There are LOTS OF SPOILERS for Transformers: Age of Extinction in this post, just as an FYI.
I know it’s foolish of me to even bother trying to analyze the writing of a director who tells his scriptwriters to “just write ‘Action Sequence’ and I’ll handle the rest.” Or who’s said “I make movies for teenage boys” in response to the criticism of his work. And I gotta tell ya, if that’s the standard he holds himself to, then he’s succeeded. And as bad as they are, I’ll admit to watching them myself, though it took me a LONG time (and a free ticket) to see the first Transformers.
Optimus Prime is not a Peterbilt truck, he is a Mack (as we finally see in Transformers 4, albeit briefly). He also does not have racing flames on his cab. Anyway… I’ll also admit to a fanboy moment in the first movie when Prime leans down and Peter Cullen’s voice comes out of the giant robot, “I am Optimus Prime.”
As with most Michael Bay movies, people who actually think about the movies they watch will have a lot of questions at the end (or at least I did). If you’re just going for the hot girls/guys, explosions and action sequences, then you’ll be perfectly happy. Lots of all of them, and no need for me to go into them here. But for me, this movie, even at 2:45 long, was still only half-told.
I didn’t honestly expect a lot from this movie except guns and explosions and hot girls/guys. That’s what I expect from any Michael Bay movie/show (although The Last Ship is, thus far, exceeding my expectations). But that doesn’t excuse lazy screenwriting, and there are FAR too many problems with this script. If I wrote a book that had this many problems, not only would it never be published (or even see the light of day, given my own requirements for my fiction), but I’d be absolutely embarrassed to have anyone read it, as flawed as it is.
For novelists, our work is out there forever, and though bad movies can often be quickly forgotten, bad books tend to really stick with you. I’ve often been asked if I intend to turn my books into movies – as in, be the screenwriter – but I think, were they to be sent to Hollywood, I might find I have too much artistic integrity to be very successful at it. Anyway, here are the questions/problems I was left with at the end, from Minor (meh, annoying but not a huge deal) to SERIOUSLY? (as in, this is a huge glaring plot hole).
- Minor – I get that we’re starting from 65,000,000 years ago, but some on-screen subtitles could… Oh, now we’re in the arctic with a seaplane. Um, k.
- Moderate – They’re threatening to shoot her if she walks through with a camera? This high muckety-muck of the company? Somehow, I doubt it.
- Minor – We see what is, presumably, a Dinobot frozen in ice, and then it’s not mentioned again. Ever.
- Minor – Why doesn’t she grab all the mail in the mailbox, instead of just some of it?
- Minor – Paris, Texas (where they live) is about 600 miles and 10 hours from South Padre. I don’t care how much you love to surf, it’s not just a “Oh, I have no gas so I can’t go” kinda trip.
- Moderate – A semi truck shows up in your run-down theater – inside the building – and it doesn’t strike you as odd?
- Moderate – A ‘working battery’ – even a yacht battery – would not be enough to ‘jumpstart’ Optimus Prime. Come the hell on, people.
- Minor – “Live” missiles don’t ricochet; they explode. That’s, like, their whole job. If it were a dud, it would ricochet, maybe, or just destroy itself on impact.
- Minor – A 30-foot tall robot can be quiet enough for men walking 2 feet above him not to hear a thing? He has no internal mechanical processes that make noise? No creaks/groans of metal? Riiiight.
- Moderate – “We can program matter.” Except for the somewhat-cool looking effects, how about the fact that a speaker system that can turn into a gun with a thought might possibly be a bad idea? Or that no one seems to be actually doing any programming of the matter?
- Minor – Other than making for a good action sequence, why would you ever create a ramp that can only be used if you’re driving a car out of a building? That’s not racing – that’s extreme sports, and it’s stupid.
- Moderate – Lucas (?) the Plucky Comic Relief died a horrible screaming death (literally!) and though they were sad for like a minute, they don’t bring him up again, ever, even when they get to relative safety. Marky Mark’s very good friend and coworker/partner/schlub died right in front of him and he doesn’t say anything about him? Okay, maybe it’s too hard for him, but a 17-year-old girl who basically grew up with the guy might mention him, no matter how hot her boyfriend with the muddled accent may be.
