The Case for Transformers: Age of Extinction
By Ryan O'Neill
July 4, 2014

Michael Bay has fun blowing stuff up.

I have read a very large number of reviews for Transformers: Age of Extinction and I am well aware that the majority of the opinions have been negative. There are some positive reviews out there in Internet Land, believe it or not, and I’ve actually found them to be more articulate than the negative articles.

The point of this article is not to give my positive review on the movie in an attempt to change someone’s opinion or to troll on the haters, because my point of view is just another drop of water in an ocean mostly composed of sharks. I became a very large fan of Michael Bay five minutes into my first viewing of Bad Boys so I will also admit that I am probably biased when I watch his movies, much like the critics are in their contempt and that is what I want to write about.

I’m disgusted with the reviews this movie has been getting not because they hate it, but because the things that are being said are factually incorrect, lazy, and highly hypocritical. Also, to be clear before anybody starts grinding their teeth, I’m referring to the critics who actually get paid to give their point of view. However, I do find it incredibly interesting that the general public gave the fourth Transformers movie an A- Cinemascore, but a 6.4 IMDB rating and a 59% positive on Rotten Tomatoes. If you want to get theoretical, I believe this shows how an opinion can be skewed once someone gets behind their computer and has that little voice in their subconscious urging them to jump on the general consensus of their peers, which results in another member of the “I Hate Michael Bay” bandwagon.

Reading the reviews from the “Professional” critics, I need to question how professional they are actually being. I wonder whether some of them have even watched the movie and already had their “Michael Bay Sucks” articles ready beforehand with a few blanks left to be filled out once they heard from other detractors. If in fact they were in attendance, it was certainly with a negative attitude beforehand, provoking them to watch with half an attention span, notebook in hand, just waiting for something “stupid” to latch on to and shake their fist at.

The number one example of this lazy critiquing is the outcry over the use of the term “Transformium”. If you have read at least 10 reviews on Transformers 4, ask yourself how many times you have seen a critic call the movie and/or the screen writing juvenile, stupid, or idiotic for this term? What nobody ever mentions is that the movie quite clearly states just before this term is used that the laboratory had a focus group to name the element and they thought that Transformium would be a “catchy” phrase. It’s stupid on purpose!!! It’s a statement on the type of ludicrous marketing concepts that get created in our society. Every single time I read this complaint the critic loses credibility. They are being paid to watch the movie with an open mind so pay attention!

Another example of not paying attention that I have read numerous times is the complaint of poor editing because of an action scene where Optimus and Lockdown are racing down a street and then suddenly battling on a roof top. Well that objection just fell off of the roof, because there is a scene in between showing them climbing up the side of the building. The critics missed it completely, but that doesn’t matter, it’s another reason to complain about Bay’s directing.

Age of Extinction is the first ever film shot in full IMAX digital 3D cameras. In the history of cinema there have only been six films shot in full 2D IMAX: The Dark Knight, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, The Dark Knight Rises, Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol, Star Trek: Into Darkness and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. The use of this camera for these films ranged from 10 to 35 minutes approximately. I’m bringing this up because a scene using the full IMAX camera is a stunning sight to behold. In addition to using the full IMAX screen, it is the highest resolution camera in the world. Transformers 4 uses this camera for 60% of its length. That crushes the previous precedent. It is also the best 3D that I have ever seen, pushing Avatar into second place. That alone should make for a positive review. I don’t think the plot is as terrible as it is being accused of being but even if I did, I would still recommend this movie because this is a technical achievement that must be experienced in the theater.

I am a fan of Avatar, but it is basically “Dances with Wolves” in space. I don’t care, though, because science fiction is my favorite genre. This is a movie that was nominated for best picture and the critics drooled over, basically because they loved the 3D. The critics ignored how unoriginal, even borderline plagiarized Avatar’s plot was because of the spectacle. Yet they could care less when a film finally surpasses its 3D because it was Michael Bay that did it. That is textbook hypocrisy.

