[Movie] Transformers 4: Fuck This Movie 12

I’ve been trying all day to come up with a funny way to write about how transcendently angry this movie made me. Something hopefully a bit more highbrow than the entire concept of “rage pee.” And then I realized I can’t do it, and it was going to stop me from meeting my obligation to you lovely people, who gave $400 to charity to make me watch this insult to common decency on film. So I’ll just lay it out for you.

I had this one moment, midway through my second beer (bless you, Alamo Drafthouse, without your alcohol I would not have survived) where I almost, almost convinced myself that no actually, Michael Bay is totally a genius, and this is his never-ending art project to hold a mirror up to movie-goers across the globe and prove that no matter how low you think the lowest common denominator is, actually you need to pick your shovel back up and keep digging. It was like he was laughing, Bella Lugosi-style, deep and evil and amused, at the incontrovertible proof that we are a culture in only the most bacterial of senses, unquestioningly throwing money at anything rancid so long as it came coated with the appropriate amount of bright orange glitter. And I almost laughed with him for a moment as my sanity cracked and bent.

None of us deserve the smirking comfort of thinking there’s some kind of meta-point to all of this.

There is no plot. There is no character. If I was feeling charitable I would say that Michael Bay and his screen writer, Ehren Kruger, have transcended the concept of plot, but that would imply some kind of higher purpose beyond stuffing in a little more creepy ogling and another unsubtle product placement. This movie is effectively a well-shot, two hour and forty fucking minute long, ugly, ravenous kaiju baby of a music video for the Imagine Dragons song Battle Cry, Hasbro’s newest line of merchandise, and centuries of ingrained misogyny and racism.

This is Michael Bay, with the executives of Hasbro and Paramount arrayed around him and applauding, taking a giant shit on a platter and offering it to the world. Except instead of a regular silver platter, this one’s shaped like a woman has been painted down with a spray tan. This is a two hour and forty fucking minute long movie in which the only actual plot thread is a man deciding if he will retain ownership of his daughter, peppered with slow motion explosions, incoherent car chase scenes, and battle after battle of CGI robots fighting other CGI robots in such a way that it really just kind of looks like a trash compactor fucking a junked car in the tailpipe, but less visually discernible.

And I never thought I’d say this, but considering the length of the movie it could have used more explosions, and giant robots rolling around in indecipherable masses of computer-generated metal. There is proportionally less Transformer action in this movie than in those previous in order to make room for men being super creepy at a seventeen-year-old girl.

The constant misogyny throughout the very fabric of this film is inescapably vile and toxic. Every major male character, when introduced, within his first few lines of dialog explicitly objectifies the nearest female character. At the very beginning of the movie, in one scene we quite literally go from Lucas (TJ Miller) creepily eyeing a couple of women walking by and calling them ‘junebugs’ to in the next scene, the theater landlord talking effusively about ‘dancin’ girls with big chachas.’ The only male character who doesn’t get a major moment of creepy objectification is Cade (Mark Wahlberg) but that’s apparently because he’s too busy obsessing about the state of his daughter’s purity. Which doesn’t get creepy at all.

If you’ve read anything about this movie, you’ve probably heard about the rightfully infamous “Romeo and Juliet law” scene. Nothing I have read as of yet does actual justice to how absolutely fucking creepy this scene is. Cade and Shane (Tessa’s boyfriend, played by Jack Reynor) have been pissing on each other’s legs since the moment they met about, frankly, just to whom Tessa belongs. Then Cade finds out that Shane is 20; well, Tessa is a minor. Without so much as blinking, Shane launches into a lecture about the Romeo and Juliet law of Texas, and has the text of the law on a laminated card in his wallet. He is carrying it the way one might expect a young man to carry a freaking condom. And it’s honestly impossible to state which is creepier in this scene; the constant emphasis on how young Tessa is when she is consistently objectified throughout the film, the fact that her creepy-ass boyfriend has memorized a legal defense of his right to fuck a minor, the complete and disturbing possessiveness of her father, or the fact that Michael Bay purposefully made the creative choice to include all of this and then made a point of it.

