Transformers: Age of Extinction
While I'm well aware that I'm part of the problem by giving Michael Bay $8 towards a $100 bill he will eventually use to wipe his butt with, I'm still curious as to what the motivation is for enough people to go see Transformers to earn it $301 million worldwide? How many are truly fans of the series? How many just wanted to kill some time at a summer blockbuster? How many have some secret sexual fetish for sarcastic robots with human accents? My excuse is a combination of morbid curiosity to see what visual highs/comedic lows this franchise can go to, and an almost torturous obligation to myself to see as many high-profile films in theaters as I can, despite every sign telling me to save my money and stay home. This is the same sickness that will have me groaning through Melissa McCarthy's Tammy at some point in the next week. And I actually kind of want to see Deliver Us From Evil...? What is wrong with me...?
Trans4mers (how was that title not used?) continues the Hasbro toy saga of a robot semi-truck with an almost obsessive desire to protect Earth for some reason, even though most people here hate him and want him dead. This film starts with 30 minutes of cliché character development of an inventor in Texas (Mark Wahlberg, who puts forth no effort to hide his Boston accent) and his supermodel daughter, as they purchase a broken down truck that ends up being Optimus Prime, who is for some reason broken down in Texas after being damaged in the battle of Chicago. Huh? Elsewhere, Stanley Tucci has taken the transformers technology to a corporate level, developing super awesome human-made transformers of his own, that are so covert in design that they disguise themselves as the most arrogantly expensive cars in the world. So if you're a Cambodian drug lord running a cocaine empire, and a bunch of Lamborghinis and Bugattis start showing up at the perimeter of your desolate jungle hideout, assume you're about to get stomped by some 'Formers. Elsewhere, Kelsey Grammer plays the only non-comedic relief character in the entire film, as a government official teaming up with some other type of super transformer robot, who is like some kind of police assassin transformer from Planet Gun for a Face. That robot appears to hate other robots, while simultaneously hating humans, while simultaneously teaming up with some humans, while simultaneously working for other robots. Gun For Face also has a syck Lambo emblem showing at all times on his chest, because he knows how to 1. Destroy Earth stuff with style, and 2. Not draw attention to himself, and 3. Get Michael Bay a free Lambo. Seriously, if the transformers wanted to actually disguise themselves for optimal strategic craftiness, they'd all be used Honda Accords.
I'm not sure where I'm at in the timeline of the film at this point, but I'd like to say about halfway. This movie is freaking long. Right on the edge of three hours. And why is that again? By the time we get to the climactic 30 minute final battle scene, I was pretty checked out. If the editor had cut out an hour of pointless Michael Bay-ian human character antics from earlier in the film, that long action sequence might have had more weight. But unfortunately, we needed to see all twenty compiled minutes of Mark Wahlberg being an overprotective dad. And there was all that pointless Megatron stuff adding time to the film, too. Yeah, Megatron is back, you guys! The villain who, and forgive me if I'm wrong, has died at the end of all three Transformers movies leading up to this? The guy sitting next to me who had brought his kids to the movie, who around the hour and forty-five minute mark started to get restless and bored in their seats, told them "Just sit down and watch the movie, it's almost over." Which made me feel bad for the poor soul, as I knew deep in my brain's heart, that they hadn't even gotten to the robot dinosaurs from all the commercials yet. This movie wasn't even close to over.
One of the saddest parts of the whole Transformers series is how great the Transformers special effects are, for how lackluster all other aspects of the production are. So much work and detail go into these great machines that then get used with the dumbest script possible. It doesn't help that all of Michael Bay's classic (and worst) traits are prevalent. In Bay's universe, I like to imagine everyone's daughter is a supermodel, and everyone they date looks like an underwear model and knows how to drive cars really fast. This is the same logic made it so a scene in Pain & Gain that took place in a donut shop was filled 100% with women in bikinis. Of course, anyone Asian knows martial arts, and anything that can explode, will. In Trans4mers, a probably 80-year-old farm house explodes as if the walls were lined with C-4 and napalm. I'm sure I'm forgetting twenty more, but off the top of my head, here's all the products I remember getting noticeable screen time: Victoria's Secret, Bud Light, Beats Pill, Lamborghini, Oreo, Listerine, and there was a closeup on some Chinese water bottle label that we've never heard of in America but I'm sure they paid $5 million to be featured in that shot.
