Friday, 27 June 2014

Movie Review: Transformers: Age of Extinction

The Transformers film franchise, which started in 2007, was always highly criticized for its chaotic, messy plot, over-the-top bad acting, the tasteless, offensive and crude humour, cheesy and cliché ridden dialogues, blatant product placement for companies and overly long screen time for every instalment. But, why people still flocking to the cinemas to watch them? It is simply because Michael Bay always managed to leave the audience wowed each time with realistic and life-like CGI robots, big action sequences with explosions, beautiful scenery, stylish luxury sports cars and attractive young stars.

The film takes place 5 years after the events of Dark of the Moon, start fresh by telling a new story with the Yaegers replacing the Witwickys, which got caught up in the battle between man and machine when Cade bought a rundown trailer truck, unaware that it's actually Optimus Prime himself. This puts him and his family right in the path of ruthless corrupted CIA agents, who seeks to destroy all Transformers and eliminate anyone who's involved with them. Many of the Autobots or Decepticons who remained on Earth are either hunted down and killed or forced into hiding.

The film takes a serious approach, darker tone compared with the previous trilogy. It has a more complicated plot compared to the previous trilogy. The story centers around the Yeagers' father-daughter relationship, which is slightly refreshing and better compared with the unrealistic relationships between Witwicky and his two exceptionally hot girlfriends. For this film, Michael Bay finally managed to clear up the film's visuals with better action choreography. The slow-motion action sequences actually help the audience to follow what is happening on screen and who's fighting who. This makes the action sequences more enjoyable for a wider audience. Not to mention, Bay also reduces and removes many of the stupid, offensive, racist jokes that the previous trilogy had.

Another noticeable improvement which never been done in the previous films: developing distinctive personalities for the robot characters by giving them more screen time to interact with each other. This time, Bumblebee shares his screen time with the newly-introduced Autobots (Hound, Drift and Crosshairs) for the audience to really get to know them, instead of being just big hunks of metal clanging against each other. The film has lesser military combats and focusing more on the robot action. There are more interesting character dynamics between them than before, especially Optimus. Optimus is more compelling than previous films, showing his anger and disappointment towards the humans for their betrayal. He is losing faith in humanity and questioning his ideals. Lockdown was amazing and he is perhaps the most memorable Transformer villain of the franchise. His character motivations were clear and he has the best entrances and lines in the film as well.

As usual, the visual effects by ILM are absolutely stunning and groundbreaking. The CGI effects actually manage to bring these non-existent mechanical beings to life. The details of the Autobot transformation remains impressive and convincingly realistic. The film still managed to put me in awe at how lifelike these robots are on screen, despite the fact that it's 7 years after the first Transformers film. It is truly a sight to behold when Optimus rides the fire-breathing Grimlock to war after he swiftly convinces the Dinobot leader to assist his cause. Once again, ILM has proved that they are the best in the visual effects industry.

Mark Wahlberg has proved himself that he's a better actor and a better lead than Shia LaBeouf. Mark actually involves himself in the action sequences, never overacts, runs and screams "Optimus!!" or "Bee!!" like Shia in the previous trilogy. Stanley Tucci is also better as the tech corp KSI founder Joshua Joyce compared with the annoyingly stupid Agent Simmons (John Turturro) or Leo Spitz (Ramón Rodríguez) in past films. Kelsey Grammer is perfectly cast as the villainous CIA black-ops head, Attinger as well. Unfortunately, Nicola Peltz's character as Cade's daughter and Jack Reynor's character as her boyfriend falls flat though, with Reynor giving the worst performance among the cast.

Despite the numerous improvements, the film still suffers from numerous plot logic issues, cheesy bad dialogues and unnecessary scenes, overdone jokes that failed miserably (not all, some worked though) and lots of annoying blatant product placement advertisements to reduce the film's budget. The film also feels overly long with its 157 minutes of running time (excluding film credits). A lot of unnecessary scenes can be removed to tighten up the story. Dinobots are the main attraction for this film, but sadly there's not a lot of screen time for them at all. It would be interesting to see more of them in robot mode, speaking and interact with other characters in the film. The film also ends abruptly with many questions left unanswered in the end, which opens for another sequel again.

Overall, this is not a great film by any means, so do not expect deep, meaningful story lines which this film does not have. However, this one actually have its heart at the right place this time compared with the previous two sequels. Age of Extinction is the film that Transformers should have been a long time ago. In my opinion, it's the best Transformers film so far. A decent blockbuster entertainment.