Double bonus ick points for this all occurring just a few scenes after one of the movie’s many incoherent car chases, during which time Shane tells Tessa to ‘grab his stick’ to do a driving maneuver, then informs Cade she ‘has the best hands in the business’ in the most innuendo-laden way possible.

I’m not a prude. The thought of teenagers having sex does not make me clutch at my pearls, have the vapors, or despair about the morality of America. But the way Tessa is basically treated as a non-person throughout the movie who has no say in her own life, and is explicitly objectified as underage by basically every male non-robot, and it’s the central human conflict of the movie? Yeah, you bet your ass that grosses me out.

Honestly, if it weren’t for the way Tessa had less agency than a toaster, I could have even found some of this funny. Cade and Shane spend every scene they have bickering about Tessa, no matter how the conversation starts. If there were some sort of reverse Bechdel test, where they had to have a conversation that wasn’t about a woman, they would fail it miserably. But considering Tessa spends her entire time on screen screaming, being rescued, and biting her perfectly made-up lower lip in a way that’s presumably supposed to convey the sexiest possible kind of terror? No. No, no, no.

There are other female characters in this movie. The geologist, Darcy (Sophia Myles) basically spends all of her time wearing white, making her unlike every female geologist I’ve ever met. I’m still puzzled about her presence in the movie, since she seems to almost have a reason to be around (something something Transformium something) but then that is subsumed with the need for her to be manchild inventor Joshua Joyce’s (Stanley Tucci) emotional validation and tell him for no apparent reason that she is proud of him (HOW? WHY? FOR WHAT?) before vanishing without a trace for the rest of the movie. Su Yueming (Bingbing Li) has the makings of a very interesting character, actually, obviously high-powered and career driven, who saves Joyce’s ass several times. Which then plays into him going on and on about how he has the hots for her. He calls her a “my delicate flower” at one point. The only thing that saved me from flipping the goddamn table was that she looked just as done with it as I felt, and then later when he asked if she missed him she flatly said, “No.”

Between the way Su Yueming is treated and the offensively stereotyped samurai transformer (voiced by Ken Watanabe), there is rich evidence that few lessons have been learned after the complaints of racism that followed the previous movies. (Bonus: the only black characters were either effectively non-speaking parts of the evil CIA team/KSI scientists or the real estate agent at the beginning of the movie, who is run off the property by a baseball-bat-wielding Cade yelling insults about how fat she and her brother are. So that’s awesome.)

After over 1000 words, there is probably something I should say about the actual plot. But after mulling it over for nearly 24 hours, I am still unconvinced that the movie even had one. This thing was so badly paced that time dilated, as if I was falling across the event horizon of a black hole; when I went out of the theater for my first bathroom break, I checked my phone and discovered there was still an hour and fifteen minutes left, which left me longing for the simple pain of eternal spaghettification. It was an incoherent mass of purposefully knotted loose ends to set up two more movies because, as proof that we live in a godless universe of pain, this one is the start of a new trilogy. Characters fall in and out of the narrative without rhyme or reason, apparently tucked away in a closet unless needed to blow things up, leer, or be leered at.

Megatron is brought back to life because of a MacGuffin, and new Decepticons have kind of(?) been made by the humans but that’s not important right now apparently. What characterization once existed for Optimus Prime has now been completely thrown at the window after he spent most of the movie threatening to kill humans (and did kill one but he was the CIA bad guy so I suppose that’s then all right?) and saying humans weren’t worth protecting until Cade tells him to calm his shit down and soothes him with an incredibly awkward unintended pregnancy metaphor. No, really. Optimus Prime and his random collection of conflicting and incoherent motivations made me long for the nuanced and well-handled manpain of Man of Steel. Another alien race is introduced so that Optimus can rocket away at the end of the film after telling Cade, “When you look at the stars, think of one of them as my soul.”

Literally the only plot thread that did tie up was the conflict between Cade and Shane, when Cade symbolically transferred ownership of Tessa to her super creepy, twenty-year-old boyfriend.

