You have a Transformers movie. You have Mark Wahlberg, who sang “The Touch” in Boogie Nights. You combine these two things - and you don’t play the song. Not even during the credits. You throw in a My Little Pony joke, but I can’t have the poooowweeeeeeeer? Fuck this.
I’ll keep this short because even though this movie feels 8 hours long, nothing really matters until the 45 minutes when the Dinobots show up. I’m not even going to bother with a quick plot summary, because you and I both know it doesn’t matter. In terms of Transformers movies, this one is easily the best. The plot makes a semblance of sense. You’ll have to turn your brain off for some of it, but all in all point A leads to point B leads to point C. I would love to go into more detail about how the first 3 movies failed to do this, but that would require watching all of them in a short period of time, and I have no plans of doing that unless a gun is put to my head. The plot is cliche as it gets and all the characters are shorthanded stereotypes, but all of this is a dramatic improvement over where we’ve come from. The characters are one dimensional, but they all go through their own arc and come out at the end of the movie different from where they started.
There were no extraneous characters and no shoehorned military men on their way back home from fighting the good fight for the U.S. of A. The human characters we got were pretty bland, but we didn’t cut away from plot points to see Anthony Anderson making terrible jokes about downloading music. There weren’t cut aways from the action to some square-jawed marine who’s just trying to make it back home to see his hot blonde wife and son. The characters we do have are serviceable. Each of them plays a role, and the ones who annoy you aren’t in the movie enough to grate on you. Kelsey Grammer is the obvious highlight as the shady government official, and Marky Mark is believable as the everyman who can hold his own during the climactic battle. The giant robot gun he steals in the movie also makes it so he can actually help in the battles instead of running around yelling “NONONONONONONO.” If you want the musclebound down-home guy who can hold his own when shit hits the fan, you can’t cast much better than him. Casting him as a Texan, however? Well, what are you gonna do?
You can finally tell the fucking Autobots apart. It took 3 movies and hundreds of millions of dollars, but you can finally tell them apart. Sure there’s only five, but when they’re on screen you know who’s who. Optimus Prime is bright red and blue, Bumblebee is bright yellow, Hound is fat as fuck and voiced by John Goodman so you can’t miss him, Drift is voiced by Ken Watanabe fresh off Godzilla and is a giant blue samurai, and Crosshairs is bright green and voiced by John DiMaggio. Each of their colors are as distinct as their voices. Thank you God.
And speaking of Bumblebee, he was a minor character. Thank you sweet Jesus Christ. His not talking gimmick got old 20 minutes into the first movie, and here’s only the focal point of one short scene.
The terrible humor is mostly gone. There’s still some bad jokes, but they’re just bad jokes, not douche chillingly bad racial stereotypes. There’s no Mudflaps or Skids. I didn’t laugh at most of the jokes, but I’m just a bitter, jaded asshole.
Don’t get me wrong here, I’m giving glowing reviews and a standing ovation for basic competency. Things you should see out of any movie, especially from a director who’s worked as long as Bay has. It’s average, it’s competent, and that makes it Citizen Kane compared to where we’ve come from. Remember, we’re not that far removed from Robot Heaven.
But it’s just toooo fucking looooooong. It’s over 2 and a half hours but it feels like an eternity. The first hour is dreadfully, soul crushingly boring. The next 45 minutes or so has some action sprinkled in and the plot begins to progress, but there’s still no Dinobots. I’ve seen the trailers, I’ve seen the commercials, I’ve seen the toys on store shelves. I was promised a god damned robot T-Rex, and I’ve got infiltrating a base, a dad not ready to watch his daughter grow up and apart from him, and some shit about Megatron’s brain. I’m enjoying some of the action scenes a bit, but I’m sitting there with my arms crossed. I need to piss, it feels like I’ve been there all day, these god damned tickets were 15 bucks a piece, and I’m starting to get annoyed. And then Optimus frees the Dinobots from Robot Jail.
I start to loosen up a bit, willing to revert to a child if this movie will let me, but dangerously tip toeing the Amazing Spider-Man 2 line of it being too late to win me back. Then Optimus Prime beats Grimlock, holds a sword to his neck and tells him to help them free his friends or die, hops on his back, holds his sword to the sky, screams “AUTOBOTS, ROLLOUT” and Grimlock breathes fire. And every single second of watching humans bumblefuck around is suddenly worth it.
There’s a giant ridiculous battle that takes up the rest of the movie. Explosions everywhere, all the human characters learn more about themselves - and each other - and we all live happily ever after as some bullshit Imagine Dragons song plays over the credits. Pretty standard fare.
Final Verdict: It’s the fourth Transformers. If you go in expecting something else, it’s kind of your own fault at this point if you leave disappointed. My biggest takeaway from my entire theater experience had nothing to do with Transformers, it was how much I can’t wait to see Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and Guardians of the Galaxy. So you know how these work - all of the best stuff is at the end. So go see 22 Jump Street then when it’s over sneak in and watch the end of this.