My friend Max and I went to go see the fifth installment of Transformers yesterday. We knew it would be bad… but he’s a big fan of Transformers movies from childhood and I am a fan of the magic of motion picture cinema and will pretty much watch anything. So off we went. And even though I had low expectations for the entire thing, I was asking myself the whole time “how the hell am I going to review this? I mean, I know it will be bad. But what will there even be to say about it?” Then I figured it out… Transformers is porn.
Porn fans may be the most honest and evolved of all movie fans, and I’ll tell you why. They’re very discerning. They know what they want. If you go to a website like Pornhub, you can order up exactly what you like. You just go there and you type “stepmother lesbian blackmail rape fantasy” or “shemale domination bondage babysitter threesome” and you get exactly what you’re asking for. But there are two kinds of porn fans (and therefore two kinds of porn): those who care about the story and those who don’t. Sometimes you’ll find a porno that tries to construct something of a plausible explanation for why and how the stepmother is blackmailing her step-daughter into sex. Othertimes, not really. They’ll just start the film right in with an “older” female porn star (that is to say a woman of about 32…. but with huge fake boobs) going to town on an innocent teen (that is to say a super tatted-up 24 year old but with A-cup boobs) in a plaid school girl skirt and knee-high socks. Plausibility doesn’t matter so long as all the checkboxes are checked. Whether there is a pretense of plot or not, the actual execution of every single porn scene in any given genre is basically exactly the same. And the porn fan knows this. Some porn fans might need just a hint of it to get them in the mood. The others can just imagine the setup and work with the visuals presented. Either way, if you were to try to explain the ridiculousness of the premise, the porn fan will just tell you “Fuck you! Look, I like what I like! OK!?!!!” and go back to his business. Because when you’re trying to jack off to a transgender babysitter tied up by the couple who hired her once she has fallen asleep on the couch while watching an unseen child, narrative coherence is just not on your mind.
Whenever I give a movie a bad review I always have someone tell me that I just don’t get the movie. I’m not alone here. This is something that happens with all movie critics. If you don’t like a movie people tell you “you don’t understand, this is a movie for the fans!” as if somehow being critical of a movie means you aren’t really a fan. When I wrote up that explanation of my movie rating rubric I tried to point out that I can’t really tell anyone whether they should or should not like a movie. I make fun of Zack Snyder a lot, but I often point out that I loved Sucker Punch. And I sometimes say that it is “the best movie that one can possibly make without plot.” He basically checked off the boxes for what he was doing “cute nubile girls, killer sound track, explosions, sword fights, gun fights, nazi steampunk zombies, dragons!” It was everything an action porn fan could ask for (other than story). The problem is, Zack Snyder doesn’t actually understand that he’s making porn. He *thinks* he’s making actual movies. And even though he managed an action porn masterpiece with Sucker Punch, he fails utterly when trying to do some other things (like Batman v. Superman).
Michael Bay totally understands that he’s making Transformer porn. Porn for 14-year-old boys. That’s right. He knows exactly what he’s doing.
From the very first Transformers movie he made, one of the biggest criticisms was how sexualized he made it, mostly through the inclusion of the living embodiment of the male gaze, Megan Fox. In the second film, he responded to this criticism by literally having Fox fuck a motorcycle on screen. I mean, I’m pretty sure… I honestly haven’t watched that movie in a really long time – it’s pretty bad. But I’m pretty sure there’s a 37-minute scene in it where she writhes up and down in Daisy Dukes on a Harley with beads of sweat glistening across her perfect heaving bosom as she moans gently and says “Mav, Mav, Mav!!!” over and over again… at least that’s how I remember it. Look, I like what I like, Ok!?!!!
Anyway, the point is Transformers films are movies for 14-year-old boys. It’s rated PG-13 and Megan Fox was in there for one reason and one reason alone: to be stared at and objectified. That was her purpose. That’s was why she was there. And when she got fired after the second movie, he replaced her with Rosie Huntington-Whitley to perform exactly the same function in the third – and just in case you’re unsure of Rosie’s purpose, she first appears in the film with a 37-minute closeup of her ass as she walks up her stairs in nothing but panties. Then, in the fourth film she is replaced with Nicola Peltz, who once again serves EXACTLY the same purpose. But even moreso because in the creepiest moment in the entire film, Jack Reynor (who plays her 20yo boyfriend) has a conversation with Mark Wahlberg (who plays her father) about how it’s ok to fuck her, even though she’s under 18, because they live in Texas and he carries around a special card that says it’s ok for him to fuck underaged girls so long as he started fucking them when he was under 18 too. This really has noting to do with the rest of the movie. Snyder just really wanted you to know that not only was the 17-year-old girl in the movie sexually active, but apparently she had been so since she was 14, BECAUSE THAT’S HOW MATH WORKS! In other words, Michael Bay really wants 14-year-olds to know that it’s ok to fuck.
And of course he does. Because Transformers is porn. Sure it’s porn with alien robots fighting, lots of explosions, and sophomoric humor involving bodily functions, kickass car chases and poorly thought out racial steroetypes…. but it’s porn for 14-year-old boys and they like what they like, ok?