And the dinobots? In less than 6% of the movie by my recollection. Grimlock at no point speaks, let alone declares that he is Grimlock, no bozo, or king. The existence of the dinobots is weak at best and not even visually that arresting unless you have a giant boner for seeing a Transformer on a T-rex wielding a sword. In which case, buy the movie poster and save nearly three hours of your life you can use for masturbating to your bizarre fetish instead.

Perhaps the worst, most personal insult of this movie is the fact that the soundtrack is literally only twenty minutes long. For a two hour and forty fucking minute movie. I haven’t liked any of the Transformers movies since the first one, which I thought was…okayish. But I have always loved the soundtracks. All of which have clocked in around an hour long, like most theatrical scores. They’re good writing music. So this? It’s an outrage. That sure explains why about a third of the way into the film, I felt like I was stuck in an endless loop of the background track from Tron: Legacy and couldn’t escape. I get that these movies aren’t even trying any more, but goddammit.

Seriously. Fuck this movie. It’s not even good enough for my rage pee.

(If you would like to read my progressively more badly written and incoherent notes, taken during the film, find them here. Be warned, it was dark in the theater, and I was pretty drunk by the end.)

(Also, the FAQ at io9 for this movie is quite funny. Much funnier than my enraged ranting.)

12 thoughts on “[Movie] Transformers 4: Fuck This Movie

  1. Reply Keeley Pollock Jul 2,2014 21:04

    We went to see it because Chris wants to troll on of his co-workers by gushing about how wonderful it was. But my response at the end of the movie was to smile widely at Chris and say, “Ohmygod, Optimus is Neo, he’s THE ONE!” And Chris was not amused.

  2. Reply JohnD Jul 3,2014 22:18

    Other than that, how did you like the play Mrs. Lincoln?

  3. Reply Cerulean Spork Jul 5,2014 23:20

    hey couple quick questions since im not gonna give mr bay another dollar ( i saw one of his movies in a theatre – THE ISLAND – & didnt hate it until it turned into “STUFF FLIES @ THE SCREEN ELEVENTY ! ! ! ” but it seems to have been an anomaly in terms of not bein hideously offensive )

    but i HAVE read a ton of reviews bc im workin on a complicated theory of an ongoing “argument” in contemporary sf cinema (not exclusively genre but mainly takin place there ) btwn two opposing camps

    w kenneth branagh & guillermo del toro & sam mendes & maybe james cameron tog w a ton of actors & actresses crossing over from/to stage, esp shakespearean & / or television on one side

    & heading the other camp , zack snyder / david goyer & ridley scott & michael bay as the chief (not exclusive) offenders in the anti-diversity / anti-equality / anti-humanism side

    & boy do i have some theories abt what bay is up to in this one , bc i have also watched the trailers & teasers & spotted a bunch of suspicious stuff via visuals & descriptions

    incl some NEW stuff in yr review

    so if you dont mind

    q1 — since youve actually BEEN to the alamo drafthouse — & saw TRANS4MERS there — what do you think of the idea that he is mocking it , & thru it all fandom , by havin deactivated bayprime be found in a derelict texas movie theatre , which is closing bc of LOL “sequelitis” ?

    bc to me that read as a big FU to the world — all the critics & all the old schl TF fans who are horrified @ this nihilistic treatment of the property & disrespect for the craft of moviemakin — but shifting the setting to TX feels REELY suspicious on top of it , since the alamo drafthouse is such an icon & so influential in terms of bringing back old stuff , a fandom cultural center the way sxsw i for music (& oc so much overlap there ! ! )

    q2 – does the scn where cade jumpstarts bayprime evoke FRANKENSTEIN @ all ?

    q3 – now some of my reasoning wld take a very long time to explain , but im convinced that much of the dadaist garbage in TF4 is bc bay is simply trying to make a very long parody skit of PACIFIC RIM — remember he wasnt gonna do another @ all & only was convinced to make 4 , AFTER del toro started makin his own super-robo movie — AFTER universal canceled his lovecraft project bc they were convinced PROMETHEUS wld make it superfluous & peter jackson took back the HOBBIT directorial role

