Saturday, June 28, 2014

SPOILERIFIC! Transformers: Age of Extinction - Part Two

Welcome back to the second part of this SPOILERIFIC!.  Yesterday I went into detail about some of the key characters, and found them to be pretty lacking.  In the hopes of finding something redeeming for the movie, I've decided to retrace the steps of the movie in the hopes that it at least tells an interesting story (I'll be glossing-over anything that was covered in the character analysis; refer to Part One for those details).  My findings after the page break (since it was a 3-hour movie, this is a bit of a long one):

!!! WARNING!!!  Spoilers After The Break!!!

So the last possible redemption for the movie would be the plot itself.  Since the events of the last movie, the remaining Autobots have been given sanctuary in the US, while the government hunts down any remaining Decepticons.  So... it's basically the start of the previous two movies, except that the military is no longer working with the Autobots.  One thing that really caught me is that they talked about the Chicago disaster and mentioned that thirteen-hundred people died during the attack.  Now, don't get me wrong, even one person dying is horrible, but 1300?  Curious, I headed to Wikipedia, which reports that Chicago has an estimated population of 2.7 million people.  Doing the math, that's a fraction of a fraction.  It's something around .0005% of Chicago's population.  During the scene where the military is taking down Ratchet, one of the soldier's coldly points out that he lost a sister during Chicago, so he has no sympathy for Ratchet's blight.  Wow, that's some odds, buddy.  Of all the soldiers who could have been assigned to this task, it's not only someone who was from Chicago, but he's related to one of the 0.0005% of people who were killed?  I know, it's a minor detail, but it's something that niggled at the back of my head, so I'm mentioning it anyway.  If you're going to make-up statistics to give some weight to the events of previous movies, give believable statistics.  For the sake of comparison, nearly 3,000 people died in the 9/11 attacks, and that was just two buildings; meanwhile the final act of Revenge of the Fallen saw massive destruction across most of Chicago.  I don't think many people would question if an extra digit was tacked onto that number.

The movie opens with Cade, Tessa, and Lucas finding Optimus.  We soon learn that the government knows that Optimus was brought there, cutting to a scene where the agent in charge has a picture of what seems to be a satellite picture of Optimus being towed onto Cade's property while still in the form of the run-down truck, saying that the truck matches images of a truck seen fleeing their earlier attack on Optimus.  Later we learn that it was Lucas who called the feds, but it then begs the question of why the government had a picture of Optimus outside of Cade's barn when Cade et al didn't learn that he was Transformer until after he was placed in the barn.  It's like they wanted to give this "big brother" vibe where the government managed to find Optimus on their own with their spy satellites, but then they wanted to make a call-back to when Lucas and Tessa were going to call the authorities.  So thus far we aren't doing that great on keeping a consistent tone.  Either that or the CIA has cameras that can see through time.

So the government shows up, and Optimus bursts out of the barn so they don't shoot Tessa, and a shoot-out is had between him and the humans (At first I thought he was shooting them directly, but after seeing some of the footage later, it does look like he's blasting near them as to knock them out.  So the script isn't being inconsistent later when Optimus makes a big deal about his vow to never kill humans, but will make an exception if he meets whoever gave the order to hunt the Autobots).  Cade and company try to make an escape, but some feds give chase.  This is when Tessa's boyfriend makes an appearance in what I'm sure the entire audience thought was going to be revealed as an Autobot (possibly keeping tabs on Optimus while he was unconscious).  It even gives him this dramatic entrance as he ramps off of a hill and slams a fed in the face with one of the tires in a way that you would think only a Transformer could do intentionally.  Then during the car chase he aludes to the fact that he's never driven like this before.  So much teasing that his car turns-out to be a Transformer, and then Lockdown just blows it up.  Ah well, I can't fault it as a plot hole, but I can fault it as getting my hopes up for nothing.  I guess you could say that Shane's car is a commentary on the movie as a whole.

After the thrilling car chase, and the death of the human who doesn't serve any further purpose to the plot so let's kill him to show that Lockdown doesn't fuck around (and by the way why does he never use these grenades ever again?), the remaining humans pile into Optimus who then drops them off at an isolated gas station so that he can blow-off the heat (I think).  You would think that he'd use this opportunity to get into a nicer form, but he waits until after picking the humans up so that the movie can make a big scene about him getting his new form with the trio in tow (Shane is entirely too impressed).  You would think that during their time there, that Shane would want to get along with Cade, but instead he decides to demonstrate that he knows a little too much about the laws that let him legally date girls who are under 18 (he's 20) in a very antagonistic "there's nothing you can do about me screwing your daughter" tone.  Hence why I was hoping that the plot would lead to him either redeeming himself or getting dumped.  Ah well.