If you aren't a good looking character in a Bay film, you had better be comic relief. Or an obnoxious stereotype. Why is there a samurai transformer? Why would he have an Earth Asian accent? Why would his ally bot have an Earth European accent? Why is a robot wearing a metal trench coat? These kind of logic questioning queries happen in almost every scene, and it's almost pointless to ask them. At one point, when Stanley Tucci's character is getting angry that the prototypes from his lab aren't working out the way he wants, he literally starts shouting "Algorithms! Math! That's what makes these work!" We've now reached the pinnacle of lazy movie science, folks. Oh yeah, the element Tucci needs to create this dumbed down tech is called "Transformium". That ranks right up there with Avatar's "Unobtanium" as the best elements on the Periodic Table of Science Someone Came Up With In Two Minutes.
As easy as it is to bash Bay (which he rightfully deserves for a lot of things), this isn't the worst movie ever made. There's some redeemable elements. The cinematography is fantastic, as expected. I don't think I've ever seen an unappealing Michael Bay movie on a visual level. Gotta give credit where credit is due, and he's good at actually *shooting* the picture. Wahlberg and his daughter are unfathomably superior protagonists over the annoying Witwicky family. T.J. Miller is probably the best, most relatable comic relief goofball to appear in the series. Remember, it used to just be Ken Jeong shouting his R's as L's, and Mrs. Witwicky getting high on pot brownies on college move-in day. John Goodman voices a robot. That's cool, I guess. However, that tiny, sassy robot that was programmed only to deliver one-liners is back, this time with neon blue hair and an even stronger "urban accent ". It seems like 90% of characters in a Bay movie have to have some kind of stupid accent. See, I can't even finish an intentionally forced complimentary paragraph about Michael Bay without eventually just getting angry at him.
I mean, I had some low expectations going into this thing (17% on Rotten Tomatoes, haha, that's comically bad), but I would have enjoyed seeing a film actually somehow beat those expectations and be decent; more than write a bad review about something that felt like a waste of 3 hours. So to touch on it again, as much as I enjoy looking at the marvel of top-tier cinematic special effects technology, by the time they brought out their big guns, I had already been worn down to a nub. I had no invested interest in the third act. What may have been a cool sight had it taken place an hour earlier in the film, was now just met by my desire to leave the theater. This movie is too long and boring to appeal to kids. It's too long and stupid and boring to appeal to most adults. It's long. It's boring. It's stupid. In the film, after Wahlberg crashes a spaceship into a Bud Light truck, picks up a bottle, and takes a victorious swig in some dork's face, a guy in the theater behind me unironically blurted "Yeah!" out loud. I think this movie appeals to that guy.
5 out of 10
Well done Scott.
After Michael Bay's meltdown at CES:
We can be assured that this man is good at two things - making things blow up and attempting to make characters likable by making them look nice.
I agree with Scott - Bay's movies are beautifully shot, and the effects are top notch. But if the Oscars have an award for stupid dialogue...what am I saying - this movie is based upon a 1980's cartoon which was itself designed to sell toys.
So translate that into a series of movies designed to sell toys then he has accomplished his mission. Let's not over think this.
If you want effects AND acting AND story, you have Chris Nolan.
We forgive you Chris - there was no way Part 3 could have surpassed Heath Ledger's performance in Part 2.
And let's face it, the Batman movies sell a lot of toys too, or at least they try to.
But circling back to Trans4mers, the studio spends $300 million knowing it will get its money back in like 1 week, and the rest is gravy. That's good business.
I will see this over 4th of July weekend, maybe in IMAX. These spectacles don't come along too often. It's like Phantom of the Opera Cirque de Soleil - a feast for the eyes and the wallet.
Have not watched ANY of the Tformer movies. And proud.
Looking forward to Snowpiercer; looks interesting.
[Mark Suszko] "Have not watched ANY of the Tformer movies. And proud. "
Now you can see what it's like to watch all three at once, to save you some time!
It's not like even the worst of them is all THAT bad. I've seen a thousand worse movies. They're pretty entertaining, and as Scott notes, the cinematography is stunning, even apart from the CGI. Saying that you can see every penny on the screen is an understatement. I'm surprised that these movies cost as LITTLE as they do.
