(This article features spoilers for Transformers: Dark of the Moon and a minor spoiler for Transformers: Age of Extinction in a clearly marked section).
Michael Bay. Michael Motherf#(%!^g Bay. Either you love him or you hate him, and SPOILER ALERT, I hate him. I remember seeing the first Transformers movie in theaters with some family in Indiana, and immediately upon leaving the theater, I was cursing up a storm about how awful that movie was, shocking all within earshot. I'm sorry if you like Michael Bay and I've pissed you off, but even the stupid movies I like have to have SOMETHING more to them than just explosions and hot women (hey now, Godzilla and Need for Speed weren't perfect, but dammit I liked them). Honestly, I don't think the man has ever once made a quality film, and I'm actually sitting here trying to prove myself wrong. It's not working. Now because of my... lack of appreciation for Bay's work, I haven't seen all the Transformers films, but luckily it doesn't really matter, because this film is dumb. DUMB I SAY!
Several years after the destruction of Chicago during the last climactic battle between the Autobots and the Decepticons, all alien robots have been secretly hunted down or forced into hiding by the actions of Harold Attinger (Kelsey Grammer), a high ranking CIA operative. Attinger, convinced that the world must move on without the aliens, ruthlessly sends his special task force to hunt and kill any Transformers they can find, and salvage the corpses. The dead Transformers are then taken to a research lab headed by billionaire Joshua Joyce (Stanley Tucci), and studied. With no public sightings of Transformers in years, everyone assumes that the aliens have either left Earth, or died off. Until, one day, amateur inventor Cade Yeager comes across an old semi truck and tries to repair it, only to find out that it is actually the former leader of the Autobots, Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen). Optimus, confused and alone, almost kills Yeager and his daughter, Tessa (Nicola Peltz), until he realizes that they have taken no part in the massacre of his allies. Cade offers to repair Optimus, but before he can even truly begin, Attinger's men storm the Yeager farm and attempt to kill Tessa, but are quickly, and violently stopped by Optimus. Meanwhile a savage, shadowy interstellar bounty hunter, Lockdown (Mark Ryan), picks up Optimus' bloody trail and sets out to cash in on the biggest contract in the universe, the collection of Optimus' head.
Like every Michael Bay movie, there's fifty or so other minor plot threads that more or less exist to provide filler for the thirty minutes of the movie where there isn't an explosion or a close up shot of Nicola Peltz's ass. But hey, what does all that matter when your entire principal cast can't (or won't) act at all? Mark Wahlberg isn't a bad actor. I've seen him in roles that were good, like The Fighter or The Departed. Sometimes though, you can tell he's just cashing in on a big payday, and trying to get through it as quickly and painlessly as possible (*cough* Max Payne *cough*). Case in point, this film. 90% of the time, he's just shitting out line after line, with each being as unbelievable and forced as the last. Peter Cullen is Optimus, or at least he sounds like him, but even screenwriter Ehren Kruger and Bay himself don't seem to know who Optimus is, as his motivations literally change with the cuts. One moment he is screaming some variation on "I WILL KILL YOU!" or "I WILL TEAR YOU APART!", and seconds later, within the same scene he will wax lyrical about how he will never harm another human again, and that he must live with honor and compassion...
...just before he rolls over two SUV's fully loaded with men, so forcibly that MOST OF THE MEN ARE THROWN FROM THE VEHICLES AT INCREDIBLE SPEEDS. This is not Optimus Prime. It sounds and looks like him, but in the end he's just a big walking MacGuffin, helping trudge along the horribly convoluted and ill explained plot, and once every two minutes, looking really cool in front of/behind/within an explosion/close up shot of Nicola Peltz's ass.
Speaking of which, Nicola Peltz's character a subplot were of some concern, especially for you parents out there who are thinking of taking your young'uns to this picture show. Tessa Yeager is seventeen in the film. Initially it was hard to glean from what little you learn about her early on. In her introduction she is seen exiting a Jeep full of her friends as they triumphantly make plans to get "totally wasted" because after three more days there will be no more class "FOREVER". Forever. Now that's an important word. That single word implies that Tessa is done with her schooling permanently, meaning she's a college student. Now I thought the whole getting-really-super-excited-about-getting-wasted thing was a little weird for a woman her age, but hey to each their own, right? Then you're treated to a few close up shots of her ass hanging out under her extremely short shorts, and Cade reprimands her for her clothes, and you think, "Huh, that's odd." Then Cade lays down his ground rules about no boyfriends until she's twenty and it hits you... she's a minor. Now, if you remember the other Transformers films, you'll remember that every female character except Shia Labeouf's mom was pretty highly sexualized. Hell, the first time you see Megan Fox in the film, it's basically a shot of her sweaty cleavage hanging over a car engine. Now, with that in mind, we come back to this film, where the hole left by the departure of Megan Fox's strong female character is filled by Tessa Yeager. So, we have ass shot, role that has been traditionally sexualized, and minor. That bit will probably fly right over your younger one's heads (but probably not the teenage boys with you), but later comes a scene that will be a joy to explain to your kids...
MINOR SPOILER TERRITORY AHEAD! ALL HOPE ABANDON, YE WHO ENTER HERE!
