Did you watch Michael Bay's newest cinematic aberration this weekend and come away confused? Our patented Spoiler FAQ has the answers to every question you have about the Transformers: Age Of Extinction! (Yes, including the one about statutory rape, since Michael Bay decided to bring it up.)
What is Transformers: Age of Extinction about?
Nothing. It's about nothing.
But it's three hours long. How can it be about nothing?
Because Michael Bay has somehow perfected his technique of turning a major summer action movie blockbuster into a high school graduation. It's three long hours of things happening that you don't care about. Oh, sure, eventually the person you're there to see will be called to the stage (likely this student's name is Grimlock) and you'll be excited to see him get his moment of recognition, and then the rest of these goddamn kids you don't know or care about have to get their diploma too. Even though Transformers 4 has less of certain problems that have plagued the live-action franchise, watching it is an obligation, a joyless, interminable slog where all you do is wait for Grimlock to get his diploma, metaphorically speaking, and go home and have a beer.
But it's about giant robots fighting each other, right?
BARELY. Seriously, the giant robots account for less than 20% of the films screentime, which runs nearly three hours. Things happen in this movie, but no story is told — no more than a high school graduation "tells a story." Things happen; eventually the ceremony closes. That is all. Do you know what TF4 screenwriter Ehren Kruger said?
He said "logical sense doesn't have to be the be-all, end-all." How do you criticize a movie that doesn't even care about trying to make sense?
But you're going to try, aren't you?
So how does Transformers: Age of Extinction begin?
It begins 65 million years ago, as an armada of snail-shaped spaceships drop mysterious bombs on the dinosaurs, turning them into metal!
Oh, wow! So that's where the Dinobots come from?
Nope. Not at all.
What? But… they're metal dinosaurs.
I know, but they literally have nothing to do with the Dinobots. They're just metal fossils.
You're about to ask if the spaceships suck up some dinosaurs to study them or something, but the answer is no. These ships bomb the dinosaurs, the dinosaurs turn to metal, end of scene, case closed. Any Dinobots that come later are completely coincidental.
Flash forward to the present! Frasier from Frasier is in charge of a CIA Black Ops squad called "Cemetery Wind" — I guess "Death Blow" was taken by a '90s comic character — which is hunting down all the Transformers for their role in the Chicago disaster of Transformers 3.
Hey, Transformers 3 was a disaster by itself. Amirite?!
Heeeeyyyooooo! Anyways, the movie eventually makes it clear that Frasier is only supposed to be hunting those evil Decepticons who destroyed Chicago, not the heroic Autobots who destroyed Chicago. Frasier doesn't seem to care about the difference, although maybe he can't tell any of the Transformers apart like the rest of us.
This is why the Autobots are scattered and Optimus Prime takes the form of his classic Generation 1 truck form and hides, uh, in an abandoned movie theater.
Wait, how did Optimus Prime get inside a movie theater?
Transforming, maybe? Whatever, he's found by our new protagonist Cade who is a hard-working American family man facing many problems.
What's wrong with Cade?
Well, he's broke, he's completely irresponsible, when he's lawfully evicted from his land he chases off real estate agents with a baseball bat, he's stealing power from his neighbors, he refuses to let his 17-year-old short-shorts-aficionado daughter Tessa (played by Katara from the live-action Last Airbender movie) have contact with any boys whatsoever, and, rather than do anything to earn a decent wage, pay his bills or help put his daughter through college, he devotes himself to inventing shitty, half-functional robots.
Does Cade have any redeeming features?
Well, when he discovers Optimus — who is dead, by the way —
Yeah, he's dead again. Non-functional, not going anywhere, until Cade gives him a jumpstart and Prime starts yelling "KILL YOU! KILL YOU!"
Yeah. Anyways, back to Cade; when Cade discovers he has Optimus Prime on his hands, instead of turning him over the government for some badly needed reward money, Cade decides to try to figure out how Optimus works.
That actually makes Cade a worse person. His obvious obsession is superseding his responsibilities as both an adult and a parent.
