While I’m well aware that I’m part of the problem by giving Michael Bay $8 towards a $100 bill he will eventually use to wipe his butt with, I’m still curious as to what the motivation is for enough people to go see Transformers to earn it $301 million worldwide? How many are truly fans of the series? How many just wanted to kill some time at a summer blockbuster? How many have some secret sexual fetish for sarcastic robots with human accents? My excuse is a combination of morbid curiosity to see what visual highs/comedic lows this franchise can go to, and an almost torturous obligation to myself to see as many high-profile films in theaters as I can, despite every sign telling me to save my money and stay home. This is the same sickness that will have me groaning through Melissa McCarthy’s Tammy at some point in the next week. And I actually kind of want to see Deliver Us From Evil…? What is wrong with me…?
Trans4mers (how was that title not used?) continues the Hasbro toy saga of a robot semi-truck with an almost obsessive desire to protect Earth for some reason, even though most people here hate him and want him dead. This film starts with 30 minutes of cliché character development of an inventor in Texas (Mark Wahlberg, who puts forth no effort to hide his Boston accent) and his supermodel daughter, as they purchase a broken down truck that ends up being Optimus Prime, who is for some reason broken down in Texas after being damaged in the battle of Chicago. Huh? Elsewhere, Stanley Tucci has taken the transformers technology to a corporate level, developing super awesome human-made transformers of his own, that are so covert in design that they disguise themselves as the most arrogantly expensive cars in the world. So if you’re a Cambodian drug lord running a cocaine empire, and a bunch of Lamborghinis and Bugattis start showing up at the perimeter of your desolate jungle hideout, assume you’re about to get stomped by some ‘Formers. Elsewhere, Kelsey Grammer plays the only non-comedic relief character in the entire film, as a government official teaming up with some other type of super transformer robot, who is like some kind of police assassin transformer from Planet Gun for a Face. That robot appears to hate other robots, while simultaneously hating humans, while simultaneously teaming up with some humans, while simultaneously working for other robots. Gun For Face also has a syck Lambo emblem showing at all times on his chest, because he knows how to 1. Destroy Earth stuff with style, 2. Not draw attention to himself, and 3. Get Michael Bay a free Lambo. Seriously, if the transformers wanted to actually disguise themselves for optimal strategic craftiness, they’d all be used Honda Accords.
I’m not sure where I’m at in the timeline of the film at this point, but I’d like to say about halfway. This movie is freaking long. Right on the edge of three hours. And why is that again? By the time we get to the climactic 30 minute final battle scene, I was pretty checked out. If the editor had cut out an hour of pointless Michael Bay-ian human character antics from earlier in the film, that long action sequence might have had more weight. But unfortunately, we needed to see all twenty compiled minutes of Mark Wahlberg being an overprotective dad. And there was all that pointless Megatron stuff adding time to the film, too. Yeah, Megatron is back, you guys! The villain who, and forgive me if I’m wrong, has died at the end of all three Transformers movies leading up to this?
The guy sitting next to me in the theatre brought his kids to the movie, who started to get restless and bored in their seats around the hour and forty-five minute mark. He told them, “Just sit down and watch the movie, it’s almost over,” which made me feel bad for the poor soul, as I knew deep in my brain’s heart that they hadn’t even gotten to the robot dinosaurs from all the commercials yet. This movie wasn’t even close to over.
One of the saddest parts of the whole Transformers series is how great the Transformers special effects are for how lackluster all other aspects of the production are. So much work and detail go into these great machines that then get used with the dumbest script possible. It doesn’t help that all of Michael Bay’s classic (and worst) traits are prevalent. In Bay’s universe, I like to imagine everyone’s daughter is a supermodel, and everyone they date looks like an underwear model and knows how to drive cars really fast. This is the same logic that caused a scene in Pain & Gain that took place in a donut shop to be filled 100% with women in bikinis. Of course, anyone Asian knows martial arts, and anything that can explode, will. In Trans4mers, a probably 80-year-old farm-house explodes as if the walls were lined with C-4 and napalm.
I’m sure I’m forgetting twenty more, but off the top of my head, here’s all the products I remember getting noticeable screen time: Victoria’s Secret, Bud Light, Beats Pill, Lamborghini, Oreo, Listerine, and there was a closeup on some Chinese water bottle label that we’ve never heard of in America but I’m sure they paid $5 million to be featured in that shot.
If you aren’t a good-looking character in a Bay film, you had better be comic relief. Or an obnoxious stereotype. Why is there a samurai transformer? Why would he have an Earth Asian accent? Why would his ally bot have an Earth European accent? Why is a robot wearing a trench coat? Why does this other robot have a beard? These kind of logic questioning queries happen in almost every scene, and it’s almost pointless to ask them. At one point, when Stanley Tucci’s character is getting angry that the prototypes from his lab aren’t working out the way he wants, he literally starts shouting “Algorithms! Math! That’s what makes these work!” We’ve now reached the pinnacle of lazy movie science, folks. Oh yeah, the element Tucci needs to create this dumbed down tech is called “Transformium”. That ranks right up there with Avatar’s “Unobtanium” as the best elements on the Periodic Table of Science Someone Came Up With In Two Minutes.
As easy as it is to bash Bay (which he rightfully deserves for a lot of things), this isn’t the worst movie ever made. There’s some redeemable elements. The cinematography is fantastic, as expected. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an unappealing Michael Bay movie on a visual level. Gotta give credit where credit is due, and he’s good at actually *shooting* the picture. Wahlberg and his daughter are unfathomably superior protagonists over the annoying Witwicky family. T.J. Miller is probably the best, most relatable comic relief goofball to appear in the series. Remember, it used to just be Ken Jeong shouting his R’s as L’s, and Mrs. Witwicky getting high on pot brownies on college move-in day. John Goodman voices a robot. That’s cool, I guess. However, that tiny, sassy robot that was programmed only to deliver one-liners is back, this time with neon blue hair and an even stronger “urban accent “. It seems like 90% of characters in a Bay movie have to have some kind of dumb accent. See, I can’t even finish an intentionally forced complimentary paragraph about Michael Bay without eventually just getting angry at him.
I mean, I had some low expectations going into this thing (17% on Rotten Tomatoes, haha, that’s comically bad), but I would have enjoyed seeing this film actually somehow beat those expectations and be decent; more than writing a bad review about something that felt like a waste of 3 hours. So to touch on it again, as much as I enjoy looking at the marvel of top-tier cinematic special effects technology, by the time they brought out their big guns, I had already been worn down to a nub. I had no invested interest in the third act. What may have been a cool sight had it taken place an hour earlier in the film was now just met by my desire to leave the theater. This movie is too long and boring to appeal to kids. It’s too long and stupid and boring to appeal to most adults. It’s long. It’s boring. It’s stupid. In the film, after Wahlberg crashes a spaceship into a Bud Light truck, picks up a bottle, and takes a victorious swig in some dork’s face, a guy in the theater behind me unironically blurted “Yeah!” out loud. I think this movie appeals to that guy.
5 out of 10