Heading into the desert, Optimus regroups with the remaining Autobots in some canyons.  It's here that Cade's tinkering comes in handy as he messes around with a little drone that the CIA had on scene (he grabbed it, I think, when Optimus burst out of the barn).  Lucky for them, these drones don't just have cameras, but hard drives, too.  It mostly seems to add that little detail so that he can find video footage that serves as the bread crumb that leads to the next plot detail, because I don't see why else a drone would save the footage it captures.  Seems there's no better way for your enemy to learn vital details if it takes taken down.  Seems the story writer wrote himself into a bit of a dead end, so rather than going back and finding a different bread crumb for the heroes to find, he instead makes the CIA's drones the worst spy tools ever.

Not much to say about the KRI scene, except that it seems odd that they gave Cade a scene with Darcy.  I guess they wanted to show her as being the heart and soul of the company, but couldn't find anywhere better to stuff it into what is already an overly-bloated plot.  So whatever, the car chase, where the Autobots display their trademark disappearing whenever something bad needs to happen to Optimus.  They're all driving down the highway, then Galvatron shows up, then it's just Optimus so that Lockdown can show-up and capture him without conflict and look all bad-ass.  I guess we can assume that the others were busy with the Stinger who was also dispatched, but it doesn't show that; nor does it explain why one of them didn't just keep Stinger distracted (Bee certainly seems to hate them) so that the others can help Optimus with what is clearly the bigger threat; or maybe show more than one Stinger going into the fray so that we can figure they were all occupied.  But whatever, we need Optimus to get captured, so just push them off-screen.  Oh, and of course Tessa sought refuge in the car that Optimus ends-up leaning against so that she can get captured by accident.  I guess they couldn't figure out a better excuse to get Cade on Lockdown's ship so that he could get that gun/sword he uses for the rest of the film.

So the Autobots, now re-introduced into the plot, want to get on the ship so they can save Optimus, and Cade and Shane want to go with so they can save Tessa.  They split paths, and the humans find their way to a weapon's cache.  Lucky them, there's exactly two swords that are just the right size for them to use, because when taking-on robots that dwarf you by comparison, a sword is just what you need!  Enter the scene with them getting cornered, and out of options, Shane decides that surrender is the best idea.  Of course, the only reason he seems to do this is so that he can throw down his weapon and accidentally trigger the gun mode that Cade then unlocks with his sword... gun, because whenever the story writer for this movie gets into trouble, instead of going back and revising things to fit better, he just has the characters do something stupid and/or convenient.  You would think his cowardice was further foreshadowing to Shane getting either dumped or redeemed later in the movie, but nope!  They just needed to contrive a reason for the swords to actually be guns, because I guess just having them be guns in the first place would be too simple.  It's a good thing we had Shane along for the ride.

Fast-forwarding a little (though make sure to slow back down for Crosshair's admittedly-awesome moment before fast-forwarding again) to the big, final battle.  Let's move this thing out of America and go wreck-up... oh, let's go with China.  The excuse is that Joshua wants to detonate The Seed in (probably) The Gobi Desert, because there aren't any deserts near California, right?  Though I suppose that the government might have a problem with- oh wait, he's working with the government!  Anyway, just to raise the stakes, the seed starts beeping, prompting Joshua to text his tech guys to ask what the blast radius is (though they never establish if the beeping is in fact a timer).  WHAT!?  Okay, firstly, how do they know?  We've never seen a seed go off.  Secondly, why would they know and he wouldn't?  Why would they take the seed anywhere without knowing it's blast radius?  Did the plot get thrown under the bus just so that they could tell the "like a tactical nuke" (complete with nuke emotes in the text) joke?  *Sigh*

So the three musketeers meet with Joshua, and are naturally hostile at first, but then decide to buddy-up with him instead of throwing him off of the roof where they find him.  Then, after being intercepted by one of the CIA agents, Cade stays behind to fight him while the rest escape.  Somehow, a guy who spends all day tinkering with gadgets is able to not only hold his own against someone who's been trained in combat, but is able to win and throw him off the roof by throwing a football at him.  Oh, but it established earlier in the movie that Cade is more athletic than Lucas, so I guess that makes this scene make sense.  The good guy needs to win anyway, so of course the story writer had to find a stupid way to get himself out of yet another corner that he wrote himself into.

Naturally, Megatron (now Galvatron) wants the Seed, so he takes control of himself and the Stingers to launch an assault on the Autobots to try and take it.  He makes his (now second) entrance with a little too much flair, to the point of coming-off as cheesy.  Yes yes, we know that you're Galvatron now.  Dial it down a bit?  Anyway, Optimus heads back to the shuttle to get reinforcements, because the Autobots are severely out-numbered by Galvatron's forces.  Oh, and he takes Crosshairs and Drift with him, leaving just Hound behind to fend for himself and defend the humans.  Probably because the story writer wanted to include the dialogue where Crosshairs and Drift talk about how awesome Optimus is.  Apparently the audience doesn't realize just how awesome the most popular Autobot is, so we need it spelled-out with dramatic close-ups and everything.  Good call though, boss, bring the peanut gallery with you to inflate your ego.

