The White House is represented onscreen [in Transformers: Age of Extinction] by a sniveling fool, but where the last “Transformers” took a gratuitous swipe at Barack Obama, this time it’s the military-industrial complex that gets gashed. The bad guys are the CIA, who are killing the noble Autobots for the benefit of a corporation that wants to melt them down and turn them into commercial products, and the film’s major villain is a Dick Cheney-esque spymaster played by Kelsey Grammer, who is using the government to advance a secret corporate project that will earn him a fortune, cloaking his murderous agenda in appeals to national security.There’s nothing wrong with filmmakers either lionizing or lampooning U.S. institutions.
That’s what freedom of speech is all about. In “Age of Extinction,” though, satire ends at the water’s edge. As soon as the action shifts to Hong Kong, the outbreak of alien-engendered chaos is met by a sea captain ordering a call to “the central government” for help, and later China’s defense minister does a walk-and-talk, sternly and seriously vowing to defend Hong Kong. America’s government is portrayed either ridiculous or diabolical, but China’s is assured and effective.
Not coincidentally, “Age of Extinction” is considered an “officially assisted production,” made with help from Jiaflix Enterprises and official state broadcaster CCTV’s China Movie Channel, who ponied up for part of the budget and get a piece of the box office. No such deal gets struck in China without the consent and approval of the Beijing government and the Chinese Communist Party, and in this case, Paramount is in business with the Beijing regime directly, through CCTV.Not surprisingly, the film is big in Beijing.
Generous soul that I am, I'd like to think that even wingnuts are smart enough to avoid a Michael Bay production. Or at least spent more of their formative years with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles than with toy trucks. Maybe they took pity on Kelsey Grammer, or gave it a pass based on Bay's history of wingnuttery and racism. But I'm still amazed that the Keyboard Kommandos of Kulture have passed up such golden opportunity to fling their own feces at Steven Spielberg and Tinseltown.
Wolverines my ass.