Woe that meets the eye

I’m filing this one under “film,” because it technically qualifies. But only just.

I’ve finally seen my very first Michael Bay Transformers movie, and by all accounts it is the worst: Age of Extinction. I’d certainly hope that it is the worst. I have a difficult time imagining a spectacle more dreadful than that. I say this not as a hater of big, dumb movies — I really quite enjoyed Mad Max: Fury Road, and they don’t often come much bigger or dumber than that — and I don’t even hate Transformers! I think my favorite comic book in the world just might be Barber & Scioli’s ongoing Transformers Vs. G.I. Joe, which is currently in the process of supplanting Watchmen as the most impressive metatextual comic I’ve ever experienced.

So, with that in mind, believe me that I am not speaking from a place of snobbishness or prejudice when I say, “Dear god, that was so much worse than I had imagined it could ever be.”


I feel ya, Optimus.

I’m sure a hundred critics have already eviscerated the movie, so I needn’t bother. But I knew we were in for trouble when the only likable character in the movie (T.J. Miller, pretty much just playing Erlich Bachman from Silicon Valley) was incinerated about half an hour into the film. Which, it turns out, is like a tenth of the way through its total running time. I’ve seen cuts of Koyanisqaatsi  that were shorter than Age of Extinction, and that included a better narrative to boot. Of course, Koyanisqaatsi has no narrative, but zero is still greater than a net loss. Age of Extinction has negative story; its existence, I suspect, undermines decades of human literature. It’s all well and good that Harper Lee’s second novel is due out in a few weeks, but we need her to write To Kill a Mockingbird all over again, now that Transformers has erased its existence from history.

But let’s talk about all the things I liked about the movie:

  • Erlich Bachman reminded me how much I enjoy Silicon Valley. After Transformers finally ended, we watched the second season’s finale, which I had missed while I was at E3. What an emotional roller coaster! Thomas Middleditch has the most soulful puppy-dog eyes in Hollywood. My heart broke for the guy at the end. Anyway, Silicon Valley‘s temporal proximity to my viewing of Age of Extinction improved the latter, negligibly, by association.
  • The product placement was hilariously out of control. It’s not enough to show off sporty American concept cars; no opportunity was wasted to include a product. Stuff like the Beats by Dre and beer bottles were shameless but unsurprising, though. What I really enjoyed were all the conspicuous product shots of Chinese products, as part of Hollywood’s desperate attempt to make its bloated productions profitable by pandering to China. That includes the hardest product pitch of all: The Chinese government. The bit where the politician storms out of the room amidst disaster, vowing into his mobile phone that the central government would do all it could to protect Hong Kong (a plot thread never to be seen again, of course, as the plot is resolved entirely by the main cast and a string of endless contrivances) — that bit would have been so awkward and contrived in any other film as to bring it to a screeching halt. Luckily (!) Transformers was such a chaotic, ineptly edited mishmash of disparate parts that it just came off as yet another badly placed smash-cut. Anyway, knowing Michael Bay’s obsession with ooh-rah patriotism and American military might, the fact that he had to eat shit and include a scene praising the magnanimity of the Chinese government in order to get distribution or whatever over there brought a smile to my face.
  • Stanley Tucci is always great, even if my heart broke for him for being involved in this tragic affair. But hey, if being a lone shining star in a galaxy of trash paid for him to send his kids to college or whatever, more power to him.
  • At the end, Optimus Prime leaves earth to go to war with the Transformers’ creators. Sadly, this doesn’t mean the movies are over and done with, but it does presumably indicate that Transformers 5 will involve the Quintessons. Quint — 5 — that’s actually kind of clever! I’m sure it’s a total accident, but the kindly core of my soul compels me to complement a stopped clock for its accuracy twice a day.

9 thoughts on “Woe that meets the eye

  1. “…by all accounts it is the worst: Age of Extinction. I’d certainly hope that it is the worst. I have a difficult time imagining a spectacle more dreadful than that.”

    Beyond good…

    Beyond evil…

    Beyond your wildest imagination…

    There is Revenge of the Fallen.

    What happens when Michael Bay moves forward with production during a Hollywood writer’s strike? Find out after executive producer Steven Spielberg takes his name off the film following the successful original film!

    We hope you survive the experience (with your face intact).

  2. I liked Revenge of the Fallen more than the other two in the first trilogy of films. (I haven’t seen Age of Extinction yet…probably never?) It was unabashedly stupid with no pretense. It just seemed more honest. That doesn’t excuse it for being a bad film, but I was swept about by its ridiculousness.

  3. I love Transformers as a franchise and a concept. But the first Bayformers movie was awash in missed opportunities and poor decisions. It was Not Very Good.

    Revenge of the Fallen was actively bad, and doubled-down on the first movie’s weird racism and absurd sexism. But I liked the cranky old SR-71 robot, and Sideswipe.

    Dark of the Moon (Bayformers 3), however, was not only actively bad but also boring, and when you take a movie about cars and trucks and planes turning into giant robots and beating the bolts out of one another and make that boring, I don’t even know what to do with you.

    When Transformers 4 was announced and they didn’t call it “TRANS4MERS,” well, that was just the last straw. No more for me, thanks.

    • I didn’t think it was so boring, but I also think that’s because I could finally tell what was happening on-screen in the third movie.

      Actually, I think that was something I appreciated about 4 as well. Sure, few of them look like they can actually turn into anything, but at least keeping track of them was easier than Pile of Silver/Grey Metal #1 grappling with Pile of Silver/Grey Metal #2.

  4. The thing with Revenge of the Fallen is that the opening action scene in Shanghai was actually decent (not great, by any means, but you take what you can get in a Michael Bay movie.) That means it had one good scene compared to the rest of the trilogy’s zero (I haven’t seen AoE.)

  5. TF1 was an unpolished gem at best and showed a lot of potential. I didn’t hate it. Shame none of the followups came even close.

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