Box Office Democracy: “Transformers: Age of Extinction”
Transformers: Age of Extinction is 165 minutes long. This should really be the entire review. Either you want to watch nearly three hours of Michael Bay throwing robots at the screen or you don’t. If you’ve seen any of his movies you’ve basically seen this one, there isn’t anything new just the older stuff louder, brighter and longer. Apparently this is something that has a lot of pent up demand. People can’t get enough of this. Isn’t that depressing?
I admit there’s something intrinsically seductive about his visual style. Everything is so slick and the camera moves are so majestic that it’s very easy to just settle in and let your eyes bliss out a little bit. This is broken up a bit when the giant robots have to fight because event through four movies Bay hasn’t quite figured out a good visual shorthand for keeping the robots separate so the big fights, when not in slow motion, have a tendency to just look like a bunch of rolling metal until things shakeout and you can determine who won. This is made dramatically more difficult by a new kind of Transformer introduced in this movie that transforms by turning into many tiny cubes and then floating in to a new form. This just fills the screen with the equivalent of giant dust. Bay is definitely capable of using the visual language of film and communicating a kind of poetry with it I just wish the poems weren’t profanity-laced limericks.
I just can’t stand what Bay thinks a movie should be. Every woman in the film is defined by her relationship to one or more of the men. There’s one that appears to buck this trend but then it turns out she used to date Stanley Tucci and her only meaningful moment in the last third of the movie is telling him that she’s proud of him. I came out of the movie ready to praise Michael Bay for being dramatically less racist than the last two efforts in this series but my girlfriend, who had seen none of the Transformers movies, immediately remarked at how racist she thought the film was so perhaps Bay has spent his entire career trying to establish a baseline of racial insensitivity so he could eventually act with impunity. A charming thought.
I keep coming back to the length of this monstrosity though. I dreaded seeing this film all week just because I didn’t know how to carve a three-hour chunk out of my day. The movie has a clear narrative arc that ends with an hour remaining in the movie. I don’t understand if there’s just no one at Paramount that cares enough to trim it down or if Hasboro has so much pull that the movie can’t end until they’ve featured a certain number of things that could be turned in to toys. They don’t even look like they’d make cool toys. That’s the ultimate failure on top of all the rest of the sad things about this movie is it doesn’t even make me want to go play.