Sooo… Transformers… Age of Extinction. Set four years after Dark of the Moon. Oh boy, where do I begin? Let’s start with stuff that I really liked and move onwards to the stuff that never should have happened.
First of all, the design of the Transformers, especially the Dinobots. It’s brilliant! Both the bipedal and beast modes are so badass not even Megatron and Optimus together can compare! For me, the most eye-catching one was Strife. Those who know me are aware of my unhealthy love for flyers – dragons, dinosaurs, made-up beasts – anything bestial that flies – I love it. So of course I was all hyped up when the Dinobots came into play and Strife came swooping into the battle. I don’t know if it’s possible but he looks both breathtakingly beautiful and badass at the same time. The way the wings were designed – I just can’t find the right words. It looks totally dangerous and at the same time graceful. And the tail - like a phoenix!
Regarding the other dinobots – at first I didn’t even recognize Grimlock. The first scene he was in was on the ship-of-doom where he was held upside down in a cage in his bipedal mode. I saw red optics, some kind of horned helmet design and growly noises. Which didn’t tell me much as all of the occupants of Lockdown’s collection were like that, though I think most of ‘em were actually organic. (By the way, that one spidery thingy with lots of legs and even more teeth looked like the unholy offspring of Alien and those disgusting leachy things from Predator. Gross. Real gross. Thankfully, one of the Bots put it out of its misery).
Great designs aside, what Michael Bay actually did with the Dinobots is absolutely unforgivable, to which I will return later.
Then we also have Hound, Drift and Crosshairs. First and foremost – that is NOT how I imagined Hound as a realistic transformer, but the design combined with the personality is brilliant none the less! He’s badass, has a quirky sense of humor and more ammunition than a whole army! Really likable character and I’m very glad he survived the movie.
Drift – first thought that popped into my mind was ‘Why the hell is he a samurai?’ The design is really cool and his transformation sequence when he jumps of the cliffs is really cool, but I really can’t remember if Drift was anywhere else portrayed as a samurai. It’s weird but cool none the less. And the last of the new bunch – Crosshairs. I’m gonna say this straight – I.don’t like.him. His design is really cool – that one scene when he jumps in the air and the ‘cape’ thingy floats is totally badass, but other than that – he is really unlikable. He is arrogant, constantly picking a fight with the others, undermining Prime’s authority and even going so far as to thinking he could be a leader to the Autobots! Not to mention he’s harassing Bumblebee! You simply DO NOT pick a fight with Bee and expect the audience to just calmly take it!
When it comes to the new trio I have mixed feelings, but there’s one thing that really, REALLY bothered me. It was the inter-group fighting. Yeah, I get it – you’re all on the run, probably thinking Prime’s dead, the morale is low… But we’ve seen all that in the Second and Third movie and yet the loyalty and devotion to Prime and his cause never wavered. In this movie I didn’t even feel an iota of loyalty, ‘cept from Bee, let alone devotion or faith. In one scene I forgot those were supposed to be ‘Bots and thought of them as Decepticons. I kid you not! It was like watching Starscream and Shockwave duking it out after Megatron’s death!
Next what I liked was the first, say, half of the movie. There was actually some semblance of plot there, some deeper story than the classic fraction war. We have ALL cybertronians on the run – both Decepticons (which, if I understood correctly, are actually all already destroyed by a rouge human black ops organization and melted into human-made Transformers) AND Autobots. Yes, it happened what I predicted would happen from Movie no. 1. The humans turned against the Transformers, and I admit I am amazed they managed to hold back this long. Optimus Prime is by no means a saint and even the Great One can reach his limit – watching his fellow brethren who helped him protect the ungrateful, greedy, disgusting, fleshies being hunted, offlined and butchered by said ungrateful bastards was apparently that limit.
Remember that one scene from the first movie when Sector 7 captured Bee? And Sam made a stand, going so far as to snatch that nitro hose and attacking the agents? Yeah, well – not this time. There was absolutely no one who made a stand in the name of the Transformers. No one to take their side and beat some sense into those black ops bastards. I’ve watched them tear Ratchet – a field medic for Chriss sake! – apart without mercy. And he wasn’t even fighting back. He was running. Running from humans! Merciless. Cruel. That was the only thing that came to my mind at that moment and I just wanted some higher force to swoop in and squish every single one of them! Damn, I wanted Ratchet to fight back. And kill ‘em all.
At this point we also know what happened – when asked why he’s running, Ratchet replays Optimus’ message that clearly states that all Autobots are to stop any and all contact with humans as they were betrayed.
As the movie progresses, we learn that the rouge black ops organization – poetically called the Cemetery Wind – is working with Lockdown – a transformer bounty hunter that commands the ship-of-doom (I think Hound said it’s actual name somewhere along the line but for the love of me I can’t remember) full of creepy creatures, both mechanical and organic.
The catch line here is when Lockdown answers Optimus why he’s after him. To quote an article on Lockdown: ‘’The cause and balance of the galaxy is kind of messed up when different species play with different species. And that opens up a whole other gigantic world for Transformers.’’ Lockdown states something along those lines and among other things that he is running an errand on behalf the Creators who gave him the task of hunting down the Knights (yes, that’s what he calls Optimus and the Dinobots, I kid you not) and returning them to said Creators. There was also several other new elements introduced (like the Seeds that were the actual cause of the extinction of Earth’s dinosaurs) that we haven’t seen in any other Transformers continuity. Which, personally, I think doesn’t bode to well. Unless they intend to film at least another six or so movies to fully explore the implications and complications of a completely new continuity mythology they laid out in this movie, I think that we will face a lot of new stuff that will either be left unexplained or dropped halfway along the line. Me – don’t like.
