Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Transformers: Age of Extinction

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion, that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! Autobots, roll out...so we can finally escape this sinking franchise!

Transformers: Age of Extinction – 3 out of 5

The Transformers films have a reputation of being absolutely terrible. Like just pure shit…like calling something Transform-ian is just another way of saying that it is embarrassing and probably should be destroyed by fire. In reality, these films SHOULDN’T be bad because the subject material has all you need to make something that should translate onscreen well. Have a simple story and make sure that the special effects don’t look like dog crap and you should, in theory, have a recipe for a good time. However, as Michael Bay has showed us time and time again, it is not that simple.
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So...what exactly does a Transformer smoke?  I'm sure there's actually a real
answer for this question out there on the internet.

After the events of Transformers: The Dark Side of the Moon (which totes syncs up with The Wizard of Oz), the CIA creates a special black ops team to take out the robots in disguise because they’re a little miffed about the destruction of Chicago (had the third film took place in Detroit, no one would have noticed or cared). The problem is that the black ops team doesn’t care if the robots are the good guys who defended us (Autobots) or the ones who were out to rule and destroy us (Decepticons). The problem gets even bigger (like “more than meets the eye” bigger) when it is revealed that the protection of the Earth isn’t why the black ops team is hunting down the Transformers and they have allied themselves with a Transformer bounty hunter named Lockdown. Meanwhile, a wide-eyed inventor (because apparently this movie is either a 80s comedy or a Sci-Fi/horror film from the 50s) named Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) accidentally finds the hiding Optimus Prime and teams with him, and the remaining Autobots, to try and stop the black ops team and a reborn enemy from the past…

Oh, and the Dinobots finally show up!

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I was going to put a pic of the Dinobots but here's the human cast running instead.

With the exception of the first film (that one was actually pretty decent…as long as there weren’t any humans in any scene) the Transformers films are all almost universally held as terrible. However, one thing the studios are good at is making me forget the terrible abuse I just went through with the last film when they release their new trailer. Age of Extinction was no exception. Seeing Marky Mark, the Dinobots and, most importantly, no Shia LaDouche, I went in with big expectations and was, for the first time since the initial film, actually excited for the movie. When the credits hit, I walked away thinking, “Well, at least it was more watchable than Revenge of the Fallen.”

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You're being hunted by the CIA and an evil Transformer bounty hunter.  Now is not
the time to pose for the cover of your Christian Rock band album.

One thing I have to say about AoE is the fact that the groan-inducing, “I’m going to give up on all happiness” sophomoric humor that plagued the last films is finally gone and, thanks to cast members T.J. Miller and Stanley Tucci, is replaced with genuinely funny moments that actually made me laugh and not feel like that the bar is getting lower because I just saw a pissing joke or saw testicles on a Transformer (and, also, there was no robo-blackface). So, eliminating the jabbering monkey that is LaBeouf and getting rid of the fart jokes and scenes that look like they are on the verge of breaking into a bad Three Stooges routine was a HUUUUGE step in the right direction…but it still didn’t save the franchise.
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"Optimus is throwing marshmallows.  I'm going to catch one with my mouth!"

Another step in the right direction is the fact the franchise finally has a film that has a solid human cast. In previous films, you either had a sleepy looking girl with an orange tan, a stammering plagiarist and once respected actors debasing themselves (8 year olds, dude) but, in Age of Extinction, we have Mark Wahlberg, Stanley Tucci, Titus Welliver and Kelsey Grammar…and none of them are getting pissed on by Bumblebee. However, having actors who are pretty much decent in almost all of their other portions of their body of work doesn’t necessarily translate into gold because Michael Bay does have a way of blackmailing the worst out of you.

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"Is the villain lighting ready?  I'm not doing any villain-ing until the villain lighting
is ready."

While Marky Mark is an actor that I, essentially, enjoy, he does have a habit of being pretty bad in some films (for example, his performance in The Happening). Why he may have never reached this moment…

Wahlberg was still viciously underwhelming in his role as the inventor Cade Yeager (it was still ridiculous that he was an inventor). He has a couple of humorous moments and he starts strong but is eventually overshadowed by the Transformers and is, seemingly, granted only a single moment at the end to showcase any badassness in the form of a decent fight scene with Welliver. However, Stanley Tucci was fantastic (not that such a fact is surprising) and Kelsey Grammar is just plain incredible as the film’s antagonist. He was dark, foreboding and sinister…who, sadly, got an unceremonious end.  So, it was kinda easy to overlook Wahlberg not delivering well.
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At the very least, he did ask everyone to say hello to their mothers for him.

Since it’s clear the Transformers movies cover a very clear-cut formula (like how we keep discovering that the Transformers have been visiting this planet since the dawn of time and we keep realizing that every major historical event has had their robo-hands involved in them), it’s no surprise that another skinny girl with a fake orange tan is here to provide a character that no woman should look up to and is, in all reality, just a blank canvas of a character whose only responsibility is to get into trouble so that the men of the picture can save her. At this point, we pretty much know all of Michael Bay’s fetishes and this one really needs to go because these girls literally provide nothing for the story. Sure, Nicola Peltz’s character is the daughter of Cade Yeager and is basically providing the fatherly instinct of protection but also provides the cliché “I don’t want my daughter dating” when the boyfriend character is introduced (played by Jack Reynor) but, when you boil it all down, Peltz is just as worthless as Megan Fox was in two films and the other generic girl in the third film that is, pretty much, indistinguishable from the other females that have been in a Transformers film.