And over the course of the previous four movies, Bay has perfected the formula for 14-year-old boy Transformer porn. He knows exactly what he’s doing. And he knows that his audience is not interested in plot. Because the plot of this movie is exactly the same as the plot of the previous four movies. There are good guy robots and bad guy robots and they crash landed on Earth a long time ago and have been having a war ever since and the bad guy robots have a plan to build a giant machine over a historic landmark that will suck the energy out of the whole Earth to make them more powerful. Only it turns out that there is a secret McGuffin from their home planet of Cybertron that can defeat the plan so both the bad guy and good guy robots are chasing after it. Only by miraculous coincidence the McGuffin can only be wielded by the good guy robots’ human friend that is tagging along for no other reason but to suddenly discover that they have the power to wield the McGuffin and save the day!
Literally that’s the exact plot to this film… and no, you don’t get a spoiler warning because that was the plot to the other films as well. Though I hesitate to call it plot, because there are so many plot holes in it. In my favorite in this movie, there is a point where Optimus Prime (the leader of the good guy robots, if you have lived under a rock since before the 1980s) does his best impression of giving a President Bill Pullman inspirational Independence Day speech just before the big battle (at least, I think it’s Bill Pullman, it could be Bill Paxton… I can never remember which is which and neither can you). Then all of a sudden he takes off and flys away. He doesn’t say where he’s going or why. He just leaves because the plot needs him to be missing for twenty minutes so that other characters can worry that they’re about to lose the battle without him so that he can show up at just the right moment to help turn the tide in their favor. it makes no sense and it doesn’t have to make sense. Because this is porn. And it doesn’t matter that this is the same plot as the previous films because all porn in any given genre is exactly the same.
Don’t get me wrong. There are twists in this one. See, there’s not just one McGuffin in this one. There are two!!! TWO TOTALLY SEPARATE MCGUFFINS! I know, crazy, right! And they both have to be wielded by human allies. TWO DIFFERENT human allies. Marky Mark returns from the last movie, but we also throw in Laura Haddock to wield a SECOND MCGUFFIN! I mean, it’s unprecedented. But it’s still the same movie.
But McGuffins do not a successful porno make. See, at this point, you are likely thinking that I’m reaching. That maybe I’m being a little unfair to the movie. I know my wife Stephanie (who had the good sense not to go to this with us) will probably read this and at this point she is saying “no Mav, you just see sex in everything. I’m sure it’s not really as porny as all that.” And even if you do agree with me, you’re probably thinking “ok, So Laura Haddock is the new Megan Fox.” You’d be wrong. You’re not thinking like a 14-year-old boy. But Michael Bay has that gift. See, when the first Transformers movie came out Megan Fox was 21 (though playing a high school student). Rosie Hungtington-Whitley was 24 by the time she starred in the third one. And Nicola Peltz was 19, playing 17 in the fourth. Laura Haddock is a very attractive woman at 32 today, but she’s just too old for 14yo boys to jack off to.
And so, introducing 15-year-old Isabela Moner, who plays what — at least to my 42-year-old eyes — may be the most uncomfortably sexy 14-year-old girl in cinematic history. Her job is to be hot so that 14-year-old boys can jack off to her later. Seriously. That’s what she’s there for. In her opening scene four random 14-year-old boys stumble into a Transformers fight and she saves their lives so that all four can awkwardly hit on her as audience analogues to let you know that she is sexually desirable. Then the boys (who don’t even have names) leave and are never mentioned again. Other than that her job is to wear really tight tank tops and short shorts and run in slow motion as body parts (that I, as an adult male, should really not notice) gently bounce across the central focus of the camera frame. At one point while she is assisting Marky Mark at fixing a Transformer, there is an aerial overhead shot — the only one of a person in the entire film — which hovers over her for 37 minutes just so we can look down her cleavage and verify that “yep, this girl is stacked alright!” She accomplishes nothing else. She’s a child. It makes no sense for her to be in a war, so on at least three separate occasions she stows away and sneaks into battle with the other characters. You’d expect that her purpose would be to ultimately be captured as a convenient hostage or somehow be the chosen one who wields the McGuffin and saves the day. She’s not. She’s just there to be sexy to young boys so that she can be masturbated to later. Because Michael Bay knows what they like, ok?
And that’s it. That’s the whole movie. Nothing else happens. Or nothing else matters. I mean, there’s what you expect. A bunch of explosions happen. There’s robot on robot combat (often to the point where you can’t tell which robot is which, a problem I’ve had with all of these movies). There are car chases. Then a bunch more explosions a few really bad jokes and like there’s Isabela Moner doing her best Baywatch run again… take it all in boys!
I can’t say it’s “awful” per se. It’s not. It is exactly what you might expect if you saw any of the other movies. Not awful… it’s more that it’s pointless. Absolutely nothing that happens in it matters or is meaningful in any way. But does it really need to be? Because if you’re the target audience… well, you like what you like, ok!!!
★½☆☆☆ (1.5 out of five stars)
Special Bonus Rating specifically for 14-year-old-boys: ✊✊✊✊?