awesome!

  • Jason King | June 26, 2014 4:21 PMReply

    OK - your article is better than mine - you said what I kind of wanted to without drinking red wine and losing my shit at the pure crap - it is just woeful - #loathedtheshitoutofit #ifeltviolated
    My review is at saltypopcorn dot com dot au

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