Sunday, April 5, 2015

Transformers: Age of Extinction

Transformers: Age of Extinction is the latest installment of the mega-successful, but polarizing live-action Transformers series.
Released in June of 2014, the movie managed to make back a whopping five times its budget.
And honestly, I can see why.
My opinions of the second and third movies in this series are well on record, so I won't go into the details too much here.
Suffice to say, that I didn't particularly like them.
I thought they were pretty good at their best moments, and a little insulting at their worst.
But I really liked the first one. The story was well-told, the characters were well-written, and the whole film was competently made, especially compared to what came after it.
Honestly, they weren't quite Alien 3 level of bad, but they weren't X-Men 2 level of good either.
And now we're at the third sequel. They've ditched the Witwicky's, Mikaela, Sam's replacement girlfriend, and most connection to the rest of the movies in the series, aside from The Transformers themselves, and the fact that the events in this film were directly affected by what happened in Dark of the Moon.
Our new human lead is Cade Yaeger, played by Mark Wahlberg. A struggling inventor and single father.
Cade's story starts when he starts rummaging around in an old theater with his annoying stoner assistant, Lucas Flannery. He talks to the theater owner and buys a few old cameras.
And while fooling around with a football, he finds a rusty and broken Marmon 97 semi-truck that had crashed into the theater years prior.
He buys the truck and tows it home, where his daughter, Tessa, has just gotten back from school.
Cade gets to work on the truck in his barn, and finds out something strange about it.
It is way too high-tech for its age. It doesn't run on a standard engine or fuel system.
Cahe, Lucas and Tessa suspect that it's a Cybertronian. Lucas and Tessa want to turn it over in case it's an injured Decepticon, but Cade wants to fix it up and see how it works.
After some effort and macro-surgery, they manage to revive the Autobot, which turns out to be Optimus Prime.
Optimus was attacked in Mexico City after the Chicago incident, and took on the form of the Marmon because his original disguise became too well-known. Unfortunately, that didn't help him get away, as he was heavily wounded, and wound up in the Cybertronian equivalent of a coma.
Cade does his best to fix up Optimus, but some government black-ops group named Cemetery Wind shows up looking for Optimus.
And this was one of the defining moments of the movie for me.
As one might be able to guess, these guys aren't here to help Optimus out. They're not affiliated with NEST, and Sam Witwicky is not among the group.
Cade hides Optimus and goes out to run interference with the soldiers. This doesn't work, and the soldiers put guns to Cade and Tessa's heads, threatening to shoot them if they don't tell where Optimus is.
Up until this point, I wasn't entirely sold on the movie. There were some issues with annoying characters, Mark Wahlberg's acting was a little shaky, and the five-year time-skip from the end of Dark of the Moon almost lost me.
But at this point is where the movie picked up.
Optimus Prime is hidden away, essentially safe from danger if he plays his cards right. But these people helped him, they found him, refused to turn him over to certain death, and are still, even in the face of their own imminent demises, are refusing to turn him over.
Optimus badly injured, and he knows that saving them could kill him.
And do you know what he did?
He saves them anyways. Broken, hurt, and running low on resources and fighting spirit alike, he gets up, and helps them. He refuses to quit.
Because life, is the right of all sentient beings. Because his name is Optimus Prime, and that is what he stands for. Across the universe, the Autobots fight, sometimes at the cost of their own lives, to protect others.
And he is their leader. He refuses to let these people who helped him in his time of need down. Optimus Prime gets up and fights, even in the gravest of circumstances to protect the lives of innocents.
Because when all hope is lost, Optimus Prime is there to rekindle that fighting spirit. Optimus Prime fought and died to protect planet earth. And he was willing to fight and die again to protect those who helped him in his time of need.
Optimus Prime fights, and he does his best. And for the most part, he succeeds.
With help Tessa's boyfriend, Shane, Optimus and the Yaeger's manage to escape Cemetery Wind, and flee to rally the last remaining Autobots to one final showdown.