Not that it matters who went and who stayed behind.  Despite being the only Autobot in the fight (though now that I think about it, Bumblebee stayed behind I think, but I honestly forget what he did during the battle except kill a Stinger and get cocky about it), the battle makes no progress during the entire time that Optimus is doing all of this.  I guess it never occurred to Galvatron to use his superior numbers to flank Hound and the humans while Optimus takes Laurel and Hardy over to get the disappointing Dinobots.  Though it certainly would have ended the movie a lot quicker as Optimus rides into battle just in time for the seed to detonate and the credits to roll.  Oh well.

With Optimus and the Dinobots on the scene, they make short work of Galvatron and- Oh, I guess they just kill his army and forget about Galvatron?  Meanwhile, were Crosshairs and Drift in the rest of the movie, or did they clock out and have a smoke break while Optimus mopped-up?  Anyway, welcome back to the story, Lockdown.  Having realized that part of his ship ejected, because I guess he doesn't have fail-safes in place that either prevent it from launching, or alert him when it launches?  Or something?  But whatever, he's here just in time to pad-out the run time Smaug-style (or maybe that should be blamed on the Dwarves, since they weren't supposed to enter the mountain in the first place).

I won't even go into the bland gravity device... thing, except to say that it's rather convenient that Lockdown created it out of wet tissue paper that a handheld weapon is able to destroy it in a single shot.  So then he comes down and fights Optimus face-to-face.  Cade decides to try and help, but oh, hello Kelsey.  Completely forgot about your character.  Were you out having a smoke with Crosshairs and Drift?  Well, whatever, it's plot-convenient to have you here now, and just in line of sight of Optimus.  For all he knows you're busy menacing a wall since Cade is around the corner, but you ARE the human that was foreshadowed as being the human that Optimus wants to kill.  Except... does Optimus know who you are?  I honestly don't know.  At this point, I should think that it's Lockdown who Optimus is convinced put the humans up to hunting Autobots, because he is.  But again, it's plot-convenient so of course Optimus shoots him.  It's like a plot hole within a plot hole specifically so that Lockdown can get the edge on Optimus.  Note how once again the other Autobots have vanished.  There is nothing else going on in the plot right now, but something bad needs to happen to Optimus, so they just got sucked into the void.  Even the Dinobots weren't around for this fight (though they are technically Autobots; at least in the source material).  What is with everyone and taking smoke breaks during the most important battle of the entire movie?

Also, was Lockdown about to kill Optimus?  I thought he's here to retrieve Optimus, but I'm pretty sure that Lockdown was getting ready to kill him.  I guess that Optimus has been a pain in his side, but how is he gonna explain that to the people who hired him?  "Oh right, Optimus?  Well see, I know you hired me to bring him back, but uh... I kinda decided to kill him instead... even though being hired by you guys is the only reason I had an interest in him in the first place."  Probably not gonna go over so well, but that's okay, because it's time for the humans to kill Lockdown tag-team-style.  Oh, and I think Bumblebee gets ejected from the void to help out with that sequence or something?  I honestly forget, but since the bad thing has happened to Optimus it's okay for Autobots to exist again.

And then... that's it.  No mention of what consequences Joshua will have to face for his company creating the robots that leveled several blocks of whichever Chinese city that was.  Shane never has to redeem himself, nor does Tessa dump him, so that leaves a foul taste in the mouth.  Meanwhile Cade is basically a fugitive, though I think Joshua says he can help with that... using the company that's likely to be shut down and have its assets locked.  So... huh.  Oh right, and the Dinobots "have their freedom", which I guess is movie script talk for "you're fired", because hyping the Dinobots for the next movie isn't going to work now that we know they're disappointing.  Meanwhile, Galvatron declared that he'll get his revenge, because another Michael Bay Transformers is exactly what we want.  Oh, and I don't know what happened with the Seed.  I think it was used to destroy Lockdown's ship?  Either that or it was tucked away to be a plot device for the next movie.

Um... so yeah.  That's my summary of the plot, and why I'm having a hard time assessing the movie.  On the one hand, it had good action scenes, and the plot itself wasn't necessarily bad.  However, there were so many plot holes and an inconsistent tone throughout the movie that it's hard to really feel all that invested.  As an action movie I suppose it's okay, but I'm a guy who likes a good story, and there are plenty of good action movies out there with serviceable-enough plots that they don't nag on me.  Just about the only credible thing I can say is that it's the best of Bay's Transformers movies, but that bar is set so low that it's hard to say that's much in the ways of praise.  It's like surveying a public restroom and awarding the least stanky toilet.  It might be the least offensive appliance in the room, but that doesn't mean that someone didn't take a dump all over it.

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