After Dark of the Moon was such a financial success, Paramount wanted to make more Transformers movies, because money. Completely understandable. Hasbro wanted the film to largely feature new robots to sell new toys. Also to make money. Every film before it was made to make money. The thing is no human characters from the first trilogy were returning, and many robots from the first three films were dead. What was the movie series to do, creatively speaking? The film could have had more random Decepticons coming to Earth, or NEST and the Autobots hunting the remaining Decepticons left after DotM, or Unicron and his heralds coming to Earth and perhaps resurrecting Decepticons as his servants. Instead, it opted for none of those, which I think was the right call. When the film came out, many critics hated it. Even many fans of the previous movies find the fourth film something to dislike. However, I think all of that apprehension and anger was misplaced. Not only was it not bad for a live action Transformers, it was actually better than what came before it and a damn fine addition to the library of Transformers action. Realistically speaking, it was as good of a film as a fourth Michael Bay Transformers film would be, so let's look at why Age of Extinction is in my opinion easily the best of the Transformers movies and an extremely underrated summer action flick. 1. It makes the previous films more meaningful. The film's plot is largely the result of the events of Dark of the Moon. There are actual consequences to the Battle of Chicago and the actions of the Decepticons and Sentinel. Humans no longer trust either faction, and Cemetery Wind allies itself with a neutral Cybertronian bounty hunter who thinks both factions and their wars have been harmful to the universe. Humans also make their own Transformers that they think they control to battle any potential Cybertronian threats, and the decapitated leader of the Decepticons uses the entire situation to his advantage. The death of Ratchet, an underused but stable component of the first three films, is very well done and has a noticeable effect on some of the surviving characters. This is a post-DotM universe that makes sense and gives the series more backbone. 2. Its subplots are narratively and thematically connected. The Lockdown/Creator/Cemetery Wind subplot is not completely separate from the Galvatron/KSI subplot. On the contrary, the former merely leads into the other and builds from the events of Chicago. They are not two separate stories strewn randomly in the same movie, which would have been a bad thing, but part of the same narrative. Furthermore, one of the themes of Age of Extinction is this: attempts at absolute control fail absolutely, and this connects to many threads of the movie. The Creators made robots that they built to control as slaves, but that didn't work, as they became sentient and eventually got into their wars and what not. They send Lockdown in the present to hunt down the warring factions and capture Optimus Prime. While Lockdown killed Autobots and temporarily captured Prime, ultimately Prime gets freed, and Prime slays the bounty hunter. Humans also no longer trust Autobots, and they try to rid the world of them and build their own Transformers in an attempt at absolute control. They fail to destroy all of the Autobots, even with help from Lockdown, and they don't actually control Galvatron, or their other prototypes by the climax of the film. Galvatron ends up controlling the KSI robots. And even Megatron, who manipulates the humans to create their own Transformers and go after the Seed, ends up controlling the KSI prototypes, and he almost succeeds in detonating the Seed, but he fails to account that Optimus will unleash four gigantic Cybertronian warriors on his troops. Finally, Cade wants to protect his daughter, and he tries to control her life, but as the events of the film goes on he realizes he can't, and by realizing that he can't control her life he succeeds in protecting her. The Creators, Lockdown, Cemetery Wind, KSI, Galvatron, and Cade all fail in their attempts at absolute control. Only the latter realizes he can't, and as a result he succeeds in the end. Finally, the Autobots, are the only main group of characters that don't attempt absolute control, and they are also the heroes of the film. 3. The protagonists are connected to the film's other message. There is a scene with Optimus and Cade where the former laments how many Cybertronians have died on Earth due to human mistakes, and Cade's response is that one needs to look at all the junk and see the treasure. I find it mercifully appropriate for the film's characters. On the surface, the Autobots and Cade are not poster-boy protagonists. Prime discusses killing a human and threatens to leave Earth to his fate. The Autobots are tired of getting hunted by Lockdown and humans, they don't always get along with each other, and Hound openly talks about how he thinks humans are a, "Bunch of backstabbing weasels," and that not killing them is a mistake. Drift doesn't think much of Bee's leadership and has instances of hypocritical humor, and Crosshairs is so self-interested that he threatens to abandon Prime and Tessa on Lockdown's ship and gloats about he wouldn't mind seeing the others harm each other, so he can become his own leader. Bee has a fragile ego and goes ballistic when he finds out about Stinger. Cade steals power from his neighbor and insults plenty of people. However, all of these rough-around-the-edges protagonists have good things about them. Prime is still at his core the wise and compassionate leader he has always been, and that he is tested as a character makes him more noble. Cade legitimately cares for his daughter, and he shows great compassion to Prime. He saw a hurt being who needed help, and he risked his life and future to help him. Hound and Drift both respect their leader greatly and express great joy when they learn he's alive. Hound, through his interactions with the Yaegers, comes to see not all humans are bad. Drift is always helpful to inform the Yaegers and helps rescue Cade with Bee. Crosshairs may be selfish, but he can help others out of his free will, like when he picks up Bee and the Yaegers, and he's able to change his minds on the Dinobots once he sees how they are effective allies. The Autobots still save Earth in the end against numerous foes despite how they have been treated, and that makes them heroic in my book. To those audience members who are idealistic or who want a less violent portrayal of the Autobots, these protagonists may appear to be more like bad guys to some. However, this goes in right with what Cade tells Optimus. Cade and the Autobots may appear to be "junk" on the surface, but on the inside they are treasure and decent, but flawed, individuals, and that is why they are my favorite group of protagonists in the movies. 