Later, after the fight at the Yeager farm, Cade and Tessa are rescued by a rally car driver with an Irish accent who calls Tessa "babe". Naturally, Cade flips out and demands to know just what the hell is happening. It is revealed that the driver is Shane Dyson (Jack Reynor), Tessa's longtime secret boyfriend. Upon further questioning it's revealed that Shane is 20. Now, honestly I don't have too much of a problem with that in itself. He's really only three years older than her, and I've met married couples that have been together for decades with a larger age gap than that, BUT, the first problem is that Cade obviously won't allow this, which if the parent says no, than them's the rules. The second problem, and my biggest beef with the film, is how they justify Tessa and Shane's relationship. There is, in this film, an abomination. An abomination that masquerades as a scene. It appears when, after telling Cade how old he is, Shane proceeds to say that his relationship with Tessa is perfectly legal because their particular circumstances happen to fall under, what is known in Texas as, a "Romeo & Juliet Clause". Basically, what the clause states, is that an adult can legally be in an intimately romantic relationship with a minor if both parties initiated the relationship while both were still minors. Now, once again, I don't have a problem with this. If that's the law in Texas, that's the law. Don't like it? Write your state representative (and try not to use the phrase, "you catastrophically clumsy cunt" too many times). My problem stems from the fact that the scene, the subplot, and the whole DAMNED THING exists in the first fucking place. Why does this scene matter? Do we as an audience need to be told why we shouldn't be offended, upset, or confused? Couldn't we have just skipped the whole matter entirely? Couldn't Tessa have just been a year older or graduating college like I thought? Why did Shane even have to pull a business card with the legal terminology of the clause out of his wallet for a nice close up shot? Was any of this necessary at all? Screw you, Ehren Kruger. You too Michael "Whom Megan Fox calls Hitler" Bay.
NO MORE SPOILERS! JUST SUNSHINE AND LOLLIPOPS!
So (if you didn't read the last section), basically have fun explaining the finer points of Texas' statutory rape laws to your kids after this one. Yet, not only is the film inappropriate in that instance, but every other word out every character's mouth is "shit" or "fuck". Surprising for a PG-13 film, but when you're basically guaranteed a big box office return, it can't be too hard to grease the wheels at the MPAA.
Aside from the characters all following several uninteresting, tedious plotlines, the characters themselves are also uninteresting and tedious. I didn't like a single damn person in this whole film. Kelsey Grammer turns in a good performance, but still his character is as cookie cutter as it gets. The same goes for everyone else in the movie. From the god awful comic relief guy (played to stoner-riffic effect by T.J. Miller), to Cade, every single character is just there so there's some kind of pretend empathy aura that will connect with the more slow witted audience members. On top of them all being basically unwatchable, the never SHUT THE FUCK UP. NEVER. Not a single second can pass without one of these morons spouting off some ill conceived bullshit about their current predicament. In one scene Comic Relief Guy (who is so abhorrent, his name isn't even worth switching tabs to look up), bemoans how he will never be able to make US$20,000 while government agents open fire with fully automatic weapons all around him. It's just stupid little things like that that drive me nuts! Like in The Dark Knight, when Joker's goons bring down a police helicopter in the middle of downtown Gotham and one of Gotham's Finest can be heard saying "Oh, that's not good!" NO FUCKING SHIT YOU PRIMORDIAL SHITSTAIN! There's no reason that anyone would actually say that in that circumstance. What's worse, is when these hairless monkeys aren't trying to be funny, they're getting insanely overly sentimental, and with actors this bad, it comes off as wholly fake. The only thing genuine about these moments, is how genuinely shitty they are, and how equally shitty the lone female vocalist wailing on the soundtrack is (think Gladiator's music, but 10 times more lame).
This is a pretty film. Right from the get go, I was blown away by the CG visuals. They are honestly some of the most beautiful and detailed computer rendered images I've ever seen in a film, and the cherry on top is just how amazing the opening sequence is. It visually tells the story of the truth behind the extinction of the dinosaurs as a prelude to the possible extinction of the human race that Cade and Tessa face. Not a word is spoken, but every point is made clearly. It is a phenomenal scene in a bubbling lake of fecal muck that is every other moment in this film. Even the action, while being beautiful, wears thin. By the two hour mark, I found myself begging Jesus, Buddha, Krishna, Zeus, Odin, and even in the end Satan, Cthulu, Darth Vader, and Michael Bay to save me from another hour of non-stop, epilepsy inducing action. I cried, "Ye gods have forsaken me! Please! I beg of thee! Let this cruel torture end! Let not my soul be subjected to another hour of flashy action shots, which make mine eyes weep tears of blood! Nor allow the weak and awkward character moments! Nor the Comic Relief Guy's continued existence! And let these things neither plague the world of man nor beast, and let the glory of the first of ye to respond be exalted for ever and ever!"
Sadly, Jesus, Buddha, Krishna, Zeus and Odin were at a Hendrix/ Miles Davis concert and couldn't hear me, and Satan, Cthulu, and Darth Vader were playing Starcraft and couldn't leave in the middle of a match. Michael Bay however, was right there beside me, laughing in my face and making a sickening jerking motion in his pockets, as he breathed deeply of my tears and money.