Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014)
Starring- Mark Wahlberg, Stanley Tucci, Kelsey Grammar, Nicola Peltz, Jack Reynor, Titus Welliver, Sophia Myles, Bingbing Li, TJ Miller, James Bachman, Peter Cullen, Frank Welker, John Goodman, Ken Watanabe, Robert Foxworth, John DiMaggio, Mark Ryan, Reno Wilson
Director- Michael Bay
PG-13- intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, language and brief innuendo
There was a moment earlier this year that forced me to do some soul-searching. It was a few weeks prior to the release of Transformers: Age of Extinction, and I came to the startling realization that I was actually looking forward to it.
Yes, dear readers, I have made it through all five stages and have finally settled on “acceptance.” I’ve come to realize that I don’t hate the Transformers movies; I love to hate them. They are the Joker to my Batman — though they are terrible and obnoxious and not nearly as funny as they think they are and my sworn nemeses until my dying breath, we complete one another. They provide a healthy outlet for all of the dark emotions I formerly didn’t even know I possessed — all of my hate, all of my rage, all of my inability to come up with a third thing when I’m making a list. I’ll keep seeing them, and they’ll keep making them, and truly, I shall spend an eternity dancing with the devil in the pale moonlight.
Alternatively, it’s possible that the drug-like euphoria that comes with the end credits of every single one of these movies has turned me into some kind of weird Transformers masochist. Like how it feels when you pop a really big zit.
I should probably disclose that I haven’t actually watched this movie yet. Still, I feel confident making certain predictions about it. And honestly, I’m getting tired of trying to construct entire reviews around observations like: “Transformers is sexist, racist, juvenile, pandering, loud, confusing, chaotic, visually incomprehensible, overlong, annoying, utterly bereft of self-awareness, and rife with immoral thematic undercurrents structured to appeal mainly to bullies and warmongers.” Because duh.
So, screw it. We’ll do it live.
Gird your loins, people.
11:06: Movie begins.
11:09: Why would you call a geologist to what is clearly a paleontological find?
11:10: Ah, women in a Michael Bay film. I don’t know about you, but I see people walking down the street dressed like that all the time.
11:11: Um, no, Transformers. You don’t get to take potshots at sequels and remakes.
11:13: Those are teenage girls, Michael Bay. You should resist the gratuitous midriff shots. Though, to be fair, I think this is the first Transformers movie that didn’t introduce its female lead butt-first.
11:14: The Battle of Chicago definitely would have changed the world forever…if that wasn’t, like, the sixth time it had happened in-universe.
11:14: Oh, good grief. Are we seriously going to do the “government disavows the Autobots, sends them away, refuses to admit it needs their help, is grievously wrong” plotline again? This is the fourth movie; why do they all have the same plot?
11:15: Wait, what, teenage girl’s prom was conditional on going with her dad?
11:17: Mark Wahlberg is an inventor. No further observations.
11:18: Uh-oh. Black people. Please be nice, Michael Bay.
11:18: Threatening innocent people with a baseball bat because they didn’t know the property the realtor was showing them was occupied. OUR HERO.
11:19: Wait, his daughter taught him how to balance his checkbook? What is this I don’t even
11:20: I’m not sure why J.J. Abrams is the one we’ve decided to bother about lens flares.
11:21: Aaaaaaand guys with machine guns. Because that, historically, has always worked in these movies.
11:22: Except when it does. Well, it had better still work later in this movie.
11:24: Oh, no, not that guy! He was my favorite one! Also, I’m sure we’re supposed to think the humans are stupid for blaming the Autobots for what happened in Chicago, but let’s keep in mind that Optimus Prime did allow a lot of people to die in order to prove a point to the U.S. government. Because Optimus Prime is the hero.
11:26: The non-military wings of the government are totally incompetent? What a novel concept that has never before appeared in a Michael Bay film! This should be an interesting theme to explore.
11:27: Kelsey Grammar is going to turn out to be one of those villains who’s actually kind of right about everything, isn’t he?