I'm particularly aware of this after a bit of a comics movie binge, for no good reason I can think of. I'd put Transformers above Thor 2, that's for damn sure. (How could a movie with that much Tom Hiddleston be that bad? Answer: Too little Tom Hiddleston.) Ahead of Man of Steel. Way ahead of Green Lantern. Don't talk to me about Green Hornet. Way WAY ahead of The Wolverine (2013).
I'd certainly put them ahead of the third Nolan Batman, whose name I can't even remember. I'm always going to leap at a chance to see a Nolan movie, but not if it was another one of THOSE.
Look, if people didn't have a good enough time, they wouldn't bother going to the next one. Plenty of massive franchises die because the movies just aren't entertaining enough. For this one, an A- Cinemascore (a pretty rare score, actually), from an audience 60% of whose audience is over 25. Admittedly a little surprising to me, although the fact that they're 60% male is NOT surprising.
So, people who see 'em, like 'em. They tend to like 'em a LOT. Nothing wrong with spinning a highly polished but harmless yarn for a yarn's sake, and nothing that needs a turned-up nose, imo.
July 4th here in CT was overcast and rainy, so I decided to let Michael Bay take care of the explosions for me.
Overall I though this was better than Darkside of the Moon (part 3) and much of Part 2 - whatever that was called).
Here are some random thoughts - appropriate since the movie appeared to be a series of random scenes assembled into a movie.
Exchanging Shia L for Mark W was a great move. The human protagonist in a Transformers movie has only to run, scream and run some more, but having a father figure as the hero rather than a snarky kid was a relief. Granted we had Marky Mark's daughter, who of course looks like a model, and her Texan-Irish boyfriend, we basically had plenty of Shia/Megan type scenes - totally unnecessary to move the story along, but there was not much of a story so no harm done.
Stanley Tucci was awesome playing a Steve Jobsian character. Some really memorable one-liners gave the movie some much needed levity. Bay finally figure out how to make a human character interesting to the audience.
5 Years after the battle of Chicago, the city looks good as new. Obviously the film tax credits are still going strong.
There was one part of the movie where all the main characters are inside a building in Chicago, then they get in their cars, and within 10 seconds are out in farm country. I realize Bumblebee and Optimus drive really fast, but this was disconcerting.
Once we got to Hong Kong the movie finally got interesting. The sequence in the giant apartment building was excellent, and like something you would see in a Bourne or Bond movie. Well done Mr Bay. You see, you can make good movies without a lot of CGI.
The final reveal of the Dinobots seemed too little too late to save the Transformers vs Decepticons storyline. We get it - they hate each other and will kill thousands of humans in the process.
Overall it was a fun movie if not an hour too long. I did check my watch a few times and was glad I brought an iced coffee with me.
Note to parents of very young children - leave kids under 5 at home. This is not a kid's movie. There is lots of swearing and it is 3 hours long. The row in front of me had two kids fast asleep on their parents' laps, and there were plenty of other tikes who seemed bored at points.
Note to adults - please turn off your phones during a movie. Even on silent, we can see the glowing screens as you send text messages throughout the movie.
Finally, I wonder if they will have a toy called the Bicepticon, aka, Marky Mark's biceps which have a larger diameter than the average adult torso.
I give this 11 out of 15.73 banana peels. Tucci is responsible for most of these points.
[Mike Cohen] "The sequence in the giant apartment building was excellent, and like something you would see in a Bourne or Bond movie. Well done Mr Bay. You see, you can make good movies without a lot of CGI."
I totally forgot about that scene because I checked out by that point, but as far as things human characters can do in a movie that's supposed to be about giant robots fighting, it wasn't the worst thing in the world...!
[Mike Cohen] "The row in front of me had two kids fast asleep on their parents' laps, and there were plenty of other tikes who seemed bored at points."
I think the consensus is this franchise isn't for kids anymore. It's for 30 somethings who enjoyed the cartoons when they were kids. I mean, I won't be a hypocrite, that's exactly why I'm excited for the new Ninja Turtles movie.
[Mike Cohen] "The final reveal of the Dinobots seemed too little too late to save the Transformers vs Decepticons storyline. We get it - they hate each other and will kill thousands of humans in the process."
