A little over a week ago (and thanks to my childlike and somewhat ridiculous public excitement – I blame the Superbowl) those super lovely people at Paramount Pictures invited me to a ‘super-fan screening’ of Transformers: Age of Extinction (TF4), at the biggest screen in Britain, the London BFI IMAX.
I’m not kidding around, when that first trailer dropped, I admit it: I was so much SUPER FAN NUMBER ONE that my excitement was palpable.
Optimus Prime. Riding a dinosaur (or Grimlock as
we geeks know him). You can’t get any more balls-to-the-wall nerdgasmic than that. No siree Bob.
Now, let’s fast forward to the super-fan who has seen the film. First off, if you’d spoken to me the moment I left the cinema I probably would’ve said something like: ‘Transformers 4 is probably the most unintentionally hilarious film I’ve seen all year.’ – it’s almost tongue in cheek with its brazen audacity and the belief-suspending leaps of faith it puts before you.
Example: yes I accept we’re dealing with house-sized transforming alien robots but MARK WAHLBERG IS PLAYING AN INVENTOR. Think about that for a second.
If you go into the film capable of accepting that as a fact (or as a running joke) then you’re in for a fun ride.
Mark Wahlberg and the Transformers are pretty much the perfect combination. Brilliant. #TRANSFORMERSREVIEW
— James Whatley (@Whatleydude) July 2, 2014
Story wise, it’s not bad: four years after The Battle of Chicago (see Transformers: Dark of the Moon– well, don’t see it, just know that it happened in that film) Transformers of all kinds are hunted all over the world and have, in the main, gone into hiding. Marky Mark’s CADE YEAGER (great name), a modern day rag-and-bone man, happens to find an old truck that he wants to break up and sell for parts.
Thing is, the old truck just happens to be one Optimus Prime (rocking an awesome nod to his original 1980s form) and then, well, someone tells the Feds and everything rolls out from there.
Before we carry on, let’s get the whole MICHAEL BAY thing out of the way. In my last Five things on Friday post I linked to an 8min video of what makes a Michael Bay movie (it’s 8mins long, worth watching, and embedded below).
TF4 is no break from this style.
In fact, Bay embraces it.
TF4 is pure Bayhem.
Soft country music, US flags flowing in the wind, low shots looking up (for no reason whatsoever), slowed down battle scenes – it’s all there. In fact, TF4 it so Michael bay, it almost verges into self-parody.
This is a man that loves American sunsets so much that in the opening chase, you go from glorious daylight, to an orange dusk, to a sunset over farmland, back to daylight (racing through fields), back to sunset (this time in the city), then to daytime (escaping on what can only be an actual race track – with the action and editing such that maybe he hoped you wouldn’t notice) to sunset again but this time out on the desert plains.
Obviously all these places exist in or near Chicago (probably) but are they all within 15mins of a farmhouse? With bonus magical yo-yo sunsets to boot? I don’t think so.
Example: these two images take place within minutes of each other.
Notice anything about the lighting?
It’s easy to criticise Bay. Too easy. But y’know what? The man nails bombastic action like no other and while the story may not be the best in the world, it’s better than previous efforts and jettisoning the ineffective Shia LeBeouf means what plot is there isn’t being held up by the acting equivalent of a damp cloth.
‘Yeah but, it’s just another robot smash up, but this time with dinosaurs, right?’
Well, yes (that’s the whole point) and no.
The first Transformers film was pretty good (purely because, aside from a novelty dancing robot car commercial, we’d never seen the Transformers made real before) but the following two sequels were rubbish. Terrible even. Age of Extinction breaks that mould and, contrary to the finality of its title, actually breathes new life into the franchise.
The Transformers themselves, leaving the obvious war hero tropes aside, are given at least some attempt of being different from one another, as well bit of personality to them (thank you John Goodman and Ken Watanabe). Plus, for the geeks, we get a new set of Decepticons, a couple of new kinds of Transformers (oh hey Drift, what’s that? You’re a Bugatti Veyron and a helicopter? Sweet!) and a brand new Decepticon leader.
But no more on that one…
On the character front, probably the best addition to TF4 is that of Lockdown, the gun [for-a-head] toting robot seen in nearly every bit of promotional material you would’ve seen.
This guy, standing in front of the monster space ship –
He’s a bounty hunter, with no affiliation to either side, and his presence not only mixes with motivations and ideologies of the characters we’ve known so far but also alludes to a larger story yet to be told.
Plus he’s a badass. That helps.
In closing, TF4 is Michael Bay doing his best impression of Michael Bay and it’s got robots that transform into dinosaurs and Mark Wahlberg saying things like ‘I think we found a Transformer!‘
It doesn’t matter what I say to you (really, it doesn’t), I doubt very much my opinion will sway you. If you’ve decided to see it, you’ll see it (see it BIG) and if you haven’t well, you know you’re not missing out.
I started off this review saying that TF4 is basically a joke but the more I think about it, the more it’s been growing on me. Put it this way: I can safely say Transformers: Age of Extinction is the best and most Transformer-y Transformers since the first one.
You’ll love to hate it or you’ll hate yourself for loving it.
In cinemas now.