11:28: Is Wahlberg a member of the Quiverfull movement who just forgot to have, like, a dozen kids or something? His daughter not only isn’t allowed to date, she’s not even allowed to be boy-adjacent. I’m giving this movie the (totally undeserved) benefit of the doubt that it’s going to resolve this positively, but still, this is a little over-the-top.
11:31: Is the eviction notice supposed to raise the stakes? Wahlberg’s landlord was trying to sell his property just ten minutes ago.
11:33: Wahlberg’s character — IMDB tells me his name is Cade, so I’m just going to roll with that from here on out — seems like he’s actively trying to be less likable than Shia LeBeouf’s entitled misogynist from the last three movies. Now, he’s basically trying to reduce his partner, who paid for the truck and thus has to be at least minimally more fiscally responsible than he is, to slave labor.
11:34: The hero of the movie, upon awakening, immediately begins trying to kill everything around him. That’s par for the course, I think. I wonder if he kills anyone execution-style in this movie? He did in the last two.
11:36: “I also have a saying: I don’t care.” Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay, right here.
11:37: Yes, subtitles, I know what the CIA is.
11:38: Gratuitous Shot Stolen From Iron Man, check.
11:39: Oh noes, Big Government is coming for the Scenic Texas Farmland!
11:40: “My FACE is my warrant!” I love this movie.
11:44: Wow, it sure is lucky that Cade has, like, a freaking catacomb underneath his barn.
11:44: I think this is the second movie in this series that has done a slow motion combat roll out of an exploding barn, which is an oddly specific thing to do twice.
11:45: Wait. Stop. Who is that? Does it count as a deus ex machina if a normal person does the rescuing, but it’s somebody whose identity is a total mystery?
11:47: Ah, okay. Boyfriend. He should try to introduce himself later, on account of the whole “being chased and shot at” deal. Also, is it just me, or does he look kind of like Chris Pratt?
11:48: This escape method may or may not kill a whole bunch of innocent bystanders, but who cares! VROOOOOOOOOOOOM!
11:49: Waaaaaaaait. When and how did a second giant robot show up? Was he there the whole time or standing a mile away where no one could see him?
11:50: “Grab my stick! Grab my stick! She’s got the best hands in the business!” No. It’s not possible he said that by accident. This is not Arrested Development, and he is not Tobias Funke.
11:51: Slow motion explosion running! *does first shot*
11:53: We can add xenophobia to the list of reasons why Cade is generally a terrible person.
11:54: Ha ha ha ha ha that guy’s 20 years old no he’s not.
11:55: Boyfriend carries around a card with the Texas laws on what is and is not statutory rape. That’s a great sign.
11:56: I love Cade’s stealth spatula drone.
11:57: Wait, could Optimus have scanned himself into a truck that didn’t look like the one the government was after whenever he wanted?
11:59: Whyyyyyyyyy, John Goodman? Why?
12:00: There is an Autobot. He is Asian. He is a samurai, and one of his first lines is a haiku about flowers. It feels so good to be back in the Wacky World of Michael Bay, where anyone who isn’t a white middle American is a funny novelty person.
12:01: Ken Watanabe, how much money did they give you to debase yourself like this?
12:01: And here are our heroes: thugs jockeying for power over the group who can’t go five seconds without beating each other senseless.
12:02: “Autobots, I have sworn never to kill humans.” Uh, bull. Unless you just meant “on purpose, or directly,” in which case, great loopholes, Optimus! “But when I find out who did this, he’s going to die!” You know, you don’t really have a moral code if you’re willing to subject it to vengeance with basically no soul-searching whatsoever.
12:04: Whyyyyyyyyy, Stanley Tucci? Why?
12:05: Transformium. Nobody ever say a word about unobtainium ever again.
12:06: So, you can turn the metal into anything with only a thought. Is there a limit on that? Mechanical things only? Could I turn it into an apple? What about something that doesn’t exist? Like, if I wanted a time machine, could I just wish for a time machine and…? Nope, nope, not going to think too hard about this. I can’t wait until it starts causing gaping plot holes, though.
