Okay, let's get real. The Transformers movies
are as much about selling the hugely popular toys behind the franchise as they are about Micheal Bay's penchant for entertaining us with explosions choreographed with all the precision and beauty of a Russian ballet. The sheep that line up for what invariably ends up being mass mind murder do so expecting a film about shiny robots that turn into shiny cars.
So it might come as a bit of a shock to the flock when the film begins with a sequence on dinosaurs. No, not the awesome Dinobots that Hasbro can already feel minting lots of shiny new money for them, but real ones of the kind that you can see in Jurassic Park
, yet another cash cow that the loving parent of both franchises, Universal Studios, is currently working on rebooting.
And that, dear readers, is just one of the more subtle and meaningful ways of shoehorning ads into a film that assault you throughout.
The previous Transformers movies had a way of raising the niggling question of "Why?" despite all of the admittedly fabulous ways in which Micheal Bay tried to drown the niggle with explosions. For those facing this dilemma, there is good news, and there is bad news.
The good news is, this part answers the question. Sort of, anyway. The answer is a Creator, and you may make of that what you will. The bad news is that your question is now replaced with a new one of "WTF?!?", and you may make of that what you will as well, because Bay is more interested in selling you Bud Light, My Little Pony and Oreo cookies than in enlightening you.
Let's begin at the beginning. As we mentioned above, it all begins with dinosaurs. As for the rest, we will have to use single sentences to explains all the plot points that are left at just points. First, you have Cade Yaeger (Mark Wahlberg), a mad-scientist-type whose preoccupations are limited to making junk out of junk, as his caricature of a daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz) puts it, and keeping Tessa from making the same mistake as him - i. e. discovering sex before the technological discovery that would make him millions.
Then, there is Optimus Prime, who ends up with Yaeger, and now has to find all of the other Autobots and get them all out of Earth, before humans annihilate them all for reasons that remain unfathomable even after sitting through the unfathomably long film.
You have Harold Attinger (Kelsey Grammer), the CIA head who is heading the annihilation of Transformers on the planet with the help of yet another Transformer with a ginormous spaceship, an act that should justifiably be followed by at least one moment of "I told you so", but ends in a thoroughly slapstick death for Attinger instead.
And, finally, you have Joshua Joyce (Stanley Tucci), whose own mad scientist enterprise of creating his own Transformer army by decoding Megatron is rewarded not only with the "I told you so", but also with a redemption that is surprisingly nuanced for a film that tends to translate nuance into "let's stick unrelated bits of jigsaw together and hope that it makes sense".
There is also something about why dinosaurs really went extinct, a "creator" who wants all Autobots sticking to their own kind, and a lot of other stuff that sort of just hangs around in the background, tantalising you with the promise of some
kind of explanation, but eventually leaving you wanting to scream with frustration when Bay tries to distract you with Optimus Prime taming a robotic dragon-o-saur instead.
But, despite the fact that Bay treats the concept of a story with all the sanctity of a lapsed Jew with a bacon addiction, you still have those moments of visual genius that can only have come out of a mind that is as young as it is old, moments that drown out all your mind's frantic cries of, "Wait a second! That does not make any damned sense!" in intense feelings of awe. For instance, a scene involving fluid bombs that incinerated a person in an instant, left the whole theater blanketed in a silence that not even the rudest of film-goers dared break.
Smaller 3D IMAX cameras were used to shoot the film, resulting in visually stunning action sequences that also have the potential to make your head spin. And there is the background track that adds to the imagery with astonishing finesse.
The acting is as good as is possible in a film where people are even more expendable than in others of the same genre. Mark Wahlberg and Kelsey Grammer do their best in extremely limited roles. Nicola Peltz doesn't even have the sloppy oomph that redeemed her predecessors, relying instead on the ability to look cute while crying. Stanley Tucci and Bingbing Li get lucky with roles that allow them to show off their acting chops to great effect.
Then, there is Hong Kong, which is treated like the child of a manic depressive parent, one minute shown with loving detail that celebrates the metropolis in all its diverse facets, and the next being broken down as if Bays forgot its existence.
The thing is, despite the fact that the film has no way to justify its runtime, and all the various ways in which it tries to turn into a 3-hour-long lobbying platform for dubious political viewpoints and completely unrelated brands, Michael Bay gives us a movie that is profound in two ways that are polar opposites of each other. And they are both contained in the same words - this is what humanity is capable of.