Transformers: Age of Extinction

Michael Bay likes the boom. The boom boom pow. And a lot like Will.I.Am, he doesn’t care how silly his lyrics are or how manufactured his stylings. The difference being that while Black Eyed Peas songs have their moments of dumb fun, Transformers: Age of Extinction only has moments of dumb.

Conversely Bay himself might actually be quite smart in peddling his products to the mass-market lowest common denominator. Maybe he knows audiences won’t mind that high-tech military helicopters somehow can’t accurately shoot an 18-wheeler… as long as the surroundings get blown up. Or that when said 18-wheeler’s robot mode has been defeated in battle (not a spoiler, it happens every movie), an advanced alien spaceship picks up the remains not with a tractor beam or a high-powered magnet, but with a net… as long as a hot blonde gets caught in it too. Or that the same robot, after spending most the movie driving to and from peril as a clunky 18-wheeler, suddenly exhibits the ability to rocket off into space… as long as it means there’s a sequel.

From a fanboy perspective the movie is still bad. There are a few nice effects shots, but nothing jaw-dropping or significantly different from the previous three movies. The Dinobots offer the potential for some impressive action and destruction, but as with Devastator’s appearance in Transformers 2, it goes largely unfulfilled. Fans often say they want to see less of the humans and more of the robots in these movies, but as annoying as the human characters can be, the Autobots are actually worse, ranging from a pot-bellied, potty-mouthed robotic redneck to a bright blue bot with a Japanese accent (Ken Watanabe’s second bad movie of the summer) and a sword.

It’d be nice if one of these Transformers sequels didn’t make a billion dollars so the studio would have an excuse to get a different director. But much like Megatron there’s no keeping Bay down, and even as producer he’d still likely put his unsightly stamp on the series (as seems to be happening with the awful-looking TMNT reboot).

Maybe some things are better left in the ’80s.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon

There’s nothing Michael Bay won’t go through for a close-up slow-motion lens-flared shot of stuff blowing up. No writing too terrible and no story too senseless, as is in full evidence here.

Overall it’s not as mercilessly awful as the second movie, yet on the other hand none of its action scenes match the one standout sequence from that film. The first movie remains the best of the three by far, and the sole respectable outing.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

Occasionally enjoyable purely on a visceral level for the action and effects, but be willing to kick your brain back to elementary school to get anything out of the rest.

The first film wasn’t exactly Oscar material, but it did make some efforts at establishing realism and plausibility. Revenge of the Fallen throws all that out the window for a silly story and characters that would fit right into old ’80s cartoons but don’t work so well in a 2009 live-action movie. Tons more robots are introduced, but only a select few are interesting and a couple are flat-out ridiculous. Meanwhile some of the staple Transformers from the first movie are disregarded, while fans of the old cartoons will find others straying too far from the characters they remember.

As for the humans, Shia LaBeouf’s character loses much of his charm from the first movie, Megan Fox grows more tiresome with each ridiculous Michael Bay slow-motion close-up, and as with the robots, most of the human characters play their bit parts with little purpose.

On the up side, the robot effects have improved noticeably over the already impressive CG from the first movie, and a couple of the action scenes (which are surprisingly few until the drawn-out final battle) are jaw-dropping. With such an utterly ridiculous story behind them, though, it really is hard to care.

Transformers

Pure Michael Bay popcorn, but his best attempt at such in years, if not ever. The action and effects are excellent and – more rarely for the director – the humor actually works. The story is implausible at times (okay, pretty much all the time), but I can let that slide to relive my childhood for a couple hours.