To return to the point of betrayal – Optimus is being hunted down and having been nearly offlined by Lockdown he takes on the appearance of a shabby old truck that Cade (Wahlberg) – a wannabe robotics inventor – buys to sell for parts, not knowing what he actually bought until he connected Optimus to a power source. When the cards are on the table, Cade is the first human to make a stand, so to speak. Despite Optimus’ wariness and distrust, Cade is adamant about helping him. Here we also get to know Cade’s teenage daughter Tessa (unnecessary character, probably put into the movie to appeal to the male part of the audience that aren’t transformers/robot fans) and her boyfriend Shane (this one is so obviously inserted for the female audience that is practically poking in the eyes). I’m not going to dwell much on the later two – I’m just going to say it again – they are completely unnecessary, having scenes with them inserted into movie moments that make no sense at all, there’s little to no character development, and as such some interactions between the human trio seems so out of the blue that at some points I asked myself ‘What the hell was that for?’’. If there was put a tiny lil’ bit more effort into Wahlberg’s character we could have a better movie – maybe not yet respectable, but close enough.
After the transformers enter the fry, we learn that the Cemetery Wind hunted down, offlined, butchered and MELTED both Decepticons and Autobots to use their transformative abilities on human-made Transformers. The component was called transformium – a programmable metal that is found in small amounts on Earth due to the previously mentioned Seeds. Those Seeds could cyber-form the earth, using it’s organic composition to create the metal all transformers are made off. The element is really cool – you can program it and control it to take any shape and function you want. I would actually applaud to the brilliancy behind it if it weren’t for the fact that the idiots were stupid enough to download the memories from the slaughtered Decepticons. Including Megatron. See a pattern here? Of course Megatron’s head was still somewhat functional, and of course he infected the human-made creation in his image named Galvatron. And of course all that shit backfired right into the scientists faces when ever single human-made transformer turned against them under Galvatron’s command. I never thought I’d say this – but way to go Megatron/Galvatron. There were really rare moments in the Transformers universe where I was cheering for Megs but this was one of them – shame he didn’t bring the whole goddamn slaughterhouse disguised as laboratory crashing down on the greedy bastards. The Bots also infiltrate the laboratory because Cade got caught snooping around and even after Optimus withdrew his strict command of ‘no killing humans’ none of the Bots laid a finger on those scientists/butchers who killed his fellow brethren. Was I angry? Nope. I was furious.
At this point I actually realized what Bay has done – he took the best from the previous three movies and made a horrible mix out of it. Again we have a chase around the city, though this time trying to bring a dangerous alien grenade with a blast power of a tactical nuke OUT of the city. We have an outsider – Lockdown – as the main antagonist with some mythical mumbo-jumbo, we have a giant alien ship that again destroys half of the city, a resurrected Megatron... Even some particular scenes felt like déjà vu! All you have to do is replace Tess with Mikaela and Sean with Sam and you’ve got yourself a recycled movie.
What’s worse is that this is not the worst! What Bay did with the Dinobots I.cannot.forgive! Transformers fans will know who the Dinobots are – no matter what continuity, in all of them they have a couple common traits. They are independent, even if considered Autobots, nearly indestructible, a sub group of Autobots not necessary under Prime’s command. The go-to team when there was heavy artillery needed. And above everything else – they are proud.
And then comes a scene where Optimus free’s the captured Dinobots from Lockdown’s ship and brings them to Earth – a hint, that’s the fighting scene between Prime and Grimlock you see in the trailers. So, he frees them, tells them he offers them freedom, talking all that bull about freedom – and guess what then? THEN he attacks them when they refuse to help him. He dukes it out with Grimlock (how he could beat him so easily is a mystery) and then hops on his back. Using Grimlock as a bloody war horse. Not only that, he concludes the fight with words, and I quote: ‘Help my family or die.’
HOW IS THAT GIVING THEM FREEDOM??!?!?
The Dinobots have so much potential, but all Bay used them for was actually just to give the Bots a piggy back ride. Yes, at one point they were engaged into combat – but not nearly to the extent they could have been. I can’t even express the extent of my disappointment and outright furry. How could he do that to the leader of THE most dangerous sub group of Autobots?! The leader(!) of the Dinobts as Prime’s horse! Lord help us! The Dinobots can go head to head with the Combiners, can cause massive destruction, but you’re telling me they were unable to take down Lockdown? Seriously?!
I understand that Prime plays a great role in the Transformers universe, but literally FORCING him into the spotlight is just too much. First and foremost, when he was first introduced in the movie he was literally falling apart – shedding parts all over the place. Then the chase started and all of a sudden he’s back in his prime?! (Pun very much intended) Like he was never short of offlining to begin with. And don’t tell me Cade was able to repair him on such short notice and without any real resources, mind you! That just doesn’t happen. Cade’s a wannabe robotics inventor – not even Ratchet, rest his spark, could have done that.
So to summarize the whole thing – the designs are great, the movie is most satisfying for the masses as a blockbuster (as proven by my sister who loved the movie as a non fan and was enamored by Sean) but for fans who expected a lot more based on the trailers, art and foreshadowing it will be a disappointment. Yes, I understand that this movie starts a whole new series of events and was actually only setting the ground for the next round. And yes, I understand there is only so much you can squeeze into screening time. But seriously – there are do’s and don’ts, and in this movie Michael Bay had a lot of don’ts.
So, am I excited for the sequel? Absolutely not. Based on the very last scene where Prime flies out into the space, announcing war on the ‘Creators’, NO – I actually cringe at the idea of a sequel.