12:09: Even coming out of a government building, all the women are wearing low-cut, skin-tight dresses with mini-skirts.
12:10: Dramatically speaking, Cade really needs to do something other than complain about his daughter’s boyfriend. Like…we get it, okay? Cade is overprotective. Stop drilling it into our brains.
12:11: Bumblebee makes a huge scene because someone said his car wasn’t cool enough. OUR HEROES.
12:12: Also, not to be nitpicky or anything, but if Bumblebee thinks he isn’t a cool enough car, he could just scan another one, right?
12:14: “’But Attinger, buddy — you need to deliver the seed.” I don’t think the movie was even trying to have an innuendo there. (Also, thanks, guys, for explaining your evil plot to one another for my benefit. Nice of you.)
12:17: That shot of the Bumblebee Camaro was something right out of a television commercial. I wonder how much of these movies’ profits come solely from car companies.
12:17: EPIC GLASSES REMOVAL. YEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAH! (The best part is that Cade has not worn glasses in any other scene in this movie. And don’t tell me it’s part of his disguise. He is not Clark Kent and is doing literally nothing else to change his appearance.)
12:18: The action beats in this movie are so…blasé. The scene is tonally homogenous. The dialogue bits feel exactly the same. When the robots show up and starting exploding stuff, it just comes across as a thing that happened. The scene already exists in that stylistic mode.
12:19: Seriously, Stanley Tucci? You’re just going to walk up and scold rampaging robots with giant guns?
12:20: Oh, come on. Can we please not take the obnoxious, shouty little robot with the racist black guy voice with us? (Also, why are all the small robots in these movies obnoxious comic relief and also racist? There’s not a single one that doesn’t fall under at least one of those categories.)
12:21: I thought Galvatron and Stinger didn’t work yet. Seriously, didn’t we just have that conversation, like, five minutes ago?
12:22: Because, clearly, there wasn’t a version of this experiment where we didn’t kill innocent motorists. Also, Michael Bay, I know you love that money shot of a Transformer slicing a car in half with a giant sword, but there’s seriously been at least one of those in basically all these movies. The magic is gone, dude. Let it go.
12:24: But hey, at least the Autobots are gentle and cautious around human life.
12:25: Stoooooooooop. I can buy his daughter not being dead from that fall, but she basically just stood right up.
12:25: “You have no soul!” “That is why I have no fear!” This action scene banter is just…tremendous.
12:26: Having to choose between your face being a face and your face being a gun seems like it’d be annoying.
12:27: You know, the previous movies could at least kind of justify the mayhem, carnage, and relentless collateral damage (here meaning innocent people’s lives) on the basis that the Autobots were specifically protecting humanity from an external threat. But here, the threat is exclusively to the Autobots. So, everyone who’s died so far would’ve been spared if the Autobots had just gone away. But no, they need to be loved and appreciated or whatever.
12:33: Wait, so Lockdown isn’t treacherous and is, in fact, going to hold up his end of the bargain and leave Earth alone? Wow, every single death in this movie really was completely in vain, wasn’t it? If the Autobots leave, humanity gets along just fine.
12:35: Okay, I’m not sure if that joke worked or not. I did laugh when he said, “Let’s use violence as a last resort.” But the laugh came before the punchline of him immediately stabbing something for startling him. So…uh…
12:37: Stop stop stop stop STOP! The Autobots, the heroes, just fired the first shots on the civilian populace? They launched anchors directly into the nearest skyscrapers and knocked out basically an entire floor! The bad guy, who I guess we’re supposed to hate, actually had no intention of hurting anyone! You know what? Calling it right now — Kelsey Grammar is a terrible person who’s doing horrible things to achieve his goal, but at least intellectually, he’s totally right about everything.
12:39: I never thought I’d want more action out of a Transformers movie, but Michael Bay can’t do atmosphere, so all this sneaking around is really starting to get on my nerves.