    & then a ton of reviewers & viewers alike hailed it as HOW TO MAKE A SUMMER BLOCKBUSTER ABOUT GIANT ROBOTS PUNCHING THINGS RIGHT — NOT LIKE TRANSFORMERS ! ! & i notice that bay only seems to have started casting ppl for TF4 once footage from PACIFIC RIM was out

    & CADE YEAGER ? ? ? really ? ? ? yeager = jaeger imo

    but not only that he cast MARK WAHLBERG who only rly got public attn as a srs actor w THE PERFECT STORM — & the opening sequence of PACIFIC RIM is as much a n homage to that movie as it is to JAWS & the space program , esp the shuttle

    & the bit in the trailers where he tells his daughter & his sidekick that he doesnt think its a truck @ all but a transformer , is beat for beat , GESTURE FOR GESTURE & almost word for word from the bit w the scientist in PACIFIC RIM sayin that he doesnt think the aliens are just animals but sentients instead

    theres a robot bulldog in the trailers , & then they introduce the chara called hound (only oc he is bayhound not @ all like any version from book or comic either ) which i think is bc of the bulldog in PACIFIC RIM

    & there is a sequence in the trailers where bayprime is thrown back & lands in between an old man & a boy — just like the opening of PACIFIC RIM — & flexes his hand the exact way the jaeger does after freezing the prehensile tail off the flying kaiju in the battle for HK

    & DOESNT the way they did the pterodactyl dinobot takin off — WHO NOW HAS 2 HEADS ! ! ! like a partially decapitated ghidora & has been renamed to an aviation rather than an avian theme — look strikingly like otachi takin off in PACIFIC RIM ? ?

    not 2 mention THEY ADDED DRIFT into this one LOL JAPANESE TRANSFORMER RIGHT ??? except oc they TTLY changed him from his past appearances MADE HIM A BUGATTI

    but they also


    which again , just like the MYFFIC MEDIEVAL / CELTIC SWORDS added to a chara & a story srsly lacking in the chivalry & mythopoeic dept so far

    says to me — just like

    all of which is to say that i THINK the reason for the horrible creepy “daddys girl” plotline

    plus the “underage” thing (which apparently isnt even factually correct in TX ? i see commenters sayin that 17 is legal already ? but i dont have a cite for that )


    bc lol @ the idea of a heroine who saves the hero & protects her father as his wingwoman , eh ? ? bay thinks its hilarious anyway


    bc oc that is even MORE loltastic to a sleezey jerk like bay

    the idea that a man & a woman cld be friends before above & apart from , any sexual interest , that caring abt each other as human beings is the foundation for all romance , & respect each other as colleagues on top of caring abt each other as hurting individuals

    obv that is NOT something that michael bay is even capable of comprehending

    but look @ the billboard on the left the scn in the trailer where a car is passin a train to the right , the one warning ppl to be on the watch for aliens & “never forget ” chicagos destruction

    it isnt just that it looks like the same retro-futural style of the billboards in the opening intro of PR but it also has even the COLOR SCHEME which says NOT COINCIDENCE to me
    (also trains a re a huge thing in del toro movies — theyre even in PACIFIC RIM , just invisible )

    & i think that other elements — the sexual-organs looking alien that hound reportedly shoots in the bounty hunters ship , the way that the sidekick LOOKS like the biologist millburn who gets eaten by the dia noga in PROMETHEUS ( not to mention dies by carbonite , er transformium , grenade & is named “lucas” ) to name the ones most obv to me so far — are taken from PROMETHEUS bc PR was in large part a critique / commentary on it

    a TON of PR plot elements are like mirrorverse fixfic of it , which means that idris elba basically walked off the PROM set w the whole script of it in his head & took it to del toro — unless he went ON the PROM job bc he was planning to do that to start w , knowing that ridley scott was makin it as a mockery of del toros films to start w YES I KNOW IM STARTIN TO SOUND LIKE NEWT GEISZLER HERE MYSELF but i actually have a ton of circumstantial & visual screencap evidence to back this up

    startin w THOR – BLADE 2 matchups & idris elbas own comments on what he brought to GHOST RIDER 2 which i think explains why he took THAT role too — its a very long game theyre playin here & involves the jaegers bein the ascended forms of WICKER MEN AS FRANKENSTEINS SACRED MONSTERS i actually wrote a poem on that b4 i had any idea it might be correct )