- SERIOUSLY? – Lucky Charms actually carries a professionally-printed, laminated, and rounded-edged copy of the “Romeo & Juliet” laws in his wallet? How many other 17 year olds has he been with? How often has this come up that he felt the need to have a card in his wallet?
- Moderate – Attinger’s worked for the CIA for 25 years, heading Black Ops, and he doesn’t see a deal with an alien Transformer bounty hunter going bad for everyone involved?
- SERIOUSLY? – “Why does he keep looking like Megatron?” You’ve built him five bodies, all of which turned out exactly the same, and you think the problem is the programmers? Maybe, just maybe, the fact that you’re pulling data from Megatron’s head and using a Decepticon to translate it for you might be the problem.
- Moderate – Wait, Galvatron is not obeying your commands? You mean Megatron in his new body? What a surprise!
- Minor – Yet again, Transformers are able to carefully catch and hold humans while doing amazing aerial acrobatics and not crushing them despite hands/servos that can’t possibly be calibrated for anything that small.
- Moderate – Finding one tiny human being on ship so big that it’s a prison for hundreds of giant robots and nasty creatures and has parts of itself that can split off into smaller ships presents only minor difficulties.
- SERIOUSLY? – The stupidest thing I’ve seen in a movie in a long time is climbing on thin cables from a ship hovering a thousand-feet-plus in the air across what looks like several hundred feet at least to, hopefully, a part of the building that is accessible. This can’t end badly at all.
- Moderate – Lockdown doesn’t have some sort of alarm or warning signal on his bridge that a rather large chunk of the ship has separated? And gets, apparently, quite far away before realizing this?
- Moderate – “Let’s give up on our newly destroyed Chicago and fly halfway around the world to our China facilities – run by someone who doesn’t appear to like us very much – so that we can save some money on location costs and pretend that we’re going to turn part of the Gobi Desert the size of a large city into molten metal because that’s not a bad idea.”
- Moderate – Guangzhou, Guangdong in China is about 3 hours (outside of traffic) from Hong Kong. “I know how we can lose them in Hong Kong” isn’t a feasible answer when you’re two hours away, even at Transformer speeds.
- Minor – “Let me put you in this elevator you need to use to get up to the roof as fast as possible, but you can hang out and be funny instead of actually using it to, you know, go to the roof.”
- Minor – “Because then I’m going to show I’m a badass girl, until the bad guy gets the best of me, and I need a man to save me.”
- Minor – “I think I’ll just jump down these rickety balcony roofs and A/C units that can be kicked out of a wall in three kicks because going INSIDE is a bad idea… except now it isn’t.”
- Minor – Hiding out in a giant glass box is, as Stanley Tucci put it in the movie, a bad idea in the middle of a gunfight.
- SERIOUSLY? – No one, not even Prime – thinks to ask what happened to Galvatron? It might be something of a consideration, given that he’s killed thousands of people and who knows how many Transformers.
- SERIOUSLY? – Giant robotic dinosaurs are now rampaging through China, and no one thinks how they’re going to address this?
- SERIOUSLY? – Prime takes off, telling the remaining Autobots to “defend” the humans and all that they will be – conveniently forgetting that there’s a GIANT MASSIVELY DAMAGED ROBOTIC PRISON SPACESHIP just hanging out over one of the most populous cities in the world, filled with all manner of nastiness. Including Hound’s little friend and all the others, not to mention who knows how many insane robots. And no, it wasn’t blown up, the “giant space magnet” was destroyed, but the ship itself was clearly still somewhat functional when Lockdown came down to fight Prime.
- SERIOUSLY? – We’re shown in the very opening scene an organic hand launching the “seeds” at the planet, and Prime says “I am a slave to no one,” indicating at least rudimentary knowledge of where he came from, yet he has to go look for his creators? By himself? Without a ship, like, say, the one hanging over downtown Hong Kong that would quite likely have a giant bunch of clues as to their location on it, since, you know, Lockdown worked for them.
If you want a funnier take on it, with some of the same questions I ask, you can read Transformers: Age Of Extinction: The Spoiler FAQ from io9, too.