The Transformers franchise has been an interesting one, with some major flops that have somehow broken records in terms of money made, especially international. Age of Extinction, the last film, made over a billion dollars and has only an 18% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes (but I explain in this video why that doesn’t mean what you think it means).
Can this new entry manage to make money and please fans?
We join Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) as he’s trying to seek out and protect Autobots, as the US government now has an anti-transformer group that is also hunting them, not distinguishing between the good and the bad (including Colonel Lennox, played by Josh Duhamel). The leader of the Autobots (Optimus Prime) has ventured into space, seeking to return to his home planet of Cybertron. He meets an ancient evil there, named Quintessa, who seeks to bring Cyberton to Earth and literally siphon all the life from it and bring Cyberton back to glory. While Optimus is gone though, Yeager must round up the Autobots and try to stop this evil scheme, while fighting off both the humans and the Decepticons. He’s assisted by some comedic relief (Jerrod Carmichael) and a young girl who has a knack for repairing Transformers (Isabela Moner). They eventually meet up with a man who knows the history of these Transformers (Anthony Hopkins) and a woman who might be the key to rescuing Earth (Laura Haddock).
Let me ease your concerns now. This movie doesn’t continue the downward momentum but actually manages to right a few wrongs from Age of Extinction. A few, anyways.
This movie works best if you go in only wanting one thing. Explosions. This movie has plenty, with some badass fight sequences, plenty of crazy Transformers to look at, and some epic moments. If you want that, and that only, you’ll have a fun time here. It’s the perfect summer blockbuster, one you can veg out and enjoy, as long as you don’t think too hard about it. This movie also has plenty of fire, there’s just fire everywhere.
The movies have gradually been adding more and more Transformers, with this one so bloated with talking robots that you forget who is who. There are tons of returning bots from other movies, as well as plenty of new allies and enemies. Some are cool, while others are painful to watch. But there’s plenty of them, so the complaint about being focused on the humans shouldn’t be a problem here. However, to add a negative here for balance, the Transformers still feel shallow and underdeveloped, even if they are a focus of the movie. I don’t remember more than a few names and many of them appear and disappear throughout the movie without any explanation, like the writers were juggling too many and just forgot about them.
The visuals in this outing are much better than I remember the last few films looking. They used to be a mess, with every fight sequence looking like a jumbled up mess of gears and you couldn’t tell what was happening. This one has some incredible fight scenes that are actually decipherable and enjoyable.
The high point of the movie is the Transformers, both the heroics of the Autobots and the terrifying antics of the Decepticons. The humans are definitely the weak link.
What doesn’t work?
While every human actor here is trying, the script that they’re given is incredibly weak. Many characters feel unnecessary, most notably a spunky young girl who is set up to somehow save the day but ultimately contributes nothing. The lead heroine of the film (Laura Haddock) is told to us via exposition that she’s incredibly smart (over and over) but she is only important because of things beyond her control, things she’s born with. She has also the same distinct “look” that Michael Bay seems to have an obsession with, like a British Megan Fox.
While the action is great, the plot that supports the action is flimsy. At most points in the movie, I was questioning why things were happening. A lot of it didn’t really make sense or maybe our heroes’ responses didn’t really make sense. A planet is coming to consume our world, yet this government agency continues to hunt this one guy (Wahlberg). You’d think their priorities would be different. It just felt needlessly complicated and somewhat cliche, considering the “world is going to end” scenario is played out to death in these movies.
I also had a problem with the humor in this movie. I laughed a few times, sure, but there were just as many moments where a joke had a laugh break after it, for the audience to react, but the audience was (mostly) silent. The humor felt amateur, unnecessary, and often a mistake. It wasn’t as painful as some of the past Transformers movies but it was still pretty bad.
There’s also a mid-credits scene that is supposed to elicit excitement about the next entry but instead is just confusing and brings up more questions that the series likely won’t (or can’t) answer.
This movie is fine. It’s got fun action and some cool setpieces, but the human characters ultimately fall flat. The humor is hit or miss and the plot is one you don’t want to think about too hard. If you want some escapism, this movie should do the trick, though don’t expect greatness.