It also gives Frasier's evil death squad, led by Titus Welliver, time to come to the farm and threaten to kill Tessa unless he reveals where Prime is.
In your opinion, what's the weirdest part of this scene?
It's a tie: 1) Somehow, Cade's barn has a 30-foot deep pit inside it which Optimus Prime can suddenly hide in (and which Prime has seemingly boarded up himself somehow?). 2) Titus Welliver has his gun to Tessa's head, and is counting down from 10 so Cade reveals where Prime is hiding. When Titus gets to "One," even though he has Tessa pinned to the ground with his gun to her head, Titus orders his men to "Shoot her."
Even though he's literally sitting on top of her with his gun to her head?
Yep. It's a moot point, because Optimus bursts out of the barn (which explodes for some reason) starts shooting the CIA guys, which would seem to be proving Frasier's point. However, the CIA have teamed up with an intergalactic Transformer bounty hunter named Lockdown, who shows up to fight Prime for a bit.
Wait. So Frasier hates Transformers so much that he wants to kill them all, and do that he's teamed up with… another Transformer?
Yes. It should be noted that Lockdown has a massive spaceship and an army of robot soldiers and dogs, and thus represents an infinitely greater threat to humanity than Optimus Prime or the other four remaining Autobots, none of which have an army or giant fucking spaceship.
That makes no sense.
Indeed. At that point, Shane Dyson, Tessa's secret 20-year-old boyfriend who happens to be a racer of some kind, shows up at just that moment to rescue Cade and Tessa.
Wait a second. Didn't you say Tessa was 17? What's the age of consent in Texas?
Oh, it's 18. But as Michael Bay has either researched or clearly had someone research for him, there is an exemption for minors who are willingly having sex with people within three years of age. So Dyson is legally fucking Tessa, and to prove it, he brings out a laminated copy of said law, which he carries around with him. So he can prove he's not guilty of statutory rape. Which is clearly an omnipresent danger. Because he's fucking a minor.
It is easily the most fucked thing I have ever seen in a Transformers movie, and remember, this is a franchise that gave a robot testicles. How easy would it have been to just say the law allows it? Or that this kid is maybe a more socially acceptable 18-years-old? How easy would it have been to not bring up their age difference and Texas' statutory rapes laws at all?
Very easy, one might think!
And yet Michael Bay chose to put this scene in this movie. He thought, "Not only do I want to call attention to the uncomfortable age discrepancy between my two leads, I want this guy to carry around the state's laws on having sex with minors in his pocket, like a condom, because I think it's funny even though any sane person would recognize it as the behavior of a budding serial rapist." Also, there's some bizarre business about Tessa being a necessary part of his racing team by handing the gearshift — which makes no sense but is mostly played to imply Tessa is really good at giving handjobs anyways, so it doesn't matter.
But back to the movie. Prime calls the Autobots together, and they've all been hiding in the same two-mile radius of New Mexico or something, so it's a quick reunion. And here's an actual improvement Bay has made: after three movies, he's finally learned the value of allowing people to tell the Transformers apart. Besides Prime and Bumblebee, there's Hound, who smokes a giant artillery round like a cigar because HE'S A ROBOT; Crosshairs, a robot wearing some kind of trenchcoat; and Drift, who looks like a samurai, talks with a heavy Japanese accent, calls Prime "sensei," wields a giant sword, and talks in haiku.
So it's a racist stereotype, just not necessarily a grossly negative one?
Indeed. But on the other hands, the Autobots are… not quite as heroic as you might remember them. Optimus Prime, the noble leader, announces quite specifically he's going to murder the human responsible for hunting down and killing his comrades, i.e. Frasier.
Understandable, but not a very Optimus Prime thing to do.
The other Autobots aren't actually any better; as they squabble amongst themselves, Drift even takes his sword and holds it against the throat of his fellow Autobot, clearly wanting to kill him.
Wait. Are you sure these aren't the Decepticons?
