Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Geek Girl Review: Transformers Age of Extinction- Part 1

We here at Capital Geek Girls are all about different points of view. So sometimes, we'll have two people review the same movie just to see what happens. Here is Part 1 of our duo of Transformers reviews. 

By Marie Victoria Robertson

Let me be honest: I am a gigantic Transformers fan, which means I can be extremely forgiving when it comes to Transformers fandom. The classic 80’s cartoon is cheesy as heck and doesn’t stand up to the test of time that well, but if you badmouth it, I will flip a chair. 

I happen to like the first Michael Bay Transformers movie. Shia LaBeouf wasn’t a problematic jerk yet and Megan Fox played a surprisingly competent female lead (hey, at least the woman could fight and knew how to hotwire a truck). We got the “breep-breep-brap-brap-brum” classic transforming sound. Best of all, we got to see Optimus Prime on the big screen, quoting his classic quotes in Peter Cullen’s voice. Sure, it was a bit of a mindless action-fest, but as a Transformers fan, I like watching huge robots smacking each other around. 

The second and third movies were epic disappointments in every way. I was cautiously hopeful when the fourth movie was announced; different human casts, new story direction, Dinobots… maybe this movie would be Michael Bay’s redemption.

This is why I’m sorry to report that, even with being the die-hard fan I am, I was extremely disappointed in Age of Extinction.

The problem with these movies (among other problems) is that they’re starting to feel less and less like Transformers movies, and more like mediocre action movies with Transformers awkwardly tacked on. The plot of AoE was so disjointed that it was difficult to tell what the stakes were until two-thirds into the movie: a CIA Black Ops led by Harold Attinger (Kelsey Grammer) is hunting down Autobots and Decepticons with the help of Lockdown, a Transformer mercenary who is looking to capture Optimus Prime as his prize. Attinger is working with Joshua Joyce (Stanley Tucci), a Steve Jobs doppelganger who wants to get his hands on transformium, the ‘programmable matter’ the Transformers are made of, so he can create his own robots for profit. Somewhere along the way, Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) and his family get caught up in the action when they find a deactivated Optimus Prime and help fix him.

Then the action moves to Hong Kong, and the Dinobots show up, and it’s all kind of anticlimactic. 

I wouldn’t watch the movie again, but I would watch parts of it again. Here are my notes, from worst to best, about this movie:

  • Galvatron. No, you can’t grab such a classic character and… essentially do nothing of note
    with him, and ignore everything that made him crazy awesome. Galvatron is a rebuilt form of Megatron, and that’s all he had in common with the original.
  • I love action scenes, but even I got bored during the final battle. 
  • Cade’s daughter, Tessa (Nicola Peltz). Apparently it would have killed Michael Bay to give us a female lead who does more than gets captured and need to be rescued.
  • On a similar note, while Mark Wahlberg was an okay lead, his constant refrain of “TESSA PUT PANTS ON AND DON’T DATE” was annoying as hell. Also statutory rape jokes are Not Cool. 
  • Kelsey Grammer’s CIA character and story were just odd. Did he wander in from a different movie?
  • What’s the deal with these new Transformers characters? Why can’t they grab some of the classics, like they did for the first movie? Wheeljack? Springer? Anyone? 
  • And why does every new Transformer need to have a “shtick”? I got sick real fast of John Goodman’s army commando and Ken Watanabe’s samurai (I mean, seriously? And he speaks in haiku? Seriously?)
  • However, as much as John DiMaggio’s Australian Autobot was jarring, I kind of liked him. He had a cool design and something about him reminded me of Beast Wars Rattrap.
  • As one of the few remaining classic Autobots, it was nice to see Bumblebee again.
  • Stanley Tucci as Joshua Joyce, the Steve Jobs-like inventor billionaire, was surprisingly funny and awesome.
  • Can I just mention Li Bingbing as Su Yueming, Joyce’s business partner? That lady was fierce and AWESOME. I wish we could have seen more of her.
  • The idea behind transformium-created Transformers is admittedly neat and watching them transform was cool to see.
  • Lockdown, the Transformer mercenary. I thought he was cool. Don’t judge.

  • The Dinobots. They didn’t speak (Me Grimlock have no lines!) and only showed up in the final battle, but… holy cow, they were huge, and pretty darn awesome.
  • The classic theme shows up as someone’s ringtone!
  • Optimus Prime. Optimus will always be the single best thing about these movies. He had an interesting character arc here, going from angry and bitter at humanity to learning to care for humans again. And frankly, I could listen to Peter Cullen reading the menu from Tim Hortons.

Would I recommend Age of Extinction? Honestly, no. Not unless you’re a die-hard Transformers fan, and even then. There are more Transformers movies on the horizon, but I don’t see anything improving unless the studio finds a different director, hires a better screenwriter, and gives us better female characters and a story focused on G1 characters. 

And Unicron. Unicron wouldn’t hurt. 

Marie Victoria Robertson is a published speculative fiction writer and playwright, as well as the board president of Jer’s Vision: Canada’s Youth Diversity Initiative (www.jersvision.org). When all the other girls wanted to marry Johnny Depp, she wanted to run away with Worf on the Enterprise. She enjoys giant robots, time-travel paradoxes, and forcing her son to watch Futurama.

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