Cade Yeager: "You're not actually leaving, are you?"
Optimus Prime: "How many more of my kind must be sacrificed to atone for your mistakes?"
Cade Yeager: "We’re humans; we all make mistakes, Prime. That's what we're good at. But out of those mistakes come some beautiful things. When I was fixing you, I was just thinking of money, to take care of my family. I'm asking you to look at the junk and see the treasure. You gotta have faith, Prime. Maybe not in who we are, but in who we can be."

To note, I always have a love/hate relationship with the Transformers film series. I hate them because of the messy, flawed story, over-the-top bad acting, distasteful, stupid, offensive and crude jokes, cheesy and cliché ridden dialogues, lack of character development for the robots. Because of these issues, I cannot give a higher rating for the previous trilogy. But, I also love them very much because of the realistic, lifelike CGI robot designs and the awesome action sequences. These are my guilty pleasure films. For comparisons, here are my ratings for the previous films: 
  • First Transformers:        6/10 
The first film that put many viewers in awe, we never would have thought we could ever see realistic, lifelike robots on screen. The story was acceptable, but filled with over-the-top bad acting from the leads, stupid, offensive crude jokes and cheesy dialogues and lack of character development for the rest of the robots, except Bumblebee and Optimus. It has a boring, draggy 'Autobots hiding at Sam's house' scene, an unsatisfactory climactic battle. Best action sequence in the film: Optimus VS Bonecrusher.
  • Revenge of the Fallen: 4.5/10
The worst film in the series. The plot is messy and chaotic, a lot of plot holes, contrivances, over-the-top bad acting, filled with offensive, stupid, racist, sexist jokes, cheesy and cliché ridden dialogues, blatant product placement for companies, no character development for the bots and overly long screen time. The Twins and Wheelie made you hate the Transformers. Also, Devastator has balls. Some Autobots 'magically' appear and disappear throughout the film. An extremely unsatisfactory Optimus VS The Fallen battle. But, it has one of the best action sequence in the franchise: 1 VS 3 forest fight.
  • Dark of the Moon:       6.5/10
A much improved sequel with darker, serious tone, link historical events as part of the story and comes with a plot twist. Provide more screen time for other bots, not just Optimus or Bumblebee. The offensive, stupid, racist, sexist jokes were lesser, product placements were less obvious, have a few credible actors in it, but has an overly long screen time. It has a few excellent action sequences: highway chase scene, 2 VS 2 fight, the whole alien invasion third act, Optimus VS Sentinel.

I've managed to find one of the best reviews written so far by a critic named Mark Hughes, let me quote some of his best written lines here:

"Some viewers and critics seem to have lost their ability to comprehend that yes, sometimes entertainment is strictly that, and even a silly premise serves its purpose as long as it embraces its own silliness and does its best to deliver on that premise in the most entertaining and unrestrained way. It’s okay for some movies to be silly and not make much sense because making sense would eradicate the premise itself. Some films doesn’t need to be over-explained or grounded in realism or any of the other currently popular approaches to fantastical filmmaking."

"Yes, sometimes taking the silly premises more seriously and offering explanations can work, and when it does that’s great. But sometimes it doesn’t, and sometimes you get a better end result by not being pretentious about it and accepting concepts you either get or you don’t, and if you get it then you don’t need it explained or grounded. It’s okay if you don’t like that sort of film, but it’s also okay if you do, and we need to be able to be honest about the fact there’s room for that kind of film at the cinema, just as there always has been."

"No other filmmaker understands the visual narrative of epic CGI action battles, and the weight and placement of characters and objects within action, as well as Michael Bay. Many films lately have depicted widespread catastrophic destruction in large cities, and alien invasions on massive scales, but nothing you've seen before compares to how extensive, how well choreographed, how visually stunning, and how remarkably well-filmed the alien invasion catastrophe is in Age of Extinction."

"I've always appreciated Bay’s presentation of the mechanics of the Transformers, the way things can gradually descend into increasingly chaotic clockworks of shifting metal and gears, until the destruction and the transformations lose themselves in one another. This time, however, Bay tries a different approach, because here the character of the Autobots are so well-defined and because there are such clear visual cues to distinguish between the different sets of robotic lifeforms. The result is the cleanest and most accessible visual style of any Transformers film. And it’s particularly important because the action is so much more expansive and prolonged this time around...If you’re looking for the film that makes the Transformers the real main characters and gives them the best part of the story and the best, most resonant arcs, then Age of Extinction is your ticket."