Were the Decepticons even in this movie? I thought it was about the good robots vs the overlord robots from the home planet, with Tucci's failed creations thrown in as explosion fodder? I know Megatron randomly possessed one of them or something, but I didn't really understand what the hell was going on actually. Nevermind. I'm sure it will be back to Decepticon warfare in Transformer5: The Phantom Megatron.
[Tim Wilson] "Plenty of massive franchises die because the movies just aren't entertaining enough."
Then how did they end up making three Chronicles of Narnia movies...?
[Scott Roberts] "[Tim Wilson] "Plenty of massive franchises die because the movies just aren't entertaining enough."
Then how did they end up making three Chronicles of Narnia movies...?"
Because they make crazy-ass money. Just not in the US. They skew increasingly global.
The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, the first one, is the outlier, for sure. $745 million, 40% of that domestic: $291 million.
Prince Caspian: $419 million, 33% domestic, $141 million.
Voyage of the Dawn Treader: $415 million global, and now down to 25% domestic, for $104 million.
Wait? Wasn't Dawn Treader a flop? NO. It was a HIT. A BIG HIT.
AND, they also managed to cut SEVENTY MILLION DOLLARS out of the production budget for Dawn Treader! Prince Caspian was $225 million, leaving Dawn Treader with a still very comfy $155 million.
Even if you double that for the release and promo cost, you've got $100 million plus IN PROFIT, before you even get to home viewing.
In other words, the future of The Chronicles of Narnia hinges on the question, "How can we make money on a franchise that's going to gross $400 million a pop?" The answer: IT'S NOT THAT HARD.
At $1.5 billion for the first 3 movies, this one ain't going anywhere.
And it's not just money. "Even" the "flop" WHICH WAS NEVER A FLOP Dawn Treader got a coveted A- Cinemascore. The audience for those movies LIKE those movies. They WANT to see another.
That's not cynicism. That's not chasing the lowest common denominator. That's about taking the time and money to carefully craft a story that audiences have TOLD you they WANT to see, and when they see it, they LIKE it.
Really, what else can any movie possibly deliver? The audience ENJOYS it. It makes a profit. The fact that it's a positive movie with mainstream values for kids, that's not built on merchandising tie-ins but BOOKS is just a bonus. And a pretty awesome one. Count me as a huge, huge fan.
Just not of the actual movies, personally. LOL
"There was one part of the movie where all the main characters are inside a building in Chicago, then they get in their cars, and within 10 seconds are out in farm country. I realize Bumblebee and Optimus drive really fast, but this was disconcerting."
People not from the Midwest may find it hard to grasp, but with clear traffic and catching all the green lights/ correct tollway ramps, there are several directions in which you could start from the Chicago "loop" and be in undisputedly agrarian "farm country", in as little as 25 minutes or so. Not ten seconds, but still, quite a contrast in a short time.
Just 40-ish minutes south-west of the Loop, you're in Kankakee and Saint Anne. Saint Anne is a carbon copy of a section of Alabama or Mississippi cropland, down to the silty soil and "sharecroppers". It's also a good place to hide a body where nobody will ever find it, as Capone's guys used to do in Prohibition days. Some of the farmers there have owned their land for over 100 years, and it has the highest concentration of African-American farmers and ranchers you'll find in "a far piece". They came up with the original migrations from the delta, and stopped short of the City.
For swampland, Illinois offers that in the southern third of the state. Indiana Dunes National Park, for fake deserts. Garden of The Gods far south, or Galena, very North, for cliffs and climbing fun. No real mountains, though, that's about all we lack. You can shoot almost any kind of movie here.
I liked the film. Granted, I watched it at home and was able to pause the movie for snacks and bathroom breaks so my rear wasn't sore by the end of the film. I wonder if some of the product placements in the film are worth the money. But the Budweiser scene in the film was worth every penny they paid. It was one of the funniest and most memorable parts of the film.
I'm not sure why the female character had to be 17. Would the film been any different if she was 18? I thought it was creepy that the writer felt they needed to write in the whole Romeo and Juliet clause thing. Creepy.
The whole China cares about it's people and the Government is a well oiled machine part felt strange as well. Put hay, Transformers was able to play in China and made a lot of money so I guess I can't blame the film.
I like the Transformer movies (minus the 2nd one) and enjoyed this one as well. Michael Bay knows how to blow stuff up and it was a fun ride.
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