Transformers Age of Extinction: too true a title perhaps?
[Warning before you proceed to read, I dive quite deeply into the film so if you do not like major – and I do mean MAJOR – spoilers, feel free to read this when you are finished with the film for some post-film analysis. Those of you who do not give a squat about Michael Bay or his re-mastering of the Transformers series can continue onward, or if you change your mind and want to read something before logging onto Battlefield 4 to demolish that skyscraper in Shanghai be my guest.]
Finished watching the forth installment in the Transformers film series by Michael Bay, and I am not certain if I am still interested in the series anymore. The film is set some time after the attack on Chicago, and now the Autobots are being hunted in secret, alongside the more public hunt for Decepticons. Throw in a struggling American family, a bounty hunter transformer who is grey in that he bears no loyalty to either of the two major factions, and some explosions and presto: another Transformers film.
Alright let me be very frank here, I do not want to see anymore of the whole “human” side to the story. When I think of Transformers, I think of robots and robots alone: the whole GI Joe tie in back in – what was it – 2004 in the comics was the exception in that it was a war, and not some sob story featuring robots who are fugitives.
Action-wise there is plenty of it. Even in the beginning of the film we get to see the species that created the Transformers bomb prehistoric earth in order to gather living metal to make their creations: in other words the Dinosaurs went extinct because of them, and not some meteor. Fighting in Hong Kong was interesting, plenty of Chicago-style destruction put on display, and the Autobot squad is unique this time around. There is the Commando, Hound, who is meant to be the “tough guy” of the squad: carries a crap ton of guns and smokes a cigar (or metallic version of it). There is Crosshairs, your typical Trenchcoat rogue (and he does wear a metallic version of a trenchcoat) who is also the “dark side” of the Autobots in that he is willing to engage in questionable practices in order to win: Crosshairs appears to also like to shoot first and ask questions later. Drift is the Samurai-looking Transformer, and highly honour-bound: also he is supposed to be a former Decepticon but I could not detect that in his dialogue. Then finally we have Bumblebee who is STILL somewhat mute and has to use a radio to talk (poor fellow), then Optimus Prime who goes from despising humans back to his “protect the galaxy” high and mighty stuff that we are very much used to by now.
The interactions between the Autobots paints a grim picture in that all of the so-called “proper” soldiers have all been killed off, and what is left is whoever could survive, and whoever was the roughest and toughest so to speak. Hound being a Commando is probably used to the reality of war and is therefore unafraid to live behind enemy lines in the worst possible situations. Drift is probably able to live in isolation and is disciplined enough to do so, and Crosshairs is a paratrooper – again used to being behind enemy lines and is adept at surviving in that scenario. Bumblebee and Optimus probably hid in garages or some sort of abandoned complex as they are new to the guerrilla warfare genre per se: I very much like the new Autobots, proper soldiers you know.
The three new Autobots sort of remind me of a dysfunctional fireteam who can – keyword “can” – kill one another in an instant due to certain differences in tactical thinking, but yet manage to operate together in a cohesive manner: kind of like Bad Company (humor intended)! The point to be made however is that this film would have been even more interesting if they featured the Transformers more than the human actors. Yes I know Hollywood and all of that, but the cost of animating and voice-acting an entire movie may actually come out a whole lot cheaper to produce and much more entertaining than attempting to film in exotic locales and attempt to integrate people with machines.
The most likely reason behind my disinterest in the film – and subsequently the series – is that there is a minimum of screen time for the Transformers, while the human actors get nearly all of the screen time. True enough if they made it soldiers instead of civilians I would not complain, which begs the question why do they not do that instead? Special Forces troopers interacting with the Autobots, more of that interaction and some inter-species combat for about an hour and a half (because the film was two and a half hours approximately) which can save time and money on Bay’s end, and deliver a burst of action and dynamic storytelling to boot rather than the usual broken family, teenage troubles and similar that we get shoved down our throats over and over again.
Fans of adrenaline-pumping combat, Battlefield Bad Company 2-style destruction with buildings being torn open like foam, and no complex plot to ruin the non-stop action can sit back and start shoveling that popcorn (trust me I love my popcorn). Others who were hoping for some good old Generation 1 storytelling with more screen time for the robots with a human or two mixed in will find this film lacking. Also the Dinobots are at the end of the movie for the last – say – twenty-five minutes or so, therefore if you want to pay that 15.00 CAD or your regional equivalent for twenty-five minutes of Dinobots, that is your decision to make. Then again they have a dysfunctional Autobot squad now so that makes up for the lack of Dinobots who are not even named in the movie either, rather Optimus just calls them: “Legendary Warriors.”
Now if you folks are looking for a good Transformers experience: Transformers War for Cybertron and Transformers Fall of Cybertron were great games that thankfully did not screw up their license. Both take place on Cybertron, and both feature smooth animations for transforming actions, fluid combat, and a unique and enjoyable campaign. Check them both out on Steam or console – whichever you fancy. Best part about the games when compared to the films: lots of Transformers, combat, good storytelling, and nothing else!
Anyways folks that is about it for this review: thanks for reading and I shall see you next time.