(This post was originally published on 19/07/2014 on a previous blog.)
Once again Michael Bay unleashes his trademark style of explosive, misogynist, gun-toting, film making on the world, with the fourth film in a series that really should have stopped trying at number two.
The films plot follows a new family who stumble across the Autobots and try to help them survive in a time where the government is systematically hunting down and killing Transformers. There are interesting themes of racism and xenophobia which are very occasionally touched on but they are never explored in any depth, much like the plot as a whole they are shallow and mostly uninteresting. Towards the end the plot gets a little more complicated than that but only to switch from one villain to another in a way that feels messy, it would have been more difficult to follow if the strands of plot that were hanging weren’t so bland and basic. On top of all this when the film does try its best to include a plot twist it’s a boring revisit of the previous films which most audience members should see coming from pretty early on and will certainly struggle to take anyone by surprise.
Mark Wahlberg does a good job in the role of the protagonist and he is certainly an improvement on his predecessor, Shia LaBeouf. However he is out done by Stanley Tucci and Kelsey Grammer, whose intense malevolent presence throughout the entire film is arguably the best part of it. The rest of the cast, be they main or supportive, are either forgettable or simply flat. However the worst part of the films human aspect is that we’re now four films deep in to this franchise and are still yet to see any significant, positive female characters. Once again many of the women in the film are reduced down to a pair of breasts and a mouth that can scream for help, and whilst, to be fair, there are many gratuitous shots of Wahlberg’s absurd bulgy muscles, at least his character has a personality and a part to play in the movies story, It makes Bay’s vision of this universe seem a regressive and outdated even after a semi-reboot.
But there is also the films robot division to consider as well. It is clear right from the start of the movie that lots of work has gone in to giving the Transformers more personality. A great example of this is Lockdown who is a far more threatening villain than any of his predecessors despite being half the size and bulk (although his ridiculous face gun does help a bit.) Unfortunately all this work, impressive as it is, has done no good for the film, in fact it has made the characters more annoying than they were before. More importantly, its turned them into bigger caricatures than they used to be. Whilst previously jokes could be made about them now some of the characters seemed to be created to be a joke right from the start.
Visually the film is quite impressive though always feels like a bit of a trade off. Throughout the film the visuals can go one of two ways, you either see realistic natural shots of earth and humans which are beautifully shot, though involve very little in the way of art direction. Or the shots are located in the Transformers ship, where the art direction is eye catching and fairly distinctive, but an over use of strobe lighting and quick edits make it pretty unpleasant to watch. So whilst the film always looks good, you always know it could look better.
However the audio in the film is awful, whether it is the use of songs that never quite fit the scene they’re jammed into. To way too much ADC that’s far too easy to notice, to at times bad performance capture that makes actors sounds like they are in a totally different room to what’s on screen. But the worst thing about the film’s sound, is the constant quick switching between really high pitch noises (explosions, metal scraping, screaming, crashes and so on) to really low pitched, rumbling bass-y noises which are supposed to add tension and sound scary, but are used so frequently in this kind of film they quickly become boring and overwhelming. The two mix together often to assault the audiences ears with their needlessly hectic back and forth and make the actually dramatic moments very unpleasant to listen to.
Transformers: Age Of Extinction is one of the most moronic films I have had the experience of watching, whether it is the bland plot moved forward by ridiculous scenes and motivations to the outdated, regressive, caricatures of characters, to the lacklustre production of the piece. The only redeeming factor of this film is that a few of the performances on show deserve to be in something far better than this. Whilst you have to hand it to Michael Bay that he has a distinctive, recognisable style, I wouldn’t say it’s a style to be proud of. This is the epitome of the “leave your brain at the door” film, and in my mind, any audience member with a grain of self respect should demand more of Hollywood than this.
Based on a 100 point scale I would give this film