(Michael Bay, USA, 2014)
Didn't finish it. Does that make it ineligible for review? Partly, I suppose; I'll offer, then, a part-review. My reasons for essaying Bay's latest megabuster were: I was tired and wanted something non-demanding to watch, and (more scrupulously) I wanted to see if my initial impression of him as a hack was correct. There is, of course, a small but not insignificant of, shall we say, Bay apologists, who would have you believe that the man's work is misunderstood, dismissed out of hand by a lazy critical culture that glosses over his skill at orchestrating rococo destruction. What the hell, I thought. Might as well give this one a try.
Watching the first third-or-so of the film confirmed my earlier judgement, and, hopefully, cured me of any future impulse to revisit this kind of work. Age of Extinction is trash, but there's a kernel of truth to the apologist stance: it is auteurist trash. Tempting as it may be to dismiss the whole thing as so much corporate cheese product, there's no missing Bay's greasy fingerprints: the saturated colors, "patriotic" overtones, painful attempts at humor, pyrotechnical excess. Does this in any way mitigate the overall shoddiness of the film? I can't see how. It's possible that Bay's sense of taste and style mesh perfectly with the Budweiser/Mountain Dew aesthetic his films so perfectly capture. If they do, all the more reason to blame the film's shittiness on the director. I can imagine Brad Bird doing something far superior, and about 100 times more intelligent, that would still make piles of money. Or, to name just another recent example, George Miller. There's room in the system, even one as shallow and cruddy as contemporary Hollywood, for big-scale, widely appealing entertainment. I don't blame the corporate overlords for this theme park tie-in of a movie. At the end of the day, it was Bay who signed off under the all the stupidity.