Yes. The Decepticons aren't really in this film. It's just the Autobots on a quest for vengeance, while Cade wants to find out who's hunting his family and why ("the CIA" and "for hiding a terrorist alien robot" not being sufficient answers for him). Cade picked up some kind of drone thingie during the firefight, and discovers it's from the Apple-esque company KSI, and they all assume its where the answers/people Prime needs to murder are.
What's this KSI company have to do with anything?
They have discovered what Transformers are made of… Transformium.
Are you fucking kidding me?
Nope. Apparently, when the Avatar movie announced its stupid macguffin material was "unobtanium" and everyone on the planet groaned, Michael Bay discovered a brilliant idea worthy of copying.
Wait a second. In the first movie, didn't the U.S. government have Megatron for like a full century? No one managed to figure out what he was made of in all that time?
Do you remember the very final scene in Transformers 3, when Optimus Prime gives some some stirring monologue about never abandoning Earth or its people? Optimus Prime not only wants to murder humans, he wants to get off the fucking planet asap, and the only thing stopping him is his desire to murder Frasier. Transformers 4 has bigger continuity problems, is what I'm saying.
Sigh. So. "Transformium."
Yep. Now Stanley Tucci, playing the weird Steve Jobs-y parody CEO of KSI can make his own Transformers. It's all part of an elaborately plot between him and Frasier; Frasier and his evil CIA team hunt down Transformers, and Tucci takes the Transformium out of them. So Tucci can make Transformers, and Frasier can make the government buy them, and Tucci can give him a kickback, because actually Frasier doesn't really give a shit about national security and just wants money. Or something.
Also the metal dinosaurs from the beginning are also made of Transformium, but apparently not much of it, because Frasier made a deal with Lockdown that he would give the bounty hunter Optimus Prime for The Seed, which is a bomb that makes a lot of Transformium. Even though it's the same kind of bomb that turned the dinosaurs into metal but somehow not much of it. Also, KSI has somehow already made 50 fake Transformers without the Seed, so I have no idea why they really care. I mean, other than Michael Bay not understanding how "motivation" works."
This continues to make no sense.
KSI is also using the Transformium in Megatron's severed head to make his own version of Optimus Prime, using the captured Brains — one of the small, annoying Autobots from the earlier movies — to "translate"… something. The fact that "Galvatron" keeps transforming from looking like Optimus Prime into Megatron somehow does not raise any red flags for Tucci.
And why would it?
Tucci sends Galvatron and Stinger after the fleeing Autobots; Galvatron immediately starts killing a lot of innocent people, and Tucci seems slightly perturbed that his creation is killing people. The Autobots do one of their disappearing tricks from the earlier movies where they just go away so Optimus can get his ass kicked again, and get captured by Lockdown, along with a random car that Tessa is hiding in for no reason other than to get into a big set-piece on Lockdown's giant-ass spaceship.
Well, that sounds pretty cool.
It's not. Here's what the Autobots do once they get on the ship: Drift yells "Kill you!" at somebody, Hound shoots an alien imprisoned in a cage who's no danger to anybody, and Crosshairs tries to give up. Also, some of Lockdown's robot minions have giant googly eyes and they look ridiculous. Eventually the humans escape in a lengthy action setpiece where they crawl down some cables attached to the Sears Tower, and then the Autobots steal a bunch of other tiny spaceships, just so you know the incredibly dangerous stunt was completely unnecessary. And then Lockdown, having patiently waited to take off for no apparent reasons, takes off without noticing Prime and one-third of his ship are missing.
Is that the end of the movie?
No, you simply wish it was. Brains reveals that Megatron is still conscious, in control of KSI's army of Transfauxmers, and is trying to get the Seed in order to blow up a city in order to make a lot of Transformium in order to make an army of Transformers, even though he already has one. No, I don't understand either. It's worth noting that Brains knew Megatron was alive and was plotting a takeover, but didn't tell anybody because he wanted all the humans to die. Prime is totally cool with this and is like "Let's go."
Yep. He's ready to let the fucking humans fuck off and die, until Cade convinces him to give humanity another chance.