- written by Mark Hughes, taken from

For the origin of the Transformers (film series only), please visit the link below:

For the Complete List of Autobot Characters in the Transformers film series, please visit the link below:

For the Complete List of Decepticon Characters in the Transformers film series, please visit the link below:


The plot logic issues in the film (to list a few):

  • No mention of any human characters of the previous trilogy at all.  
This is the biggest problem because it's quite far-fetched that the high-ranking military officers (General Morshower the leader of NEST, Lieutenant Colonel William Lennox, or Charlotte Mearing, Director of National Intelligence) doesn't know the secret CIA operation that hunts down the Autobots at all. If they know, they shouldn't have let this killing to happen. Epps left NEST and retired from the U.S. Air Force, Sam presumably has his own family and living without knowing that the Autobots were being secretly hunted down and killed.

  • The main casts managed to survive without any injuries at all for most of the action sequences in the film.
This is a huge issue that requires a huge amount of suspension of disbelief. Some of the scenes actually defies the laws of physics. It is impossible for anyone to outrun the large scale explosions shown in the film in real life, to be able to survive when an Autobot catches them in mid-air, to survive after being thrown/hit by a Transformer, etc.

  • Other Transformers are presumably hunted down and killed by humans. 
Only Ratchet and Leadfoot is shown being hunted down and killed in the film. The film should have shown the fates of the rest of the Autobots as well.

  • When Lockdown shows up with his spaceship and shoots Optimus, the other Autobots essentially 'disappear' and nowhere to be seen. 
They were presumably separated from the group when Stinger and Galvatron shoot them. However, it should be possible for the Autobots to locate Optimus' location from their communicators. They should have at least shown the Autobots arrive late after Optimus was taken.

  • Age of Extinction briefly takes place in Chicago. The city is shown to be in perfectly fine condition. 
It's very far-fetch to assume the U.S. managed to rebuild a large city such as Chicago in 5 years.

  • Early in the film, Optimus was shown to be heavily damaged and worn down. But he was able to quickly reformat himself to assume his new 'Knight' form appearance.
The film should have at least re-explain that as long as a Transformer's protoform - the base form or spark - the core are not severely damaged and no Energon depletion, a Transformer can 'heal' themselves and replaces their current form with any extra surrounding matter nearby by 'trans-scanning' to generate a new exo-structure disguise. This is lazy storytelling.

  • Optimus can fly without the aid of his mech-tech trailer or even the Jetpack parts from Jetfire. He can simply fly into space without any assistance at all. 
It was briefly shown, but not explained that Optimus had a further upgrade for his Knight form when he retrieves the sword. There are subtle differences after he pulled the sword. However, the film should have shown him revert back to his protoform (the preferred form for space travel) and fly off to space, instead of maintaining his Knight form.
  • Autobots were hunted down and killed in the film, and Prime decided to leave the remaining surviving Autobots without leadership and guidance.
Optimus would never do that, he would never leave his Autobots behind. He should leave together with them, using Lockdown's spaceship.

  • When Hound, Bumblebee, Cade and the rest is in serious trouble because of the overwhelming new army of Vehicons, Optimus freed the Black Knights/Dinobots and coerce them to assist him in defeating the Vehicons or die at his sword. This is not the Prime we know as this is against his own 'Freedom is everyone's right' ideal.
From the previous trilogy, we should know by now that Optimus in this film series is a far more aggressive Prime compared to his original cartoon counterparts. Besides that, this version of Optimus has been through a lot in the series...He was betrayed by Megatron back on Cybertron, his former mentor betrayed him, he's lost countless Autobot friends during the war (none of the Autobots from the previous trilogy survived except Bumblebee and Brains), and this time he was betrayed by the people he swore to protect. He isn't the Prime he was before, he's changed. He did what he had to do for everyone's survival. Furthermore, it seems that the Dinobots in this film only listens to someone who's stronger than them. Prime have to prove that he's strong enough to lead them. He didn't try to enslave the Dinobots (Sentinel Prime tried to enslave the humans, Megatron tried to control all Cybertronians through tyranny), he offered Dinobots their freedom if they assist him in saving Hound, Bumblebee and humanity. After all, he was the one who set them free from Lockdown's prison.

It's understandable (slightly acceptable) that the film intends to show Prime's inner conflict after his dedication to a noble cause ultimately betrays him and desperate situations do require desperate measures, (If Optimus doesn't do that, then Hound, Bumblebee, Cade and the rest will die, Galvatron will get the 'Seed' and built a new army, which leads to extinction of the entire human race) but it's just wrong for Optimus to sacrifice his ideals (Freedom is everyone's right) because this is not his character at all.

