Film and TV

Reviews for the Easily Distracted:
Transformers: Age of Extinction

Title: Transformers: Age of Extinction

Does Michael Bay Make Non-Transformers Movies Anymore? Only one -- Pain and Gain -- since 2007. Bay is what you'd get if you put James Cameron's ego in Paul W.S. Anderson's body.

Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: One-half refreshing Mountain Dew bottles out of five. Nothing does it like a Dew!

Brief Plot Synopsis: Whirrrrr! CLANK! Eenk-enk-onk-ook! CRASH! Ratatatatatat! BOOM! Graaaaahhhh! BAM! "Optimus!"

Tagline: "This is not war, it's extinction."

Better Tagline: "Where have you gone, Isaac Asimov? A nation turns its lonely eyes to you."


Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: Transformers killed the dinosaurs. Then Shia LaBeouf was born, but he and Megan Fox were too mouthy to the press, so they were "disappeared" four years ago after Chicago was destroyed. Luckily, Mark Wahlberg agreed to relocate to Texas with blond Fox-ish daughter Nicola Peltz, where they rescue Optimus Prime from the CIA and Frasier Crane and deliver him to China so he can ride a robot dinosaur [inserts gun in mouth].

So Why Half A Mountain Dew Bottle? Why Not None? Because Silicon Valley's T.J. Miller plays Wahlberg's best friend and co-worker, and he's hilarious. He also dies in the first 20 minutes.

"Critical" Analysis: Transformers: Age of Extinction is 165 minutes long. That's just shy of three hours, and two days after mostly sitting through the movie (more on that later), I'm still at a loss to explain why.

Director Michael Bay, abetted for the third time in the franchise by screenwriter Ehren Kruger, endeavors mightily to get you to give a shit about *something.* It seems at some point after the events of Dark of the Moon, the U.S. government was convinced the Autobots were a threat (against all evidence to the contrary, of course). There's now an elite CIA unit dubbed "Cemetery Wind," under the command of Harold Attinger (Kelsey Grammer, burning through the meager reserves of goodwill left over from Frasier), hunting Autobots. There's also an intergalactic robot mercenary named Lockdown (Mark Ryan) working with the CIA to hunt Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen) and return him to the mythical "Creators" of the Transformers.

But wait! You also get Stanley Tucci as Joshua Joyce, the head of KSI, a future-tech firm that's discovered how to build their own Transformers using the (patented, of course) element called "Transformium." KSI is also in cahoots with Attinger, until Joyce naturally realizes the error of his ways and decides becoming Nazi rich isn't worth abandoning his humanity, because that always happens.

There are also Dinobots. Eventually. Like, over two hours into the movie. If your sole motivation for attending T:AoE is to see that not-at-all ridiculous image of Prime riding Truckasaurus Grimlock on the movie poster come to life, your entire viewing experiences is going to be 95 percent "When are they going to get to the fireworks factory?"

But this has been the hallmark of all Transformers movies:

1. Pound the audience's brains into stupefied mush with a fusillade of incoherence.
2. ???
3. Profit!

The question marks in Step 2 represent one of the eternal questions. Why are we here? Is Elvis really dead? What compels otherwise normal human beings, who are apparently capable of retaining employment and operating basic household appliances, to spend money on the cinematic equivalent of Gregor Clegane crushing their skull with his bare hands?

Is it Bay's military fetishism? Here, even an ostensibly evil force like "Cemetery Wind" is depicted with such slavering obsequiousness you can practically feel the director's off-camera erection poking you in the back. Maybe it's the idea of giant robots beating the robo-shit out of each other (I like how John Goodman uses his Robot Santa voice from Futurama for "Hound")? Perhaps you're an automobile enthusiast? In that case, you're really in luck, because Lockdown transforms into a, uh, Lamborghini Epididymus. And there's a new Decepticon that turns into a, er, Pagani Phallus. Pretty sweet.

Or maybe you're a Mark Wahlberg fan. He's really at the top of his game here, playing an eccentric inventor who's coincidentally yoked like a UFC fighter. He lives in Paris, TX, where he grew up, though through some strange idiomatic anomaly speaks with a Boston accent, veering from quasi-nerd talk one moment to full-on Southie "COME AT ME BRO" the next. Congratulations, Denise Richards; you're no longer the most laughable movie scientist of all time.

As with the plot itself, Bay's attempts at social commentary are flung at the screen like so much monkey-propelled feces with little regard given to what will stick in a crying toddler's hair. What's the film's position on warrantless searches and the rise of the security state? The patenting of genomes? Technology's place in mankind's future? Who the hell knows? About the only viewpoint I'm sure Bay feels strongly is the one that's remained consistent through all four movies: he really digs young women's thighs, judging by the dozen or so low-angle shots of Peltz's haunches.

And yet I must confess: I did not watch the entire film. After one hour and 45 minutes of dismal, computer-generated shitshow and Funky Bunch-less Marky Mark, I was done. I'm too old to waste any more of my life letting Michael Bay piss on my face and tell me it's raining. And so is anyone not still in grade school.

Transformers: Age of Extinction is in theaters today. Gee, that was cathartic.

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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar