Transformers: Age of Extinction Is Definitely A Film
I was pleasantly surprised by the recent Michael Bay opus Transformers: Age of Extinction. I was expecting a liberal adaptation of the source material but I had not expected it to offer such fruitful insights on the nature of Power, Humanity and Love.
As we know, Transformers 4 is based on Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Mark Wahlberg is Prospero, an overprotective father burdened with the responsibility of caring for his innocent daughter, Not-Megan-Fox-2 (originally Miranda). In the play, Prospero has magic powers and a magical agent, Ariel. Bay updated this by keeping Wahlberg fairly human and giving him enormous magical robot instead. We know that Wahlberg is human because his robot often refers to him as “human” because this film is about Humanity.
Prospero, along with his daughter and that freak Caliban (played by that guy from Silicon Valley), are cut off from the outside world by some backstory involving a past life which was way better. They are soon made to deal with a group of people “shipwrecked” on Wahlberg’s “island”. This is represented in the film by military and government forces encroaching on Wahlberg’s land, prompting him to manfully act.
By hinting towards this “island” metaphor, is Bay trying to say that the government should be able to spy on people because no man is an “island?” Particularly men with enormous robots at their disposal? Or was Bay merely providing subliminal advertisement for his film The Island which is known for its deep connections to the Transformers’s franchise? The deeper message is unclear, though we must praise Bay for attempting to have one for the first time.
In the following chase scene, featuring his staple narrative technique of cutting to the next scene without any explanation, Bay thankfully kills off the Caliban character and condenses minutes of mourning into a few seconds of manfully poignant stares while driving. This allows the plot to continue without any interruptions from characters.
Bay has made significant efforts to update his style. The first three films focused mainly on two doddery parents who led productive, interesting lives. There was so much footage of these characters that fans clamoured for a separate film to be made out of their plot line, titled Irrelevant Dipshits Wander Around. Perhaps the unexpected success of that film prompted Bay to incorporate the concept of parents into Transformers 4.
It is a bold move for Bay to avoid simply rehashing another film of the young plagiawrite Shia LeBouf running around, having fun or otherwise copulating with members of the opposite sex. In this film, Wahlberg is a so-called parent and needs to prevent his daughter from doing just that at every opportunity, because he Loves her. Thus, in an attempt to offer a more mature plot, Bay manfully grapples with the complexity of gender stereotypes much like Optimus Prime grapples with his robotic dinosaurs: beating them into submission before mounting them.
Thankfully we have left the puerile immaturity of the previous films behind us, though this may have backfired. It appears Bay misunderstood his target audience, leaving the average transformer fan with severe mixed messages. John Man, who couldn’t wait to see Bay’s latest stupid toy movie, said “I just don’t get it. Are fathers supposed to be stupid comic relief like Jar Jar Binks or are they deeply empathetic like C3P0? Tell me what to think Michael Bay!”
The film thankfully comes towards its long overdue end. The tempest which has been brewing throughout the film takes the form of Megatron or Galvatron or whatever, and he whizzes around the city like a Death-Eater crossed with a Power-Ranger. After some intrigue from two male characters whose bickery power-hungry schemes eventually come to nothing, this all comes to an end with some type of climax I honestly can’t remember and the Powerful robot Optimus Prime learns to Love Humanity. Wahlberg continues to look up to Prime, because he is very tall.
Our score: 13.
Charlie Jane Anders at io9.com shows how Michael Bay is really making art house films.