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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

Transformers: Age of Extinction movie review: Everyday Bayism

Transformers Age of Extinction red light

Rearranger of space and time Michael Bay has reached a level of aggressive self-actualization that perhaps no other human being has reached before.
I’m “biast” (pro): nothing

I’m “biast” (con): we hateses the Michael Bay

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

This is a movie in which a car punches a guy in the face.

Not a transforming alien Autobot capable of reorganizing its physical self to configure something like an arm ending in a fist. No. Just a regular Earth-made internal combustion-powered vehicle locked into one corporeal shape, sailing through the air, in the process of which its front passenger-side tire connects with a human jaw, sending the anonymous man reeling.

This happens in slow motion.

It is vital to appreciate what this all means. Rearranger of space and time Michael Bay has reached a level of aggressive self-actualization that perhaps no other human being has reached before. He does not wait for the universe to accidentally achieve some happenstance that coincidentally will please him: he forces his will upon the universe and bends it to his hedonistic whim. It is the opposite of Buddhism, a serene acceptance of how one puny human spirit is inevitably buffeted by the ebb and flow of eternity. It is Bayism, an angry, endless active pursuit of the awesome in as big, as loud, as obnoxious a form as possible. (Also essential: Your attention to this egomaniacal campaign. It matters not whether you approve. Your disgust may even add to his pleasure. But you must be made aware of it.) It is perhaps best represented in the jerkosophy — the physical manifestation of Bayist philosophy — that asks, Why must shit be blown up? and answers, Because it’s there.

Transformers: Michael Bay’s Public Masturbation is the filmmaker attaining the apex of Bayism. To which you, perhaps, find yourself transfixed, unable to turn away, much in the same way that a 100-car pileup on the freeway is riveting. In IMAX and 3D for nearly three hours. A sportscar glides in slo-mo through formidable flames in the same cinematic breath in which the crispified corpse of a man — ostensibly one of the “good guys,” though such distinctions have little meaning here — is lingered over in fiery slo-mo. Sleek stealthy helicopters and illicit black-ops soldiers are visually fellated by the camera, fetishizing federally approved fascist extralegal paramilitary activity on American soil: “My face is my warrant,” says one agent as his colleagues shove guns into the faces of unarmed civilians. Why does the camera look with the same sexualized longing to be as awesome upon a “villain” as it looks upon a “hero”? Why are events that seem to be terrible, to our eyes that do not comprehend Bayist whizdom, transmuted into something “cool”?

It is because Bay has moved beyond such tired concepts of “good” and “evil,” never mind lesser notions such as “coherence,” “logic,” and “narrative.” He will do what he will because it pleases him, and for no other reason. You and I may look at this movie and wonder, Why are Mark Wahlberg and his teenaged daughter (Nicola Peltz) and her boyfriend (Jack Reynor) driving nine-hours-plus from Texas to Utah’s Monument Valley? But this is only our paltry enlightened perspectives speaking. If only we could achieve Bayist endarkenment! Which isn’t possible for us. But if it were, we would finally understand that the narrowing of one’s perspective to allow only for the awesome free of any context means that Monument Valley at the Golden Hour of low sunlight and long shadows makes for an even more rockin’ fuck-yeah-America! hard-on than the Stars and Stripes waving in the breeze while a blond Barbie doll looks on.

I, who am unable to appreciate Bayism, may wonder, Hey, if every single woman here is going to be introduced to us ass-first, could we maybe get some linger on Marky Mark’s sweat-glistened biceps or the tight jeans clutching his lovely ass? But no! This is not for me. It is not for you. It serves the needs only of Bay.

Chrome! Chrooooooooommmmmmmme. Kickass Chinese chick outta nowhere! Transformium. Cars getting tossed through the air. Fakey Irish accents from real Irish actors. Dead civilians. Let’s run around an alien spaceship! Rolly things. Giant robot warrior riding an even gianter robot dinosaur. Secret Chinese facility! Fat robot even though who would make a fat robot? Golden Hour in Hong Kong is smoggy! Luxury brand names prominently highlighted amidst chaotic urban destruction, because apocalypse marketing is the new hotness.

It is all one. It is all of a singular oneness. “There are mysteries to the universe than we are never meant to learn,” intones alien robot warrior Optimus Prime. Michael Bay says, “Fuck that shit.” There are no mysteries. There is only awesome.

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Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014)
US/Can release: Jun 27 2014
UK/Ire release: Jul 05 2014

Flick Filosopher Real Rating: rated BE (contains Bayist endarkenment)
MPAA: rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, language and brief innuendo
BBFC: rated 12A (moderate action violence, infrequent strong language)

viewed in 3D IMAX
viewed at a semipublic screening with an audience of critics and ordinary moviegoers

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

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