Transformers: Age Of Extinction
Christian Movie Review!
(AKA the Biggest, Craziest, Longest, Loudest Action Movie Ever)
One critic wrote: “Has Michael Bay lost his mind?” The director, Michael Bay, seems to have sat down one day and thought, “I’m going to make the biggest action movie ever.” Critics hated this movie but, wow, normal folks — the general population sitting in the theater looking for some entertainment — are loving it. We’ll try and figure out why in this review of the fourth Transformers movie, which takes place four years after Transformers 3 in a world where humanity is now hunting down and killing the kindly Autobots who had fought for the survival of humankind in previous films. (So messed up.)
Parental Guidance Issues at a Glance…
Sexual Content/Nudity: A couple kisses. A teenage girl wears very short shorts and revealing clothing sometimes. The camera shots focus in on her figure in a leering way at times. Although there’s no nudity or sex scenes, some reviewers didn’t like the way the movie objectifies women in certain scenes. I think I’d agree with them to an extent. (Though these same critics have raved over other more “art house” movies that treated women deplorably without making a single complaint about it. The hypocrisy of these critics can be irritating, especially when they tend to trash movies that they view as “low brow” entertainment.”)
Violence/Gore: Lots of robot violence. The film has more explosions and robots crashing, jumping, flailing, and fighting than has ever taken place in human-robot history. Some humans are shot. The only real graphic human violence is when one character is burned alive. It happens in an instant — he is hit by an alien version of napalm — and we see up close and in detail his charred body. An alien creature, who is a bit gross looking already, gets blown to pieces for comedic effect, and the results are rather gooey. A man falls to his death and we see him crash to the ground, though it is not graphic.
Language: It has what has now become the standard swear word formula for all PG-13 movies: one f-word, and a wide smattering of other “milder” swear words (s, b, a, h-words).
Alcohol/Drug/Smoking Content: A character smokes a cigar. Another drinks beer.
Frightening/Intense Content: The various alien villains portrayed in the film are perhaps more frightening than other Transformers movies. And, as noted in the title of this article, this movie is basically non-stop, edge-of-your-seat intense action. The death scene where the character is burned alive is not only visually intense and graphic, it is also emotionally intense. This movie is definitely not for kids, so please don’t think that a screen adaption of an ’80s toy justifies bringing any kids under 13 to this.
(Review continues below)
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Entertainment Value and Film Craft
It’s 2 hours, 37 minutes. Yes. You read that right: 2 hours, 37 minutes. This movie is almost THREE HOURS LONG. With the 15 minutes of trailers (I timed them), you really will be sitting in the movie theater for three hours. That’s why one critic questioned Michael Bay’s insanity, and at one point in the movie, about 1 hour 50 minutes into the film — when most other action movies are wrapping it up — this one is just getting to the heart of the plot after about two hours of non-stop action. And the last hour is even more action. It has some of the worst dialogue in the history of cinema — lines like, “When you look to the stars, think of one of them as my soul.” It also has some of the most obvious, lazy exposition — where important information about the plot is fed to the audience through dialogue — I’ve ever seen in a movie. There was seriously a point in the movie where everything kind of stops, and this little Transformers robot conveniently shows up and talks for about five minutes (it felt like), explaining what the plot device would be for the next hour of the movie. It felt about as subtle as those kids shows where the characters are facing the camera, talking to the kid, telling them what is happening.
Now, this might brand me as insane or incompetent by other people, but despite all of these terrible qualities of the script and the insanely long, clumsy plot construction, I actually enjoyed this film. Frankly, it was kind of a guilty pleasure. The visual effects and action scenes were absolutely spectacular. The movie was filmed in digital 3-D (not converted afterward, which how most 3-D movies are done, and why most movies are pointless to see in 3-D), so the 3-D experience was stunning. It really did feel genuinely 3-D, like the Disneyland or Universal Studios movie features that make you feel like the movie is jumping out of the screen into the room. I ducked my head or blinked defensively several times as things flew toward the audience. If you can afford it, this movie is a must-see in 3-D. Though, if 3-D glasses hurt your eyes, keep in mind that you will be using them for almost three hours. I had a mild headache afterward, though that also might have been because I drank a lot of caffeinated soda to get through the three hours.
Also, the sound production and design blew me away. The guy who did all the sound effects and design is a big-time Oscar winner, and it shows. I could’ve closed my eyes and just listened to the whole movie, and it still would have been an enthralling, entertaining experience.
Also, despite the terrible dialogue, there are actually some funny lines and comedic scenes too that definitely win the audience over. I laughed out loud on several occasions. The actors — which included folks like Mark Wahlberg, Kelsey Grammar, John Goodman, and Stanley Tucci — did fine jobs with the script they had. They were likeable enough (if good guys) or sufficiently irritating (if bad guys) to make you want the good guys to win and the bad guys to lose. Stanley Tucci was especially funny as his character was put under pressure in the final act of the movie.
So, yes, the critics hated this movie, but the audience loved it. Everyone in the theater was cheering and clapping throughout the movie, and when it finally finished there was thunderous applause. This is not because it’s a Rotten Tomatoes “Fresh Tomatoes” darling, as far as screenwriting craft; but because it’s an insanely fun movie (with emphasis on insane).
Product Placements and Chinese Propaganda?
This is worth noting briefly, but this film has a ridiculous amount of product placements in it — especially cars. Many scenes of the movie looked like car commercials. It makes sense, I mean, if you were making a movie about cars transforming into robot aliens, that would be a car ad gold mine, right? Well, the producers really mined that vein in this movie (and other product veins), to the point of distraction from the movie itself.
Also, what’s the deal with the random Chinese propaganda in the middle of the film? Mr. Bay should have just put something in the opening credits saying, “The People’s Republic of China contributed financially to this film; please like them.” Now, I don’t know for a fact if the Chinese government paid the studio to make their country look good, but it sure seemed like it — and that kind of thing has a long history in Hollywood. But, in the film, when Hong Kong is suddenly under attack from alien robots, we cut to a scene in a government building with the Chinese president, and he says benevolently that he will rush military aid to Honk Kong’s help. There are no Chinese soldiers or any other scenes where Chinese military has some pivotal role in the plot. It’s just a random cut-to scene that frames China as this benevolent entity that loves Hong Kong — a sharp contrast, I might add, to how the US is portrayed throughout the movie.
The truth, as you can read here in a Time Magazine article, is that China’s relations with Hong Kong — and the cultural clashes between them — have always been rocky. And, given China’s recent aggressive military incursions into the sovereign territory of other countries — the kind of stuff that makes China look bad internationally — I wouldn’t be surprised if some Chinese officials talked to the movie studio and got a little product placement of their own in there to help there public image abroad.
Though, I will admit that one possible reason for that scene was to show how desperate the situation was, as far as aliens attacking earth: i.e. things were so bad that China was rushing to the aid of a people that has been in conflict with the mainland in the past. It could’ve been an attempt to show how former enemies were uniting around a single cause because the alien threat was so great.
Or China paid the studio. Either or.
Despite the predictable PG-13 formula of violence and swearing, there are also some positive elements: themes of selflessness and genuine unconditional love — especially that of a father who loves his daughter selflessly — and there is a general theme of seeing the good in people or situations that are seemingly hopeless. As Wahlberg’s character — a grease monkey inventor who repairs junk for a living — says, “you need to find the treasure in the junk.” And, yeah, a lot of people are junking this movie, but there’s some treasure in it too, especially if you’re an action movie fan or devotee of the Transformers.