“Transformers” Insults Sci-Fi B-Movies

transformers-age-of-extinction-posterI don’t like doing movie reviews per se, but a few words about this nonsense.  Against my better judgment I found myself watching this the other night, and I have to say it was offensive, but not for reasons I thought I might be.

I was never in the Michael Bay hater camp–if anything, I as pretty agnostic on whether his films were worth the time or money. But clearly I love bad movies, and especially bad sci-fi folms–I actively seek them out and spend (far too much) time writing about them and trying to drum up others’ interest in these.  I thought I’d actually like Age of Extinction given this past time.

Far from it.

Mainly I hated this silliness because it seems to violate a couple rules of sci-fi B-movies–which this seems to want to be–that I hold, more-or-less, as sacred.

First, a B-film has absolutely no business being longer than 90 minutes long.  Age of Extinction is roughly a whole hour longer than that, clocking in at two hours and thirty-seven minutes, according to my FIOS.  I’m tempted to think Bay’s ego is the main reason for thinking an audience should sit still for nearly three hours of his vision, but the real reason is more likely his other violation of the sci-fi B-movie code.

Jeff Morrow gettin' it done in "The Giant Claw" (1957)

Jeff Morrow gettin’ it done in “The Giant Claw” (1957)

To wit: sci-fi B-films tell one story, and one story only. I lost track of the stories and subplots at about four in this one.  Sci-fi B-movies can be formulaic, and maybe that’s their charm–aliens come, Jeff Morrow finds a way to defeat them, he gets the girl, and we all go home.  Bay wraps none of his several story lines well, and the result was a movie that was much too long.

Lastly, although I don’t think this necessarily violates B-movie code, was the blatant product placements that took me right out of whichever story was going on at the time.  The crash scene involving the Bud Light truck where we see beer and bottles flying around everywhere and Wahlberg cracking one open right then and there, the admission that “Lucky Charms” says he is a pro-rally racer who’s “just been picked up by Red Bull” as he shakes a can of Red Bull at us–these elements are just shameless plugs that do nothing for the story or the effects (which Bay mistakes for plotting).

So, if Age of Extinction was trying to be anything like an homage to the B-film sci-fi it comes from–admittedly a big “if”–it fails miserably, mainly because it totally misunderstands its own roots. More likely, it wasn’t trying to do this at all, since to accomplish this, Bay needed to have some sense of where sci-fi cinema’s roots are, and I’m not at all convinced he knows–or cares.



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