12:40: Ah, okay. There it is.
12:40: Calling an Irish guy “Lucky Charms” is so dumb I’m not even sure it can achieve actual racism. Cade is still terrible, though.
12:42: Wow. Just…wow. I don’t even know where to start with what just happened. That thing in the cage… Okay, I don’t want to be crass, but that thing in the cage was a vagina monster. It looked like a vagina. I’m just saying. And then, it spits goop all over the John Goodman robot. The John Goodman robot freaks out and declares that it “shizzed” on him. He then calls it “bitch,” states that it’s too disturbing to live, and kills it for no reason. I mean… I don’t want to be one of those critics who reads psychosexual implications into everything, but… Yikes. (Also, OUR HEROES.)
12:45: You know. I’ll say this as an extremely backhanded compliment. This movie still has absolutely no sense of geography whatsoever, but other than that, these action sequences are mostly visible.
12:46: And the city wrecking begins. I need to point something out before we get too involved, since I know we’re probably going to be here for the next hour. This battle is entirely the Autobots’ fault, and the blood of everyone who’s about to die is on their hands. Kelsey Grammar is right.
12:48: I do want to clarify that when I call the action sequences “visible,” that’s me conceding that they’re directed better than other Transformers movies and not at all that they are directed well by the standards of movies in general.
12:49: Cade almost kills a guy with a machine gun and a crashing spaceship and then roughs him up for being angry about that. OUR HERO.
12:52: The little robot knew the humans were accidentally recreating Megatron and didn’t say anything. OUR HERO.
12:54: I just had that moment where it hit me that we’re basically only halfway through this movie, and now, my stomach hurts.
12:57: SOUNDTRACK! “NOBODY CAN SAVE YOU NOW! THIS SCENE IS IMPORTANT BECAUSE IT’S A WHINY EMO SONG! NOBODY CAN SAVE YOU NOW! ARE THE STAKES BEING RAISED NOW AUDIENCE! I’M AN ARTIST MOM! STOP MAKING FUN OF MY BAND! NOBODY CAN SAVE YOU NOW!”
1:19: Okay, I took a 15-minute sanity break. Back now.
1:21: “GALVATRON!” “PIKACHU!”
1:22: It’s probably just because my brain has been corrupted, but every line about “the seed” just sounds dirty to me.
1:23: I probably shouldn’t feel offended by Optimus’s rants about how awful humans are. He is a fictional character, after all. But he’s a really terrible one, and the movie’s kind of siding with him a little.
1:24: I also know what Hong Kong looks like, subtitles.
1:25: Best line in the movie so far: “Joshua, how lethal is that bomb?”
1:26: I don’t really want to start criticizing the specifics of character development and storytelling in this movie, because I will be here all day — it’s all terrible, but you knew that already. But Stanley Tucci’s change of heart really was predicated on absolutely nothing. Not to mention that he once insulted rampaging Transformers to their faces, but now, he’s losing it because the CIA is going to be after him eventually.
1:28: I don’t even know what to say about what just happened. Stanley Tucci’s salvation came in the form of every Asian character in the scene being a martial arts master.
1:30. Yeah, buddy. It turns out the roof is not a great place to hide from giant robots.
1:31: Actually, Stanley Tucci kind of has a point about you arbitrarily bringing your daughter into a war zone, Cade. To be honest, I’m not sure why the humans are still here at all. They’re acting like their only choices were “turn themselves in” and “follow the Transformers through hell and high water.” There was also “hide somewhere.”
1:33: This marks the moment that Stanley Tucci officially stopped caring.
1:34: Sure, there are giant robots fighting over there, but why wouldn’t I want to watch Mark Wahlberg and some guy punch each other for a while?
1:35: Tessa is such a strong female character, you guys. She’s only hidden in a corner and cried twice.
1:36: The camera is shaking more during the dialogue scenes than the action bits right now.
