Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Transformers: Age of Extinction 3D review

I like writing about film. There's a joy when I review a movie like The King's Speech (2010) and get to share my delight in the experience of cinematic greatness. But then there's the task of reviewing a Michael Bay movie. Okay, I loved The Rock (1996) but his recent ventures into the world of Transformers, a toy made into a movie franchise, leaves me wondering if his film career is about making movies for eight year olds. His recent film, Transformers: Age of Extinction, while not a family film, is not something that any thinking mature adult would like.

Transformers: Age of Extinction starts out on ancient earth. Dinosaurs are still alive. Then the aliens wipe them out. It looks like the aliens used a bomb to turn them into a metal like substance. Hold on. So a comet didn't kill the dinosaurs. Science was wrong? Maybe conservative Republicans are right. Global warming is a hoax. I kid. I kid the Republicans. But come on. Now we've got a movie that completely rewrites history without any factual basis.

We flash forward. it's four years after the Battle of Chicago depicted in Transformers: The Dark of the Mooon. (2011) Texas inventor Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) buys a beat up truck, who turns out to be Optimus Prime. You see after the heroic Autobots have gotten rid of the evil Decepticons, humans have started to hunt down them down. This effort is led by the CIA's Harold Attinger (Kelsey Grammer) and James Savoy (Titus Welliver) who's actually the Smoke Monster. Okay, that Smoke Monster stuff is from the awful TV series, Lost. The reason why they are killing the surviving Autobots is because they believe that they are an alien threat. Meanwhile, Joshua Joyce, (Stanley Tucci) head of a corporation called KSI has created his own transformers made out of a metal called Trasnformium. It's a metal found also on Pandora guarded by giant blue aliens. Er... That last part is Avatar and that rock was called unobtanium. Sorry. But really. Can't screen writers come up with more imaginative names for exotic matter. I mean in Star Trek, they used dilithium crystals. Anyway, he's created a master robot called Galvatron using the evil Megatron's head. Hmmm. I wonder how that will turn out. Back to Cade. He and his seventeen year old daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz) decide to help Optimus evade the CIA. Maybe they should just call Russian President Vladimir Putin and ask that he gives Optimus asylum.

Let me just cut to the chase. Transformers: Age of Extinction is one bad film. And I don't mean bad like using that term in the seventies to stand for something awesome. I mean bad as in not good. And the creation of this cinematic turd belongs to writer Ehren Kruger and director Michael Bay. Kruger has crafted one dumb screenplay. The stupidity of his writing is demonstrated by the actions and dialogue of his characters. Let's look at a few examples. Humans hunt down Autobots because they believe they are a threat but didn't they demonstrate the opposite buy saving humanity from the evil Decepticons? The President of the United States is so weak, he can't control a couple CIA agents? The best he can do is send some administration lackey to beg Attinger to behave. Is this a shot at Obama? Some characters are underwritten. When a comic relief character dies, we don't care. That's because there was nothing in the movie to endear us to hin. In another scene, Cade uses a small drone to scan the id badges of an employee of KSI so he can gain access to company's lab. And they act like it meant nothing. It stretches any logic to assume that the employee would not say to his boss, "Hey that drone scanned my id badge." Then there's the product placement. A Bud Light truck gets destroyed. Cade grabs a can of it and drinks it. It kind of reminds me of that scene in Wayne's World where Wayne and Garth turn to the camera using products they swore they would not endorse. Clip below. What about the dialogue? Cade demands Savoy show a warrant when they search his ranch. Savoy utters this gem. "My face is my warrant." Joyce describes the CIA's actions as "icky."

I don't know how one can top the stink of this movie from the screenplay but director Michael Bay has. First, there's a creep factor. The character of Tessa is seventeen. Bay stages one of his famous T & A shots using one of Tessa's butt in the foreground. Then to explain that it's okay for her to have sexual relations with a man of twenty, they bring out Texas' "Romeo and Juliet" laws. Shakespeare, this ain't. But maybe this is an appeal to the Duck Dynasty crowd, as in Phil Robertson's advice on marrying teenagers. Second, as usual Bay makes Transformers: Age of Extinction like he does many of his movies. They're made for teenagers with ADHD. There are needless swooping camera shots, fast cutting, hand-held camera shots to show what should already be exciting. Of course, with Bay, you got to blow things up. And if you like explosions, you won't be disappointed. Bay has now forgone setting up action scenes. Instead, this movie is a series of money shots. For example, Autobot Hound must make a last stand against a group of Decepticons. We don't get a scene of fifty Decepticons converging on this lone Autobot. Bay merely cuts to many scenes of Hound fighting. It's also one loud movie and by that I mean visually loud. It's like a visual depiction of loud, heavy metal rock. At one hundred and sixty five minutes, the movie pounds you into your seat until you swear you will never watch another summer action movie again.

As for the acting performances, I can't say much. The actors are given dumb dialogue to utter and they do it well. But it's still stupid. Tessa is written as a whiny teenager. Yeah, during one scene, where she's crawling on a wire, hundreds of feet above the ground, I was rooting for her to fall. If there's one good thing about this movie, it's Stanley Tucci. He knows the movie is badly written and he hams it up. He did make me smile.

If you're going to see this piece of cinematic feces, view it in 3D. Bay shot some of it in native 3D with IMAX 3D cameras, and converted other parts he shot in 2D. The native 3D scenes are obvious. They have depth. Objects such as ships pop off the screen. Bay is not subtle about using 3D and that's a good thing. Live actions scenes that were shot in 2D don't have that effect. Still, there's enough native 3D to give you your money's worth.

Transformers: Age of Extinction is not as dumb as its predecessor, Transformers: Dark of the Moon. But that's like saying Ed Woods's Glen or Glenda is better than his Plan 9 from Outer Space. It's still pretty stupid. The grade is D Plus.

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