7 Blog

Movies, dining and things to do / Spokane and North Idaho

Fourth ‘Transformers’ has critics on the ropes

According to the box-office reports on Thursday afternoon, the latest Michael Bay creation — "Transformers: Age of Extinction" — had earned some $412 million worldwide ($128 million domestically) in its first week of release. That adds to the total that I cite in the review of the film that I wrote for Spokane Public Radio.

What's clear is that, despite an almost universal loathing by critics, people are going to see Bay's movie. It's equally clear that Bay himself think critics can suck on his handycam. Which is great because it absolves me from feeling any guilt at all for labeling his films for what they are. My review follows:

Roberto Duran had fought nearly equally with Sugar Ray Leonard until the closing seconds of the eighth round. But in this, their 1980 welterweight title rematch, things clearly had started going Leonard’s way. And whether because of mere pique – or as he was to claim – stomach cramps, Duran abruptly quit.

The words he uttered then instantly became legend: “No más,” Duran told the referee. “No más.”

I know the feeling. I’ve been watching Michael Bay films since 1995. That’s when the master of all things overblown offered up his first bona-fide feature, “Bad Boys.” That movie’s stylisms – big explosions, quick-cuts contrasting with slo-mo EFX, camera shots that revolve more fully than Regan MacNeil’s head – were a mere preview of what Bay would show us in films such as “The Rock,” “Armageddon,” “Pearl Harbor” and – count ’em – four “Transformers” films.

Bay’s latest release, “Transformers: Age of Extinction,” has been playing for a week. And as I wrote in a Spokane7 blog post, the film is pure Bay: “bigger, louder, longer, worser.”

Why, you ask? For one thing, unless you’ve seen the past films, you’re likely to be lost. Having seen them, though, is no guarantee you’re going to fully understand who, what, when, where or why. The WHO is perhaps the second easiest question to answer: a whole new cast. Mark Wahlberg plays Cade Yeager, a Texas farmer-inventor whose lab skills seem limited to making robotic contraptions that work maybe half the time – when they work at all.

Yeager lives with his 17-year-old daughter (Nicola Peltz), who seems to be the adult in their relationship, though his overprotective attitudes toward her are a major point in WHAT passes for a Bay plot (provided by screenwriter Ehren Kruger). Another plot point involves the Yeager family finances, which are virtually nil – a situation that doesn’t stop daddy from buying a beat-up semi that he finds, improbably, in a movie theater.

This brings us to WHEN, which for the Yeagers and everyone else is some four years after the so-called Battle of Chicago that ended 2011’s “Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon.” The semi that Yeager buys changes everything because it is none other than Optimus Prime, the leader of the Autobots – alien-transformer-robots that, in the past, have been friendly to humans. That’s changed now, though, because of a dastardly CIA operative (Kelsey Grammer) who, along with a billionaire businessman (Stanley Tucci), is bent on using alien technology both to free humans from all robot dependence – and to make those in power a pretty profit in the process.

The WHERE is whatever place Bay wants to trash – the Yeager farm, Chicago (again), Beijing and, almost lovingly, Hong Kong.

And, finally, WHY did Bay make this fourth “Transformers” (with a fifth already in preproduction)? This is the easiest question of all: Including last weekend, the series has made in excess of $1.17 billion dollars.

Incoherence has never provided a better payday.

No más, por favor, no más.