More like Transformers: Age of Ex-STINK-tion, amirite? This review has spoilers, because A) you’re probably not going to see this movie anyway, be honest, and B) there’s not exactly that much plot to spoil.
On Wednesday night, I went to an advance screening of Transformers: Age of Extinction.
Yeah, I know, I know. But it was free. There was popcorn. And I’m an entertainment writer—I need to keep up on what The Kids are talking about these days. Don’t you dare judge me.
And I gotta say, I was not disappointed. Oh, wait. That needs a few words in front of it. I expected two hours and 45 minutes (yes, that is how long this movie is) of stupid explosions, stupid dialogue, stupid plot, stupid characters, and stupid stupidity. And in that, I was not disappointed! So… yay?
The main (human) character is Cade Yeager, a down home, straight shootin’ Texas engineer/inventor played by Mark Wahlberg. And I’ve gotta say, it’s perfect casting, because no one else could deliver lines like “It’s picking up metal and dropping it!” with an appropriate level of dumb.
He has a daughter, Tessa (Nicola Peltz), and her main role in the story is to be scared and get rescued. I know, you’re shocked.
There’s also Shane (Jack Reynor), Tessa’s boyfriend, who has a funny LOL conversation with Cade about whether or not his relationship with Tessa is illegal. Because statutory rape, hilaaaaarious.
Tessa is explicitly framed in the movie in relation to those two male characters—at one point Shane tells Cade “I’m not here to help rescue your daughter. You’re here to help rescue my girlfriend.” Later there’s a Manly Moment (TM) where Cade thinks he’s probably going to get killed, so he tells Shane that he has to be the one to protect Tessa from now on. Y’know. Because she can’t do it herself.
There’s the tiiiiniest bit of agency there, if you squint. Near the beginning of the movie it’s mentioned that Tessa has dreams of college that have been thwarted by a lack of money. However, that bit of character development manifests throughout the rest of the movie as Tessa nagging her dad to stop pursuing his crazy inventor dreams, because women, amiright? Cade’s dedication to AMURRICAN INGENUITY is what saves the day multiple times, while Tessa only gets to come in at the 11th hour during the final fight and help Shane and Marky Mark save Optimus Prime’s life. Which, after 2 hours and 45 minutes of “Look at this stupid, screaming girl in her stupid, skimpy clothes,” is really far too little, far too late.
Oh, and did I mention the VAGINA MONSTER?
I DIDN’T? Well let me tell you about the vagina monster.
There’s this scene where the Autobots are on a spaceship looking for Optimus Prime, who’s been imprisoned. They come across an ickle caged vagina monster, which… oh God, I can barely type this for laughing… SQUIRTS JOHN GOODMAN TRANSFORMER WITH SOME SORT OF GOO.
Then John Goodman Transformer calls it a bitch and shoots it because it’s “too disturbing to live.” It’s a throwaway moment, but it’s one that, for me, encapsulates the very essence of Transformers: Age of Extinction: It looks and sounds like it was made by nine-year-old boys. LADYPARTS ARE GRRROOOOOOOSS. There’s a Japanese Transformer, and! And! He’s a samurai! An’ he has a swoooooord. There are brilliant exchanges like the following:
Cade: You don’t have a warrant!
Scary government guy: My face is my warrant.
Kelsey Grammer: On Earth, we have a saying: The enemy of my enemy is my friend.
Bad robot who isn’t Megatron: We also have a saying: I don’t care.
You can almost see the prepubescent boys going
Aside from the explosions you expect from a Michael Bay movie, Transformers: Age of Extinction has American flags FRICKING. EVERYWHERE.
It’s kind of hilarious. Less hilarious: If a scene is set in America, it gets American flags (fuck yeah!). If it’s set in China, where a large portion of the third act takes place for “Gotta get some of that sweet international box office, mmm mmm mmmm” reasons, it gets racism of the “All Asian people know martial arts” and “fortune cookie jokes” variety. And then there’s that aforementioned samurai Transformer Ken Watanabe plays.
However. However. There is an upside to this movie. And its name is Stanley Tucci.
He plays Joshua, a guy who’s basically Steve Jobs of the weapons tech industry. He starts out a bad guy, but then it turns out he was duped into helping Megatron (yeah, still here), which he should have known better than to do because Science Is Bad. (Unless it’s Marky Mark science. Then it’s good. But there are some mysteries of the universe you just Should Not delve into, OK?!?! Because tropes!)
I’m not going to ask why Tucci is doing this movie, because I think I know the answer, and I think it rhymes with “schmoney.”
I will ask, though, how Stanley Tucci’s able to be in a movie with lines of dialogue like “We don’t have a home, Dad! It blew up!” and somehow turn in a good—nay, I’ll say it, a great performance. Does he have magic? Did he make a deal with the devil?
How does he always manage this, no matter what shit movie he’s in? WHAT IS HIS SECRET?!
All in all, Transformers: Age of Extinction is an offensive, horrible mess. But, that said… sitting in an air conditioned movie theater on a boiling summer day watching this movie is not the worst way I could have spent two hours and 45 minutes of my life. I would not, for example, rather have been getting a root canal. Such praise. I know.
But this is the first Michael Bay movie I’ve seen. I went in expecting the worst of the worst, so I tuned my brain to about 15% capacity, and having done that… it was a terrible movie, but it wasn’t a terrible experience. I don’t regret having gone. I saw Stanley Tucci do his Stanley Tucci thing. And there are parts of the movie that are unintentionally really funny… until you remember that this movie was not made by nine-year-olds, but by adult men who spent hundreds of millions of dollars on it and got paid more than I make in several years. Then it kind of sucks.
Don’t get me wrong—I would not recommend spending money on it. But if a someone came up to you and said you had two options, seeing Transformers: Age of Extinction and taking a bath in a tank full of half-dead, putrid slugs, you should definitely go with the former.
And the first scene has the dinosaur extinction being caused by alien robots. So. There’s that.