“Transformers: Age of Extinction” had a huge opening weekend, becoming the first film this year to have a $US100 million debut.
While it’s fun to look at, the movie is an exercise in excess: too many plots, too many new Transformers to learn (unless you’re a diehard fan), and too many characters (Kelsey Grammer is part of a giant CIA unit that joins forces with the Decepticons).
Considering how female roles in film have drastically changed since the first film’s release in 2007, possibly the most annoying thing in the continuing franchise is director Michael Bay’s constant objectification of young women on screen.
It started in “Transformers” with Megan Fox and carries on through the current “Age of Extinction” release with actress Nicola Peltz.
Here’s probably what you remember of Fox from the first film in the series:
She was replaced by Victoria Secret model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley in the third film as the new pretty woman in revealing clothing.
In the latest sequel, we’re introduced to Tessa Yaegar (Peltz), a daddy’s girl with dreams of going to college, who is banned from dating but has a secret older boyfriend, and who loves to party with her girls. (There’s actually an opening scene where she drops a line to friends about high school ending soon: “Yeah girls, almost time to get wasted!” We never see those characters again.)
It’s the most clichéd role in the entire film and one of the worst characterizations of a female in recent movies.
Similar to the Rosie Huntington scene above, the first time we’re introduced to Peltz, we see her legs walking down a long driveway. The camera slowly pans its way up her body until her face is finally revealed.
In case the audience doesn’t get it from her blonde hair and short shorts, her dad Cade (Mark Wahlberg) almost immediately (and throughout the film) makes a comment about the length of her shorts asking her to change (spoiler: she doesn’t). His friend Lucas Flannery (T.J. Miller) also chimes in about Tessa’s sex appeal.
There’s nothing wrong with showing a beautiful girl in a movie and highlighting her body, but can’t these women be portrayed in a non-stereotypical light? Fox’s character was at least knowledgeable about car mechanics in the first film. In “Age of Extinction,” we don’t see much emphasis on creating a strong female character for Tessa.
For most of the movie her character is yelling out, screaming for Daddy Wahlberg to save her from danger. (She actually uses the word Daddy.)
Many of her scenes look like this:
At one point when Tessa’s screaming, she can’t figure out how to escape from a non-moving vehicle she just jumped inside when she could have just opened the door.
Wahlberg’s character tells her to shatter the window glass but she continues sobbing and whimpering waiting for someone to save her instead. It’s kind of pathetic to watch, at least for any female in the audience.
We’ve seen these same damsel-in-distress scenes in previous movies with Fox and Huntington-Whiteley.
This is exactly what females on screen have been trying to work against for years.
It’s why “Avengers” director Joss Whedon introduced audiences to “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” to fight against the “blonde bimbo” stereotype.
Weak feminine characters were a staple of action movies in the ’90s and early 2000s (Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane Watson in “Spider-Man” comes to mind).
The only saving grace in this film are the two other female actresses, Sophia Myles who plays a geologist assistant and Li Bingbing as a Chinese factory owner. But there isn’t enough of them.
At one point in the film, Wahlberg says Tessa wouldn’t last on her own without him. She says it’s the other way around, but the next two hours prove she’s anything but right. Why can’t we have a strong, sexy female lead in a “Transformers” film?
Sure, sex sells, but so does a realistic badass female character.
Look no further than “The Hunger Games” and “Frozen.”
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