Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Transformers: Age of Extinction / * (PG-13)

Cade Yeager: Mark Wahlberg
Tessa Yeager: Nicola Peltz
Joshua Joyce: Stanley Tucci
Harold Attinger: Kelsey Grammer
Shane Dyson: Jack Reynor
James Savoy: Titus Welliver
Darcy Tirrel: Sophia Myles
Su Yueming: Bingbing Li

Optimus Prime: Peter Cullen
Galvatron: Frank Welker
Hound: John Goodman
Drift: Ken Watanabe
Lockdown: Mark Ryan

Paramount Pictures and Hasbro present a film directed by Michael Bay. Written by Ehren Kruger. Running time: 165 min. Rated PG-13 (for intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence, language and brief innuendo).

After seeing “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” in 2011, I promised myself I would never darken the door of a Transformers movie again as long as Michael Bay directed it.  So, when I learned that Michael Bay would be directing the fourth “Transformers” film, I thought I was done with the franchise. Then last fall I went to see the stand up of T.J. Miller, who has a role in the newest Transformers. Miller hung out with the patrons before and after the show. He was one of the nicest and most down to Earth celebrities I’ve ever met. For that reason alone, I decided to lift my “Transformers” ban. Let me just warn anyone who might be going to see the film for T.J. Miller—don’t. Miller will be in other projects more worthy of his and your time that will have a more profound effect on his career under the circumstances.

You’ll notice that I haven’t even listed Miller’s name in my cast list above. No, this isn’t some form of mercy I’m employing to disassociate him from yet another mess of a “Transformers” movie. No, it’s because Bay, in all his infinite wisdom, uses his most interesting actor and character (Miller) for about a total of fifteen minutes of screen time. If there is one actor this joyless movie could’ve used throughout its unending running time, it is Miller. Instead of Miller’s originality and boyish goofiness, we have to endure one-liners, such as “My face is my warrant,” from government stooges and bad jokes made by giant alien robots.

Now is the point in the review when I would normally synopsize the plot, but really, what’s the point? There are these giant alien robots that transform into Earth automobiles, there are a small group of innocent people that get mixed up in a government plot to hunt the aliens and those government agents are being helped by bad alien robots that transform into Earth cars. Do you think that maybe the aliens helping the feds are up to some sort of deception? Perhaps the fact that they are referred to as decepticons is an indication. It’s so nice and convenient of the aliens to separate themselves into easily definable castes though. Castes? Is that what you would call them?

Who knows? Who cares? Certainly not the film’s director, who is still making mistakes that should be studied in film schools concerning what not to do as a cinematic storyteller. Continuity is not Bay’s strong point. For instance, during a chase sequence it’s important to show how the chase develops. If the transformers are going to change from cars into giant robots at some point during the chase, you need to show that to the audience. It can’t happen off screen. If they’re cars in one shot and then robots in the next, it’s very hard to distinguish which ‘bot is which or that they are even the same ‘bots we just saw in their former forms. When did the giant robots arrive and what happened to that old truck and that Porche?

But, poor editing and direction are nothing new for Michael Bay. The biggest problem with this new “Transformers” is that Bay seems to have tried to appease some of his critics. In doing so, he has shown a complete misunderstanding of just what so many people have a problem with in his movies. In this installment, Bay seems to have slowed everything down. He takes more time than he did with any of the previous “Transformers” film. He literally takes more time. He doesn’t develop anything more deeply or make any more sense of the preposterous plot that he’s hung his endless action sequences upon. He’s just added more running time. More than any other “Transformers” movie, or any of Bay’s other films, “Age of Extinction” is unbearably long. By the midway point I was wondering just how much slow motion alien robot punching I could take. Of course, I was thinking it must be almost over by now. How was I to know I’d only reached the halfway point?

I know fanboys are going to look at this review and say I didn’t take the movie seriously. I pity the person that can. When the first person asked me what I thought of the movie, I uttered a simple, instinctive, “Ugh!” That is perhaps the best review I could give the movie. I didn’t care about any of the people in it. I didn’t care about any of the robots in it. I didn’t care what happened, and I didn’t care to finish it, but by some sort of masochistic instinct I did. To repeat what I told another friend about it—peeling your own flesh off would be a better use of your time than watching “Transformers: Age of Extinction”.

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