1:37: This movie is called Age of Extinction and marketed itself heavily on the dinosaur Transformers, so naturally, we don’t see a single one of them until, like, the two-hour mark. Narrative focus, it is a thing that Transformers hates.
1:40: So, Optimus Prime comes to the dinosaur robots and insists that he’s giving them freedom (actual line) but subsequently beats them senseless in order to force them to submit to his leadership and fight for his cause. Actual line: “You defend my family or die.” Spoken less than a minute after the other actual line. OUR HERO.
1:41: And now, racist samurai robot is talking like Optimus Prime just demonstrated his superior wisdom by beating someone up until he did what he told him to.
1:42: So, the dinosaurs are basically just going to be an action sequence prop and not anything that affects the plot or deepens the mythology in any way. Nevertheless, they’ll still give the movie its name. I’m not surprised by that.
1:42: Robot John Goodman’s incessant one-liners are reaching the point where they don’t even make sense any more. Fortune cookies…because they’re in China, I guess?
1:43: A big robot is riding into battle on an even bigger robot that transforms into a dinosaur, and I feel absolutely nothing. That’s what these movies have done to me.
1:45: I guess they’re wrecking this particular city to save humanity, so they have that excuse. Still, it would be helpful for the heroes to express some concern. The Avengers had a scene just like this, but the heroes were actually structuring their plans around saving people and occasionally took breaks to pull someone out of harm’s way. These guys are just smashing each other into buildings until somebody stops moving.
1:47: Characters keep showing up near the heroes even though I forgot they existed and they weren’t hanging around previously. Where did everyone come from? I keep forgetting Irish Boyfriend is even here; where does he keep going? The blond scientist is like a wraith or something; she just keeps warping into the scene. And where did Asian Woman Who Knows Karate go?
1:49: ha ha ha those people are dead now
1:49: Transformers are fighting in the middle of Hong Kong all day, and the Chinese government is just now finding out.
1:50: The slow motion reaction shot had all the great Mark Wahlberg facial expressions the Internet is going to need for the next year.
1:50: Is there an in-universe reason why Lockdown cycloned a stadium and then started dropping boats on everyone? All he’s here to do is capture Optimus Prime. That makes for a great money shot but not a great plan for capturing one guy and making sure he’s alive when you do.
1:51: Stanley Tucci is seriously just trolling the movie now.
1:52: It doesn’t speak well to your skills as a director when I repeatedly forget that your characters are carrying a bomb that could destroy the entire city.
1:53: Is it just me, or has this movie been on for eleven hours?
1:54: This movie is classically conditioning me to feel nauseous at the sight of slow motion.
1:54: Oh, okay! I get it now! Lockdown’s going to cyclone the Transformers into the ship! …Could he always have done that?
1:55: Good grief, Tessa. STRONG INDEPENDENT WOMAN!
1:56: Kelsey Grammar. Dying like a boss.
1:58: Yay! More Linkin Park songs! Or whatever this band is. It might as well be Linkin Park. This showdown is so emotional. So many feels. Emotional radio rock is so meaningful, you guys.
1:59: For a guy who puts so much profanity in his movies, there really is no such thing as a Michael Bay character who knows how to swear.
1:59: Okay, I don’t care how cool your alien sword is. A human is not going to block an attack from a seventy-foot robot. Especially not while lying on the ground.
2:01: The movie’s giving me vibes like it’s about to end. I don’t know if I trust it.
2:01: I love Nicola Peltz’s delivery on, “We don’t have a home, Dad. It blew up.” That’s one of those marriages of actor and dialogue that’s just movie magic.
2:02: Hey, the Autobots are actually leaving! Did someone in this movie actually learn a positive lesson? Holy crap.
2:03: An Optimus Prime monologue! The movie’s ending! It’s ending! This movie, inexplicably the length of The Bridge on the River Kwai and The Fellowship of the Ring, is ending!
2:03: End credits!
The most saddening thing about this is that, despite everything you just witnessed, I’m pretty sure this is the least awful Transformers movie since the first one.