Really? The fate of the human race is the hands of Marky Mark giving an inspiring speech to a bitter robot?
What's it about?
Getting girls pregnant in high school.
Well, it's ostensibly about mistakes, and sometimes mistakes are good. For instance, Cade knocking up a girl in high school was a mistake, but it led to Tessa, which was a good mistake. And humans hunting down and murdering Transfiormers was also a mistake… but maybe something good will come out of it? I don't know, it doesn't hang together in the slightest. The point is that it leas to another interminable action set piece in Hong Kong where Stanley Tucci is running around with the Seed — Tucci has turned good because Cade calls him and says, literally, that he must be a good guy because he's an inventor like Cade, because inventing is the noblest of professions, and the Autobots fight the Transfauxmers.
Where do the Dinobots come in?
Late in the final fight. Optimus Prime decides the Autobots need reinforcements and frees the Dinobots from the portion of Lockdown's ship he stole, meaning the Autobots had left them imprisoned and had no intention of freeing them until they got in a fight where they needed an assist. Anyways, Prime declares that they're free and then immediately orders them to fight for him because of some of that Knight mumbo-jumbo. Grimlock of course tries to kill Prime, but Prime manages to punch him in the face and then they're buddies.
But the Dinobots are awesome, right?
Well, they look cool. They don't talk, they don't have personalities, they change immediately from their robot form into their dinosaur mode and never change again, the pterodon has two heads for some reason, and after killing some Transfauxmers and destroying a lot of the scenery they just disappear so Optimus can murder Frasier and have his showdown with Lockdown. But for the brief time they're on-screen they're cool, assuming you didn't mind waiting two and a half hours for them.
And you're sure these guys have nothing to do with the metal dinosaurs from the beginning of the movie?
So is Transformers: Age of Extinction better or worse than the previous Transformers movie?
Both. I'm not trying to be facetious here, I mean that AoE lacks a lot of the problems of the first movies in that there's no heinous racism, no robot genitalia, no tiny dogs humping, no moments where he displays his immense contempt for audiences, so in that regards it's better. But on the other hand, those horrible moments have given the previous Transformers films some kind of personality, albeit a personality I loathe. But Transformers: Age of Extinction is just… there. It's so dull, so tedious that I can't even hate it. In that regard, it's the least entertaining movie Michael Bay has ever made.
So how did it still make $300 million this weekend?
Because Michael Bay sold his soul to the devil.
Did Frasier have special Transformers playing cards printed out specifically so he could deal them out ominously at meetings?
Apparently so, yes.
Is the inference that Tessa is really good at giving handjobs more or less degrading than Michael Bay's close-ups of Megan Fox's ass?
About the same, I think.
What company would use Transformium to make an Oreo vending machine that turns into a robot?
A profoundly terrible one.
Why doesn't Lockdown just look for Optimus Prime himself? Why doesn't he use his big fucking spaceship or his fucking army? Why does he have a Seed anyways?
Because logic and narratve coherence is for pussies, apparently.
If Optimus Prime can fly, why didn't he fly during [any of the many, many scenes where it would have benefitted Optimus Prime to fly]?
See answer above.
Also, where the hell is Optimus flying to at the end of the movie? Transformers clearly need spaceships to get through space.
I believe he's flying to Poochie's home planet.
What happens to Galvatron?
The humans and the Autobots agree to let him wander off so he can be a villain in the next movie. Because we all know how obsessed the Transformers movie franchise is with continuity.
What happens to the Dinobots?
Optimus Prime tells them they're free, and lets them wander off through the Chinese countryside, which will surely cause no problems whatsoever, even though the movie began with all Transformers being hunted down for the Chicago disaster.
Was there a scene in the movie that you think may have made Hasbro executives weep loudly and openly?
Probably when some KSA scientist used the Transformium to make a giant My Little Pony figure and then turn it into an assault rifle.
If you could sum up Transformers 4 in a single, tragic image, what would it be?
Optimus Prime driving away with a "GOT AMMO?" bumper sticker on his ass.