Monday, July 7, 2014

Transformers: Age of Extinction - Zero Stars

When did summer blockbusters become hostage situations? When did referring to them as "jaw-dropping" cease to describe their awe-inspiring imagery, but rather their perpetual-yawn inducing relentless stupidity? Just what is it, exactly, for a film to have no value whatsoever? I'm sad, but not at all surprised to admit that these are the questions that ran through my mind while being subjected to Transformers: Age of Extinction, Michael Bay's nearly three-hour fourth installment in his banner franchise of hollow spectacle.

Three years removed from the last time I watched Bay's giant CGI robots fight it out over the course of a bloated run-time, with a miserable intermission in the form of his vile, hate-fueled Pain & Gain (reviewed here), I'm almost ashamed that I endorsed Dark of the Moon (reviewed here) with the mild praise that I did, even giving a tacit thumbs up to Bay's penchant for misogyny, lumping it in as part of the "spectacle," rather than identifying it as the progressively-growing weakness of a filmmaker no longer able create legitimate lasting images. And coming from an Armageddon devotee, I count Ben Affleck trotting an Animal Cracker from Liv Tyler's cleavage to her waistline as a lasting image... I don't know what that says about me, but it certainly doesn't say much for Mr. Bay.

I don't know what it was, exactly, that made me enjoy Dark of the Moon; perhaps it was the ho-hum summer slate of 2011 combined with the fact that that particular set of robots and boobs was actually an improvement on the previous incarnation. Whatever it was, it no longer applies, and I don't think I can ever again trust the version of myself that gave it the OK.

Am I overreacting? No. It's not that Age of Extinction is devoid of any craft. It actually displays considerable talent. In addition to some incredible effects, Extinction also boasts some great cinematography, along with some really beautiful compositions; it reminded me that somewhere deep down, Michael Bay is a truly talented filmmaker, albeit one who has completely lost the ability to string together more than a few minutes of worthwhile material, especially troublesome when he inflicts 165 minutes of cruel repetition on us this time around.

Worse still is that these positive aspects were often contradicted by their context, many of them coming in the first hour, in which Bay seems to be making a concerted effort to develop his characters, showing us Mark Wahlberg's struggling inventor farm-boy father trying to raise a daughter who Bay refuses to clothe, so we get images of college loan refusal and silhouetted dad contemplatively looking off into beautiful sunsets, which would have been effective had we not seen three other Transformers films which conditioned us to ignore the human drama that inevitably gets paved over an hour later by robots bashing each other to bits, as happens an hour after Wahlberg ponders that gorgeous sunset.

But it's not just the ironic negation of the modicum of quality that the film shows, but the utter pointlessness of its being that makes Extinction such a chore to watch. Cut out the stupidity, the misogyny, the out-of-place cliche Japanese samurai Transformer, and you still have a tortuously long blockbuster with an asinine script and played-out imagery that we've seen for nine hours already... How much more robot-on-robot crushing and crinkling can anybody really take? Considering the fact that there's nothing new here, no fresh take, despite the re-boot set-up, Bay and company seem to think audiences are game for hours and hours more of these tired images. I for one say they're wrong, which is why I bought a ticket to a different film when I saw Extinction, and I hope you will to, if you feel the need to watch this trash out of obligation because you saw the other three, because in Hollywood you vote with your dollar, and a ticket to this only begs for Transformers 5, and who knows what wretched depth that film will reach? I definitely don't want to feel obligated to find out.