Cade finds out they've frozen his bank account, with the help of a drone he took from Cemetery Wind in the previous fight, and confirms that they're looking for them, when soldiers show to take them in.
Unfortunately, they don't manage to escape this, and Shane's car winds up getting destroyed, and Lucas gets melted by a grenade thrown by a Cybertronian bounty-hunter named Lockdown (Voiced by Mark Ryan).
With help from Optimus, they manage to escape to an abandoned gas-station en-route to rally the four remaining Autobots. There they stock up on supplies, and stay for the night.
The next day, they make their way into the desert. On the road, Optimus scans another semi-truck, and transforms into a shiny new form.
This scene was pretty awesome to watch as well.
 In the desert, they meet up with Bumblebee, Hound (Voiced by John Goodman) Drift (Voiced by Ken Watanabe) and Crosshairs (Voiced by John DiMaggio)
Cade figures out that the drone he took was made by a company called Kinetic Solutions Incorporated, or KSI. They manage to pinpoint the company headquarters in the rebuilt Chicago.
And from the footage they pulled from the Drone, they find out that KSI has been killing Autobots and Decepticons alike.
Footage of Leadfoot and Ratchet (Voiced by Robert Foxworth) being killed is accessed, and Optimus vows to kill the man behind it all, Harold Attinger (Played by Kesley Grammer)
And this is when you realize he is seriously mad. And that Attinger is a dead man. It takes a lot to make Optimus Prime mad, and there's no better way to seal your own death warrant than hurting his friends.
They infiltrate the KSI compound, and begin looking into what they're working on.
Among many other things, they appear to be making artificial Transformers out of the Transformium they've harvested from Autobots, Decepticons, and mineral deposits alike.
Despite valiant efforts by Autobots and humans alike, they get found out, and Attinger gives chase with two of KSI's prototype Transformers, Stinger (Based on Bumblebee) and Galvatron (Based on Optimus Prime and Megatron)
While Bumblebee takes on his imposter, Stinger, Optimus is locked in combat with Galvatron. Optimus finds out that Galvatron doesn't have a spark (The Transformers equivalent of a soul, but something that can be physically destroyed) where other Cybertronians do.
During the fight, Lockdown injures Optimus, and hauls him off to his ship, taking Tessa with him.
While inside, Tessa grabs a tire-iron and fights off some of Lockdown's drones, while Lockdown jails Optimus with a group of unknown Transformers.
Lockdown explains that the creators of the Cybertronians has put a bounty on the head of Optimus Prime, and they're calling back their creations so they can rebuild the universe.
While Lockdown's henchmen give the members of Cemetary Wind a Seed (An alchemical device for creating Transformium) the remaining Autobots, along with Cade and Shane, sneak onto the ship.
Cade and Shane split off to find Tessa, while the Autobots go looking for Optimus.
The Autobots make their way to an escape pod where Lockdown keeps his trophy collection, and separate the ship as Lockdown jumps into Hyperspace.
Cade and Shane loot a weapons cache and manage to find something about their size, and escape the ship, joining up with Bumblebee and Crosshairs.
When they land, Optimus tells the others about what he felt while fighting Galvatron. The essence of his brother-in-arms turned enemy, Megatron. Brains, an Autobot they rescued from the KSI compound, confirms that Megatron repeatedly infected all of the Galvatron prototypes until he finally had a chance to break free from KSI control.
Optimus decides it's best to leave humanity with the mess they've created, thinking the last nine years a futile effort, but Cade convinces the Autobots to stay and fight.
Cade warns the KSI head , Joshua Joyce (Played by Stanley Tucci), about Attinger's plans to detonate the Seed in a populated city to seal humanities hatred of the Cybertronians, and he cuts ties with Attinger.
Funnily enough, that's similar to what Galvatron wants to do, use the Transformium to create more Decepticons. As it is, he just hijacks all of the KSI prototype Transformers and uses them as his army to beat down the human and Autobot resistance.
Attinger's right-hand-man, James Savoy (Played by Titus Welliver) goes after Joyce and the seed, with Galvatron hot on their trail.
Cade and the Autobots manage to get Joyce to safety, but the ship the Autobots took gets shot down before they can get the seed away from Earth, and Savoy catches up to them.
Cade and Savoy engage in combat across many rooftops, while the Decepticons close in on their position.
Optimus knows that they're outnumbered, so, working off something Lockdown told him, pulls a sword from the armory inside the ship they grabbed, and confirms something. I'm not sure what, but I think Optimus might have been one of the knights of the round.
He then sets free the other prisoners in Lockdown's trophy-room, who turn out to be the Dino-bots.
With that extra backup, the Autobots manage to subdue the Decepticon uprising, but Lockdown returns to reclaim his trophies.
Attinger has followed his now dead field-commander to the general location of the Autobots, and holds Cade at gunpoint, but Optimus makes good on his promise, and blasts Attinger away.
Unfortunately, Lockdown uses the sword Optimus pulled from the armory to impale him to a wall, just barely missing his spark.
Bumblebee arrives just in time, and he and Cade run interference while Shane and Tessa free Optimus from the wall.
Optimus kills Lockdown, and the Autobots finish off the remaining Decepticons. Galvatron retreats, vowing to come back and finish the fight.
Optimus sets the Dinobots free, and leaves them and the other Autobots to protect Earth, while he jets off into space with the seed in hand, set to confront the Creators.
All in all, this was an excellent movie. It started out a bit rocky, but really picked up after about twenty minutes.
And a good thing too, because this movie is almost three-hours long.
For the most part, my only issues with the movie are limited to that stretch of time. Mark Wahlberg is a fine actor for the most part, but his calm demeanor in the beginning was a little out-of-touch with the situation at hand. I'm not sure if it was an issue with direction or the script, or if the character was just trying to calm his daughter down by not panicking himself, but even if it was the latter, it still came off a little strange.
The best approach to that would have been a comment on how he was being so calm, and then maybe he could say something about not being calm inside.
Anyways, he's fine throughout the rest of the movie.
And honestly, I think some of the issues with Transformers 2 and 3 were the fact that the joke characters took up too much screentime. Fortunately, Brains doesn't make too many jokes.
And not to be cruel, but I think that Lucas's best scene was the one he died in. He didn't serve much purpose otherwise.
The most common complaint I've heard about this movie was that it didn't make much use of Steve Jablonsky's theme song for the series, known commonly as Arrival To Earth.
Honestly, I think the soundtrack arrangement was pretty spot-on. Arrival to Earth is a very upbeat song, suited for battles where the Autobots are winning, or where a victory is overwhelmingly in their favor.
And this isn't a very upbeat movie. Most of the time, the odds are stacked against the Autobots, and any victory can barely be called such.
But when they used it, it was very effective. That's the thing about iconic themes, they have to be used at the right time for the perfect effect. When Arrival to Earth starts playing in this movie, it's at the right moment, with the right effect. When it starts, Optimus rides Grimlock into battle, the tide of a hopeless fight turning, just when all hope seemed lost. When that song starts playing, you know they're gonna fight and win.
And even though they could have followed that up with The Touch for slightly greater effect, I think it worked fine as it was.
Age of Extinction is rated the lowest out of all of the live-action Transformers movies, with an 18% on Rotten Tomatoes. That's one point below Revenge of the Fallen, and eighteen points below Dark of the Moon, my personal pick for worst of the series.
Even my previous pick for best in the series, Transformers, is rated above it, with thirty-nine percentage points, placing it at a 57% rating.
And I think that's pretty unfair. Even though I think there was some room for improvement in some areas, I still like it better than Revenge of the Fallen or Dark of the Moon.
And even though Transformers is a movie I really liked, I have to say that this was slightly better.
In the end, I give Transformers: Age of Extinction a 10.1* rating.
Some may wish to dispute this, and I won't try to argue with them. There are a lot of people who don't like Michael Bay movies. I don't personally understand why, but I won't try to argue with them.
And do you know what? I think it might be as good as Days of Future Past.
This is Alex, signing off for now. I'll see you next week, and we'll see what I've got up for review!