Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Transformers: Age of Extinction


Math of the Day:  Traveling + Power Outage = Lateness in posting. (My apologies.) 
Welcome to the land of spoilers.   

Whenever I read a book or watch a movie, I automatically edit the story in my head. Most of the time, it’s not because I’m trying to be an elitist—art is a matter of style and preference as well as rules. Usually, my goal is to notice anything that just doesn’t jive in order to avoid it in my own work. Let me show you what I mean.

I’ll admit right off, I’ve seen none of the previous Transformers—not the movies, not the shows, just the previews—so jumping right into the middle of a franchise and reviewing it might be a bit snooty of me. That said, before I launch into my critique, let me list what I liked.


ü  The protagonists. Cade Yeager is relatable in his optimism and persistence. Optimus Prime’s struggle is understandable, and his conduct is regal and admirable.

ü  The humor. Never underestimate the power of comic relief.

ü  The antagonists. There’s always a bigger fish. I like stories that don’t just settle for the overly-simplistic, lone villain. And I especially appreciated the conflict and complications introduced when Joshua switches sides.

ü  The Lamborghini—need I say more?

Now, let me point out what I didn’t like.

The Beginning

·         With the arctic location and the mysterious find, it totally felt like Captain America all over again. ‘Course, that might just be me.

·         I realize the whole single father/teenage daughter dynamic is a common theme in life, and some of you may appreciate the representations of these struggles. I’m not undermining that. But the concept is…stale. So many stories use it. Right off, I had a pretty good idea of what the character arcs would look like. Not good. Writers, you want to surprise your readers, give them something fresh. Don’t let them roll their eyes and moan, “Not this again.”


The Middle

·         I actually don’t have much dirt on the middle except that the plot rode heavily on awesomeness factor, which is more a matter of taste than of skill. (And who am I to turn my nose up at cool cars?)


The Ending

·         Here’s where my ignorance may come in. I don’t know—were those dinosaur Autobots introduced before? Because if they were, then just ignore my nitpicking. But if they weren’t, the point still stands. Deus ex machina is basically Latin for cheating. (Okay, so that’s a loose translation.) Come on, you’re professional writers, and this is a superhero(ish) movie, for goodness sake. Viewers like to see the characters get themselves out of predicaments without receiving random help from sources with little previous significance.

·         In case anyone noticed, they totally stole from the whole King Arthur/Excallibur plotline.

·         Tessa and Shane. Period. Exclamation point. Basically, this girl’s been lying to her father for several years, directly defying his no-dating-before-graduation policy. Furthermore, her boyfriend hasn’t honored her father’s desires in any way. Seriously, though, lying isn’t cool, and Dad’s make rules for reasons. Tessa never apologizes or owns up to what she’s done to hurt her father. She never admits that perhaps he, the mature adult, may understand more about life than she, the reckless teenager. But in the end, after much action and many emotional, near-death experiences—with no reconciliation and not much character change—they’re all suddenly one big happy family. Where did that come from? Now, I’m an avid proponent of forgiveness, don’t misunderstand me. But no one grows as an individual unless they realize that some actions have consequences. If you stick your finger in an electrical socket, you will likely get shocked. If you get shocked, you won’t do it again. Simple as that. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Yet Tessa’s just learned that she can get away with defying her Dad. And in real life, kids who do whatever they want are usually spoiled brats. Also, if habitual lying doesn’t bother Tessa and Shane, what’s to keep them honest to each other in the long run? Rant over.

·         The quasi-philosophical blurb at the ending didn’t really cut it for me. Sorry. The movie didn’t lay down enough precedent for the jump from action to “depth”. Perhaps they were building on previous works, but even in a franchise, each movie needs to stand under its own merit.

These are the problems I look for in all my books—the parts where I’m unoriginal or untrue to reality. I try to see beyond the fluff to what’s beneath the surface. Because I don’t want my lovely sentences to be nothing more than empty echoes. Value beyond beauty—that’s art. The greatest stories are special and popular because they have meaning. And the deeper and more complicated they get, the longer they last.


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