4. It took creative risks. Brand new designs for the most part. A largely new robot cast and an entirely new human cast. Optimus losing his faith in humanity and considering leaving Earth to its fate. An Animated bounty hunter being the main villain. Autobots being largely misanthropic. Galvatron's origins and Transformium. No "traditional" Decepticons. An alien ship filled with alien oddities. They could have gone the easy routes that I mentioned in my second paragraph of this post. Instead, they did not take the success of the previous films for granted. It was about as close to the first trilogy as it needed to be, but it also did enough novel things to keep things interesting. 5. It's self aware. This film knows what it is trying to be. Lines like Crosshairs', "Textbook machismo, very persuasive," show that yes, these films often revel in masculine and manly things. Furthermore, the old man in Texas complaining about sequels and remakes shows that, yes, they are well aware this is the fourth film and how it seems everything is a sequel trying to make some more money. 6. It gave many fans what they wanted. There is very little in the way of military presence. It gives more attention to the Autobots and more to their characters than the Bots in the previous films got for the most part. It has a competent and fascinating main villain who is actually a little more nuanced than typical in Bay movies. The action is clearer than its predecessors. It has Dinobots that actually don't die and aren't jokes or the subjects of juvenile humor; they actually perform their role as the cavalry quite well. It got rid of those insectoid, metal shard Decepticons so many people complained about (even though now people seem to like those more). Galvatron is a Megatron that doesn't die who can go toe-to-toe with Optimus, who is voiced by Welker, and who is subservient to nobody. Instead, he merely pretends to be a drone, but he is actually the one pulling the strings to get what he wants. That is the very definition of Decepticon, and it shows the resilience and manipulative nature of the Decepticon leader. Most, if not all, of these things were things hardcore Transformers fan were clamoring for after the first trilogy. That's not to say a fan-desired Transformers film means "good," but it does mean that this movie was made with the fan criticisms of the previous movies in mind, and even if one does not like the end product, I think fans should at least be happy that they had many of you in mind. 7. It expanded the scope of the fictional universe. The other four films pretty much only featured Earth and Cybertron. Revenge of the Fallen said that the Primes searched for distant stars to harvest, and we briefly see the Nemesis anchored on a world that is neither, but even RotF never really explored this too much. In the first scene of Age of Extinction we see alien ships coming to Earth, which on first impression might seem like another "Earth is the center of everything" thread, but it was the opposite. Earth is revealed to have been one of thousands of worlds the Creators cyberformed to make Transformium. Lockdown holds the view that the Autobots and Decepticons are making a mess of the universe, and he consequently sees it as his duty to hunt them down. His cynical nature also means that he doesn't think much of the species he encounters, and he has literally traveled to different galaxies. We see aliens that are clearly not Cybertronians on his ship. Transformers should take place in a larger universe and not just in a universe where Earth and Cybertron are the only planets that matter. Neutral Transformers. Human-made Transformers. Dinobots. Dinosaurs. Creators. Cyborg wolves. These are all things that make the fictional universe a little bigger than just the Autobot-Decepticon war and humans. 8. It did many of the little things right. For the only time in the movies, the mcguffin is not something only found in Earth or Earth's orbit. It's a weapon that the Creators used on thousands of worlds millions of years ago, and Lockdown gives the humans one in exchange for capturing Prime. It also doesn't have disappearing robots like most all of the other films. Robots do not disappear for most of the film once they are introduced unless they die (Ratchet, Leadfoot) or have a reason to leave (Brains enjoying his freedom), and there is no robot who appears in this film whose fate is ambiguous. And for once, the robots from previous films who don't appear have a genuine explanation as to why they don't show up in this one: Lockdown and Cemetery Wind hunted them down. Speaking of Lockdown, I find it refreshing that for once the main villain isn't a powerful, genocidal Decepticon and/or an ancient, evil Prime. He isn't even out to destroy humanity, although he could care less about human casualties based on his actions and words. And the Psittacosaurus sibiricus in the film's introduction is heavily based on Psittacosaurus fossils of a different species from Liaoning, China that show the bristles on the proximal part of its tail. Plus, the little dinosaurs that squabble with the Psittacosaurus are heterodontosaurids heavily based on the most recent reconstructions. Once again, the integument is inspired by actual fossils of a heterodontosaurid called Tianyulong from China. To have dinosaurs more accurate in appearance than the featherless dinosaurs of the Jurassic World films in a Bay film is exciting. 9. Great cast. Tucci, Grammar, Welliver, and Wahlberg are all great for the admittedly some times ridiculous roles they play. Tessa is underrated. Gill Wembley is a hilarious addition. However, where this film really shines is the voice cast. The voice actors all do a fantastic job; the voice performances are more emotionally charged than those in the other movies for the most part. Cullen does one of the best performances of his career. Welker is great as Galvatron, who sounds like a more sinister and insane Prime Megatron. Ryan, Dimaggio, Watanabe, Foxworth, and Wilson all sell their characters well, too. 10. Optimus Prime. Riding Grimlock. Admit it, that caught your attention when the first Super Bowl ad aired. It possibly caught your attention in rumors revealed over a year before the movie premiered. I can understand if people don't like it, but I love it, and I've never understood the massive hatred this film gets from critics and many fans alike. And even if you don't like the finished film, I think that the fourth film actually tried new directions and concepts is something that should be respected, just like the 2007 film bringing Transformers to the live action movie format is something to be respected. And if you still don't like it as a whole, the fourth film still has its share of redeeming qualities that have been overlooked by many fans and critics alike. Do you also like Age of Extinction as much or more than the other films? Even if you don't like it, do you agree it has some good qualities?