Transformers: Age of Extinction and the Critic-Proof Summer Movie


Transformers: Age of Extinction via Paramount Pictures & Hasbro

I'm generally pretty fond of director Michael Bay, whose penchant for unchecked bombast can actually be a lot of fun at times. Giant robots! Punching stuff! And turning into dinosaurs! Who doesn't enjoy that?

But a sense of fun is exactly what his new film, Transformers: Age of Extinction, is missing. From my review in today's Washington Times:

It is sometimes said that certain massively expensive summer movies are "critic proof." The label, given to films unlikely to be impacted by negative reviews, implies a form of resistance, a defensive shell against critical judgment and thinking.

It's useful enough for some movies, but in the case of "Transformers: Age of Extinction," it's not enough.

The fourth installment in director Michael Bay's series about a series of shape-shifting robots does not merely resist critical interpretation, it seems purposefully designed to actively thwart it.

Mr. Bay's garish, violent, incoherent, repetitive, exhausting, and punishingly loud movie goes straight for the viewer's lizard brain, the part that does not think or feel, but merely reacts as if poked repeatedly with a stick (and that's before the robot dinosaurs appear).

It is a movie made to tap into base, subhuman instincts. Like the giant robots it features, it is precision-designed to crush, kill and destroy.

In some respects, then, it merely follows in footsteps of its predecessors. The first three Transformers films were all exercises in unchecked cinematic excess, $200 million vehicles for playing out adolescent adventure fantasies on the big screen.

But the first film in the series was carried out with a genuine sense of joyful, childlike enthusiasm. There were giant robots that transformed into cars, and explosions that looked like fireworks, and it was awesome and silly and ridiculous and wonderful.

Yes, I know: Michael Bay demands things to be awesome. That's his thing. He's good at it. But I almost wonder if he's getting bored of it. By the end, the movie almost becomes a parody of a Michael Bay movie, and I got the definite sense that Bay is growing tired of his own shtick and just trying to see what he can get away with. 

Read the whole review here. You can read my significantly more positive review (which I stand by!) of Bay's first Transformers film here. See a page from my Age of Extinction screening notes here

NEXT: Kindergartener Pulls Down Pants, Forced to Sign 'Sexual Misconduct' Confession

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. I’m generally pretty fond of director Michael Bay

    Come on Suderman, you were already an easy target, stop making it worse.

    1. It’s all out there on the Internet already anyway.

      1. Not if you lived in Germany. You can make all magically go away.

  2. Epi bait

  3. Oh, you’ve done it now. I have to agree though. Armageddon is just plain fun.

    1. Fun? It’s practically a documentary on what we should do if ever confronted by extinction.

      1. Bang Liv Tyler? I can get with that.

        1. Only if she has the elf ears, tho’

          1. I didn’t know she was in Lord of the Rings. The things you learn at Reason.

            1. How could you not know that?

              1. Never saw the films. I know that Rudy is in it. And the pervert kid from Sin City. And Magneto. And Viggo Mortensen. And that British dude. But didn’t know Liv played an elf. I should probably watch the trilogy someday.

                1. Cate Blanchette also plays an elf. Elf chicks in LOTR are all pretty hot.

                  1. The scene (in book and film) where Galadriel contemplates and rejects accepting the One Ring from Frodo is arguably the climax of the entire series. I got serious goosebumps just reading it the first time, and Jackson did a pretty good job of replicating it. Forever after, some light went out of the world, wrote Tolkein, and that was the truth.

                2. MMMMM……Sean Bean…..drooooool

                  1. Did you ever watch the Sharpe series, Kristen? It’s quite good.

        2. Or at least do some foreplay involving Animal Crackers.

  4. Isn’t he the guy who takes lousy horror movies and makes them worse?

  5. I’ll shit on Michael Bay for making awful films, but yeah, some of them have a brilliant B-movie quality to them. Armageddon’s just so hilariously cheesy and scientifically dumb (MIR EXPLODING IN SPACE JUST ‘CAUSE) and I do consider The Rock to be a legitimately good movie.

    Even if I don’t like for most of his movies, I do like how he seems aware of the hatred he gets and just doesn’t give a fuck.

    1. Rob Cohen makes great shitty fun B movies. Bay makes shitty loud nonsensical A movies. There’s a difference.

      Military Leader: Those are not ideas, those are special effects.

      Michael Bay: I don’t see the difference.

      Military Leader: I know you don’t!

      1. Little late, but Rob Cohen’s got a hell of a lot of fairly high box office, high budget movies, I don’t really think you can call him a low budget director either. Cheap B movie is stuff like Neil Marshall.

  6. So i have seen the previews…

    And i am wondering, is it ever explained in the movie why robots rolling onto the ground cause the dirt to explode into showers of sparks?