    & yes in a sense “guillermo shot first” by talkin abt how he didnt want his heroines in short-shorts or war to be glorified in PACIFIC RIM and look like “a car commercial” which i laughed @ bc that is EXACTLY how they shoot recruiting ads these days BUT WAS ALSO A JAB @ BAYFORMERS BC THEY DO ALL THOSE THINGS

    but bays response to that challenge , confirms my sense that he has only an empty socket full of pus & bone for a heart


    so he named it “age of extinction” & hung a flag wherever you look & put an american football in china & SET A BIG FIGHT SCN IN HONG KONG & THREW BOATS ARND THE STREET TO SHOW THAT HE GOT IT , HE RLY GOT IT & NYEAH NYAH DE NYAH NYEAH

    as charles miner wld say — HOW OLD ARE YOU, MICHAEL? FIVE?

    (oh & theres an interview w the screenwriter linked at tha t io9 FAQ article , where he boasts that linear plotting is so passe & they were just trying to make something emotion-touching “like cirque du soleil” which i think wld horrify any of the actual cirque du soleil choreographers & production designers , but says a lot abt their respect for the craft of filmmakin right there eh ?! )

    • Reply Rachael Jul 14,2014 01:17

      …I got nothin. I’m not sure what you want from me, gentle internet stranger. Shine on.

  4. Reply Patrick Jul 13,2014 09:32

    You see the paradox though? Like many other cinophiles my anti-crap-movie filters are refined enough that I didn’t even know this movie existed, until now.

    But now, because of you, I -want- them to make the trilogy, just so I can read your sublime take-downs.

    You are an enabler!

  5. Reply Drew Jul 13,2014 09:48

    Considering that the original Transformers cartoon had an episode that took place in a country called Carbombia, I’ve always found the racism and sexism in the movies relatively toned down. Casey Casem allegedly quit the Transformers cartoon because he found that to be too offensive. The Carbombia episode was written in 1988 or so, not 1958 in case anyone was wondering. You can still watch it occasionally on The Hub.

  6. Reply Mechaninja (@mechakisc) Jul 14,2014 22:04

    This is exactly the reason I haven’t watched any but the first one. I’ll allow as how the first one was ok-ish, at least insofar as a movie “special guest starring the Transformers” could be considered ok-ish, but the writing was on the wall. I may ask my wife not to take them to this, because I don’t need my 13 yr old daughter thinking that Markie Mark is a good father figure.

  7. Reply Bugsie Jul 14,2014 22:12

    This was always going to be a shit movie. The others were shit, no reason to think this would be different. To think though that it is shittier than shit and this shit is stinker than any other Michael Bay shit is certainly something. Can I say I’d rather smell my own shit than go see this pathetic excuse for a movie? Shit yeah. The first one I tolerated, the second one I didn’t tolerate at all the third one I refused to see and this final one – I don’t give a shit and if I did it would likely be a rage shit.

  8. Reply uzo Aug 4,2014 05:08

    Oh finally!!!!someone who agrees with me…i so much looked forward to this as i had watched the first 3 serially over the previous weekend….i went with a friend who i had overhyped about the interesting action scenes in the first 3 and how i knew the fourth scene was gonna be off the hook…if only i knew!!!!@ the cinema and half way into the movie,i was so uncomfortable, was looking at my watch all through for this goddamned flop to end….And the plot; There WAS NO PLOT..so much dry humorless jokes thrown around with the characters obviously cracking jokes which they would never obviously laugh at in real life….Why i liked the first three transformers was save for the action, Sam witcwicky.his girl and parents provided a lot of comic relief which was so obviously missing here…Dang but ’tis a bad experience i would never recover from

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