The script should modify the script to fit his character, the situation should be something like this: Optimus explains the dire situation to the Black Knights, request for their help as a leader, a Prime and a fellow Knight. However, the Dinobots saw this as a sign of weakness and unwilling to yield, except Grimlock, the leader of Dinobots/Black Knights. He sees true leadership in Optimus because he wanted to protect his 'family' and challenges him to a duel. If Prime wins, he and his Knights will ride with him to save Prime's 'family'.

Questions that are mistaken as plot issues:

  • If Galvatron is Megatron, then why he still calls himself 'Galvatron' instead of Megatron?
Galvatron is reverse engineered, using data recovered from Megatron's head and built from Megatron parts. Because of that, he carries his 'will', but he is not Megatron anymore. He's just a glitchy, imperfect version of Megatron.

  • All the mass-produced human made Vehicons were easily killed and destroyed by the Autobots and Dinobots despite the fact it was shown that the Vehicon's KSI-construction and their lack of a true Spark renders them virtually invincible. Optimus tried to stop Galvatron by attacking his centre core with his sword (where the Spark normally lies for all Transformers), but was useless since he doesn't have a Spark. They can simply discompose themselves into Transformium particles before taking damage from others. 
In the film, it was revealed that Galvatron secretly manipulates the humans to create their own Transformers for him to use so he can steal the Seed for himself to rebuild his Decepticon army. It was shown that only Galvatron has a mind of its own, the rest (Vehicons, including Stinger, were following orders and don't have the intelligence to analyse battle situations). So, it is understandable when Bumblebee tried to shoot Galvatron, he managed to discompose himself into Transformium particles and transforms back into a truck in the nick of time.

Despite the lack of a true Spark, they're not invincible. During battle, it was shown that the Autobots used heavy artillery or bombs to attack, decapitate or shoots the Vehicons countless times to make sure they were in pieces. The Dinobots crush the Vehicons to small pieces with their spikes, tails or jaws.

  • CIA Black-ops head Attinger and Savoy hated Transformers to the point that they're hunting down Autobots as well. Why they hated them so much? Then why they cooperate with another Transformer, Lockdown? Why the U.S. government didn't stop them? 
It was explained that Attinger think of the Transformers, good or bad, as 'illegal immigrants/refugees'. They caused so much trouble by bringing war to Earth and therefore shouldn't be allowed to stay. Savoy lost his sister (or possibly more family members) during the Chicago invasion. This is enough to motivate him to take revenge.

The reason why they cooperate with Lockdown is because of money. If Attinger willing to assist Lockdown for capturing Optimus, he will get the 'Seed' as a reward. Attinger and Joshua are partners. Joshua promised Attinger if he delivers the 'Seed' to him to make more Transformers, he will get a seven figure sum of shares of KSI, effectively becomes a major shareholder of the company and a billionaire. Besides, Lockdown have no interest in Earth and probably promised him that he will leave the planet once he captured Optimus.

The U.S. government didn't stop them because most of the government officials didn't know that they're hunting down Autobots, not just Decepticons. It's a top-secret CIA operation and Attinger didn't reveal much of the operation details to the government. It was shown throughout the movie that Attinger and Savoy were telling everyone (including the President's Chief of Staff) that they were taking down Decepticons when in fact they were indiscriminately hunting down all Transformers. They also intend to call it Decepticon activity after the failed raid to retrieve Optimus on the Yeager residence. Attinger also fooled the people at KSI that they were melting down Decepticons instead of Autobots.

  • Why the Autobots were scattered and not part of the US army after Dark of the Moon? 
The Autobots were originally 'kicked out' from Earth under the orders of United Nations in Dark of the Moon. They came back to stop the Chicago invasion without permission. They presumably returned to the U.S. military after the end of the 3rd film. Optimus was repaired by Ratchet for the injuries he suffered during the fight with Sentinel. But during the period of 5 years, a Transformer bounty hunter, Lockdown arrives on Earth and ambush Prime by shooting him 3 times. CIA Attinger also secretly hunts all the Transformers (Autobots or Decepticons) at the same time. Prime barely escapes and crashed himself in the old theatre, he sends an emergency message to all the Autobots to escape as soon as possible (they have been betrayed by the humans) before he goes stasis lock. Attinger reached an agreement with Lockdown to assist him in capturing Optimus in exchange for the 'Seed'.

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