The near three hour length is the next complaint that is frequently used against Transformers 4. One of my defenses against that objection is that you get more value for your money which I think is a good thing in this day and age. However, that can be more of a personal viewpoint and harder to argue against. I have always compared Bay’s technique to a moving painting. Every shot looks like it took a day to complete and cost a million dollars. His lighting and angles are beautiful. In addition, all of his movies have sound effects and a musical score of the highest quality. Obviously, these production values appeal to me more than most people, but I’m sure that some of the critics who call the movie boring because it is too long are art gallery fans. I would like them to explain how they can spend a day appreciating the paintings in a museum or gallery, but can’t stomach a few hours watching the very best visual effects, cinematography, and 3D on a movie screen.

Now even I am not blind enough to ignore there are problems with some of the plot. Marky Mark’s daughter and her idiot boyfriend definitely need to go. They are there because the studio needs something to appeal to teenage girls even if their target audience is teenage boys. Anyone who has seen Twilight knows it can get much worse so where is the positive thinking? At least there are no scenes between the movie’s two worst characters staring at each other for 30 minutes with an expression that wavers between misery and constipation.

Many critics go berserk over the blatant product placement in the film. Personally, I found the exploding beer truck scene to be funny, but before I digress, I ask what exactly the big deal is? Instead of accusing Bay of whoring himself out, think how all that extra money is allowing for more effects and more spectacle. The scope of this film is ridiculous. Most directors would not even attempt to make a film even half as large as Age of Extinction. The worst of the worst critics are the ones who dare to use the word hack and Michael Bay in the same sentence. They would curl up into a ball and cry for mercy if they switched places with Bay and tried to manage the set pieces in this movie, but it’s so easy to chastise him behind their computer screen. When you compare what is on screen in a Transformers movie, in relation to its budget, to movies that cost more yet showed far less (The Lone Ranger) you should be impressed, not pissed off.

Any protest of the plot being incoherent is incorrect. This is another common Michael Bay bandwagon complaint. If you can’t follow this plot then you are not paying attention. For an example of a ridiculous, incomprehensible plot, I present Enemy and Only God Forgives. Here are two of the worst movies ever made with scriptwriting so asinine that the IMDb message board has several explanations of the plot, but every single one of the viewers’ “guesses” about what the hell they just watched is different. These are independent art house movies though, otherwise known as “critical darlings.” Apparently, it’s intelligent when the viewer has to guess what happened since there is zero logic or explanation in the movie. When your double’s wife turns into a spider and the movie fades to black it must be because the director is brilliant and he is making a metaphor about relationships. The next time Bay releases one of his “stupid” movies, I suggest that these critics go to the library and get themselves a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book.

The fact that the movie does not pay homage to the comic book mythology is the next hurdle to tackle. I thought the Galvatron storyline was very respectful to the cartoon and comic. Many complaints were made towards the Dinobots having no dialogue. I can guarantee that if Bay had put in a “Me Grimlock,” or a “Me Kick Ass,” the racism comments, similar to the twins from Revenge of the Fallen, would have started again. Even worse, somebody trying to get attention may have started a Michael Bay is making fun of autism protest. You can say I’m assuming the worst, but the hypocrisy has already been proven. How many complaints were there in the first three Transformers about the juvenile humor? The fourth film tones it down in comparison and even incinerates the “goofy” character. So now there are numerous comments of the movie not being funny enough. Seriously?

My hope as I end this article is that the reader understands that I do believe that everyone is entitled to their own opinion whether I agree with it or not. Michael Bay certainly could care less what the critics think as he strikes gold yet again and the money rolls in like a waterfall. I just want to have valid criticism; otherwise I can make better use of my time arguing with the wall. Much like a court case, the better your facts, the better your ability to sway the jury, so if you are going to accuse a film of being stupid, boring, lazy, incoherent, etc. make sure that your evidence is not filled with all of the exact same attributes you are accusing Michael Bay’s directing of. Otherwise, your critique just makes you look jealous of his success.