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"Hello, I'm not going to have much of a presence in the story other than getting
saved by someone..."

The big thing about this film was it was finally giving the fans what they wanted—a complete elimination of Shia LaBeouf. However, it also gave us another thing we wanted and that was the Dinobots. I’d be lying if I said that it wasn’t these two elements that actually sparked a level of excitement in me and played its part in my shelling out the bucks to see it in the theater. While it was cool to see Grimlock hit the big screen (and kinda weird to see Swoop turned into Strafe…and with two heads, no less) it was a huuuuge disappointment to see that they were clearly just a marketing gimmick to maximize box office returns by tacking them on the end and giving them no real play. In fact, if you read the Wikipedia entry on the characters, they each, apparently, are specialists in something in their team but you would never know it by the minor screen time they are granted by the all powerful Bay.
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"Make sure to put them on every piece of marketing we have for the film and put them
in every trailer...that way everyone gets their hopes up." - Michael Bay.

While I will admit that I enjoyed the fact the terrible humor of the Transformers franchise is gone and will concede that the film had some decent action and it was nice to finally be able to actually see the Transformers kick the fluids out of each other and not have it look like a garbage truck rolling down a hill but I can’t say that the story has made any improvements. While the film starts very solid with some devious humans teaming up with Lockdown, the film starts to unravel quickly when it is realized that the movie feels like it is two scripts forced into one movie.

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"Fear my scorpion/anus ship!"

The film acts as a starting point to bring in Galvatron (the resurrection of Megatron) and while it is cool to hear Frank Welker (the original voice of Megatron) come back and it is a geekgasm moment when you realize that Welker and Peter Cullan (Optimus Prime) are pretty much reliving their glory days from the cartoon, it’s not cool enough to cover up how sloppy the story is and how the film’s running length has to be extended almost an hour to cover up the inability to balance these two elements out. When the film wants to focus on Lockdown’s place in the film, the story about the covert ops team’s motivation and the rise of Galvatron go into hibernation and you forget about them. During the few scenes when Bay wants to remind you that Galvatron is in the film and will be in the next few sequels, the rest of the story elements are tossed aside. It results in a story that feels like it is dragging itself out because it doesn’t want to leave but lacks any improv skills to make itself interesting and, finally, it ends up being a film that really makes you feel every ticking second of its running time. While the film starts strong and looks like it has a clear and present direction it is taking, the film really starts to unravel as it becomes obvious that Bay is trying to forcefully insert the jumping point for the next sequels and they only end up feeling like any orange tan female in a Transformers film: Absolutely and completely superfluous.
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Not you, though, Bumblebee.  Your tan is very yellow...also, you're a dude.

Finally, one of the weirdest things about the film was the fact the Autobots came off like complete douche bags. While the story explains why the Autobots distrust humans (the CIA is assassinating them, so that type of thing tends to make a person a little sore) but even when the humans are trying to help them and continue to prove it over and over again, the Autobots tend to not trust them…and they are even threatened with murder on more than one occasion by Hound (voiced by John Goodman) and Crosshairs (voiced by John DiMaggio).

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Crosshairs was disappointed to learn that wasn't humans he just killed.

This trend of jerk-formers continues when they are aboard Lockdown’s spaceship and Hound is spat on by a scared, strange alien creature. While it turns out the spit was harmless, it didn’t stop Hound from murdering the thing and blasting it to goo. It just goes to show you that the only thing to stop a wild creature with a defense mechanism of spitting is a robot with a futuristic gun. Finally, the strangest reaction from a ‘former in this film had to be from Optimus Prime when he engages the Dinobots.

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"Ha ha!  Weee!"

Although never actually called as such (they call them knights in the film), the Dinobots are HUGE Transformers that were prisoners on Lockdown’s ship (wait, does this constitute as spoilers?) and Prime wants them to fight for him. So what does he do? He fights them and promises freedom and instantly makes them fight and risk death for him in a battle they have no stake in and then proceeds to humiliate Grimlock by riding him like a horsey. So, needless to say, it was confusing to try and figure out if the Autobots were suppose to be the heroes you were meant to cheer on because they only come off as selfless and noble towards the end of the film. Until then, it’s threatening any and all humans with death and causing endless destruction that actually LEADS to the death of humans (that’s their defense, “Hey, it was an accident that the building came down and killed millions of people.”).

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"Yes...it was...an accident."

I won’t bullshit here, I honestly think that Transformers: Age of Extinction was one of the easiest Transformers movie to sit through (with the exception of the first one—seriously, how cool was it to see the first transformation…and to hear the original transformation sound effect mixed in?).  I thought it had some decent action, a great cast, a complete elimination of bad humor and bad cast elements, and a fantastic villain. However, the story is sloppy, the film is too long, some of the cast isn’t living up to what we know they can do, and the most anticipated element is given cheap gimmick status.  These things just end up hurting the film and keeping the movie as a disappointment like the rest of the franchise. Ultimately, though, it does look like steps are being made to correct the problems and, at this rate, by the time we hit double digits with the sequels, the franchise might finally live up to the property it is based on.

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