    1. Because there were some flint pebbles in the ground as well. Duh.

  7. Here is a link to RedLetterMedia review of watching all three of the earlier Transformer movies at the same time, Don’t do this at home, these are professionals…

    1. “It’s amazing to see how restrained the first one is in comparison to the second one so far.”

    2. My glob, they’re right — it’s like they just took the same script in each movie and just replaced shit.

      Hey, if it worked before, why not? It reminds me of the in-your-face lampshading in 22 Jump Street (Ice Cube says something along the lines of “Your operation went surprisingly well last time, so we just want you to do the same damn thing!”)

      1. To be fair, just about every series of the cartoon has followed the exact same formula. So he’s just following their precedent really.

  8. C’mon Pete, did it check all the boxes?

    *Girl with flag behind, backlit be the sun
    *”rolling” camera effects
    *Giant explosions for no good reason

    1. Don’t forget the minstrel show characters. Those are very important for a Bay movie.

    2. There are so, so, so many sun-dappled American flags in this movie.

      1. He really needs to shelve that shot.

  9. I got the definite sense that Bay is growing tired of his own shtick and just trying to see what he can get away with

    I think he is simply seeing how much money he can get away with.

  10. Bay’s movies could be fun if they were half as long, if his characters were mute, and if he didn’t try to include what passes for comedy. He’s one of the worst storytellers working today, though I suppose that’s not a director’s main job in the era of $200 million movies.

  11. I’m boycotting this movie because Nicola Peltz‘s dad is a billionaire! Down with the One Percent, and their offspring!

    Well, not really, but I gotta admit the 165 minute running time doesn’t help my enthusiasm.

    1. Jesus Christ. Was Bay getting paid by the film-foot? (I guess this isn’t a real measurement anymore)

      1. Like the government, there was nothing left to cut.

      2. You mean a reel measurement, right?

        I’ll just show myself out.

        1. You are technicolorly correct.

  12. does not merely resist critical interpretation, it seems purposefully designed to actively thwart it.

    But, enough about the Obama administration.

  13. All the critics say that the second one was terrible but I liked it better than the first and third.

    In fact, I watched them out-of-order, and saw the first one on DVD after I saw the second one in theaters. I ended up getting so bored that halfway through I just turned off my DVD player.

    Also, I hate how every critic seems to need to point out how terrible Mudflap and Skids are just so they can prove to everyone how not-racist they are.

  14. As bad as Bay’s movies are, when you take away the budget for special effects you get the totally shitty TV show called “Last Ship”.

  15. Ever notice how entire cities are destroyed in Transformers movies, but by the next one nobody seems to have noticed? Is Chicago still destroyed in the new one?

    1. It’s been taken over by the corpses of the Golden Girls.

    2. This is actually the most crucial plot point (to the extremely limited extent that a Michael Bay movie can be said to have a plot, or points).

  16. In the first minutes of the first Transformers movie, I heard Optimus Prime’s voice and, for a second, was a little kid again.

    Then the movie got going and really, really started to suck. I think it was around the time that they spent millions of dollars in special effects having the transformers play hide and seek that I realized that I was, once again, a grown-up.

  17. Honestly, I think all the wailing nerds have done over these movies is hilarious. “Michael Bay ruined my childhood!!” It amuses me to no end that these emotional retards get so bent out of shape that Bay “ruined” the memories of the 20 minute toy commercials they watched as kids. Now that he’s moved on to do TMNT as well, we get to see double-goon tears this summer and it’s wonderful.

    1. He’s only producing the Ninja Turtles movie. It’ll be done in his style, more or less, but it’s not a true Michael Bay movie. The director is Jonathan Liebesman, the guy who did the second Titans movie and Battle: Los Angeles.

      1. The director is Jonathan Liebesman, the guy who did the second Titans movie and Battle: Los Angeles.

        That’s a relief.

      2. To be honest, that sounds even worse. At least Bay, for all his faults, has impeccable taste in female leads. Oh wait, Megan Fox.

    2. How does a movie ruin a childhood that’s already over? Technically, of course. Most of these nerds still live in their parents’ basements.

      1. Will it be worse if Vanilla Ice does or does not have a cameo?

        1. Everything is worse without a Vanilla Ice cameo. Same for Pauly Shore.

          1. One day, someone will have the balls to release “Cool as Ice” on Blu-Ray.

    3. A few years ago I tried to watch the animated Transformers movie, which I though was awesome when I was a kid. It was pretty bad, particularly when the robots all dance to Weird Al on the trash planet.

      1. Grown-ups buy the DVDs for the nostalgia factor, watch the first disk, and realize why they stopped watching that shit when they got older.

    1. I agree.

      1. skwirls is more stronger than transformers

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.