Ziliang
From:Chong Zi Liang, Digital Sub-editor, ST, posted on 26 June at 6:52 PM
26 June at 6:52 PM

Age Of Extinction: How I survived the Transformers Movie Quadrathlon

I'm a big fan of movies, but not so big on movie marathons, which sometimes come uncomfortably close to the real thing. It sounds like a good idea at the start, but then you spend the better part of the day in close proximity with total strangers and in the end, everyone's ready for a hot shower and a good night's sleep. 
 
It's hard to enjoy a film when the eyelids are heavy.
 
But a Transformers quadrathlon? That makes eminent sense for a film franchise based on "bigger (fireballs, budget, guns, robots) is better". Michael Bay, whose idea of a script for Transformers 2 was to double the explosions, would surely appreciate back-to-back to back-to-back screenings of giant sentient androids wrecking havoc over and over and over and over again.
 
So I turn up at JCube on Wednesday (June 25, 2014), expecting to see die-hards decked out in loud, fancy mechanical costumes befitting the Transformers Quadrathlon that day. No such luck. Sensible, plain polo shirts and jeans ruled instead.
 
For a moment, I was in danger of being the best-dressed, donning my Optimus Prime t-shirt. I considered asking a couple of women in tight tank tops and skirts if they were doing their best impression of Megan Fox, but better sense prevailed and I kept my mouth shut. 
 
Fortunately, I spotted 18-year-old Tan Zi Rui who displayed the same good taste in wearing an Optimus Prime t-shirt too. She also had a Transformers lanyard, Autobots badge and an Autobots cushion.
 
 
(From left) Merryll Sim and Tan Zi Rui at the Transformers Quadrathlon at JCube. Zi Rui was the fan with the most Transformers memorabilia at the movie marathon. -- ST PHOTO: CHONG ZI LIANG
 
She later told me she was at the premiere of the Transformers ride at Universal Studios Singapore in 2011 and had snagged a photo with Michael Bay himself, when she bravely brushed aside his security detail. She showed me the picture on her phone as evidence and I promptly crowned her the biggest Transformers fan present. It is ironic that her quadrathlon companion and Ngee Ann Polytechnic schoolmate Merryll Sim had never seen any of the films before that day, making him probably one of the few 21-year-old males in Singapore with that dubious honour. 
 
As the start of the first movie drew near, people lined up for the free flow of popcorn. I abstained as munching would affect my note-taking. 
 
Wait a minute. Taking notes at a Michael Bay film?
 
I joined the popcorn queue. 
 
The first film went by in a snap. Shia LaBeouf's reputation has taken a beating recently, especially after his paper bag "I'm not famous anymore stunt" earlier this year, so it was a surprise to see him as a fresh-faced, "up-and-coming" actor. Bay's leering camera on Fox, whose star has also been on the wane, also reminds the audience why she shot to sex symbol status in her midriff-baring spaghetti straps and barely there denim bottoms. 
 

 Then Revenge Of The Fallen rolled. It's Autobots versus Decepticons again, there's general chaos and buildings in flames, and huge CGI Transformer deathmatches. Also, there are obligatory attempts at cheap laughs featuring men in thongs and robotic private parts. 
 

 At the halfway mark of the quadrathlon, I caught up with some of the other moviegoers. Being a weekday, some like Fara Kamsani had taken leave to attend the event. "I begged my colleagues to swop duties with me so I could be here," the 26-year-old reservation support agent said. She was there with her friends Nurhadi - also tastefully in an Optimus Prime t-shirt - and Risti Fauzi, both 28 and students. 
 
 
(From left) Fara Kamsani, Nurhadi and Risti Fauzi have seen the films many times in the cinema and on TV, and were looking forward to the Dinobots in Age Of Extinction. -- ST PHOTO: CHONG ZI LIANG
 
The trio had expectedly seen the Transformers films many times in the cinemas and on TV, and their energy levels were still high as they got ready for the midnight screening of Age Of Extinction. "The Dinobots, it's about time we got to see them," said Nurhadi. It is their first movie quadrathlon and they all readily agree they would do it again in a heartbeat.
 
As for clearance specialist Rohan Bhade, 33, it wasn't his first rodeo, having caught the Dark Knight movie marathon a couple of years back. He was flying solo this time as his wife was at work, and he hadn't seen any of the films before. So he was glad to see them at one go. "It's going to be over the top when you put on the 3D glasses and the robots come flying at you," he said, referring to the third and fourth film which are in 3D.
 
 
Rohan Bhade was flying solo that day and seeing all the films for the first time. -- ST PHOTO: CHONG ZI LIANG
 
Dark Of The Moon began and perhaps the biggest difference it has from its predecessors is Rosie Huntington-Whiteley taking over as LaBeouf's onscreen squeeze. Let it not be said that Bay isn't consistent when directing his female leads. He makes that much clear from her first appearance, strutting up a flight of stairs with her shapely, endless gams. 
 

Then it's back to the regular programming of blasting energy beams, cars blown sky-high, skyscrapers obliterated, and mechanical bodies pummelled. It's the ultimate test of my ability to stomach endless, mostly bloodless, make-believe violence and also my vocabulary in describing general destruction. 
 
By the end of the third film, I was having difficulty remembering which city was blown up in which instalment. It's an endless loop of battles, flashes, booms and screams. Was this how Tom Cruise felt in Edge Of Tomorrow?
 
But then, the witching hour struck at midnight and it was time for Age Of Extinction. Like a runner on his second wind, the audience was pumped up and broke into loud hoots and applause. It was a beautiful moment before the final round of robo-mayhem.
 
This time, the humans are fighting the Autobots instead of fighting alongside them. Things blow up. Then a Transformer who's neither Autobot nor Decepticon appears. Stuff gets smashed. Next, humans build their own Autobots that turn out to be Decepticons. More crushing and shattering. Finally the long-awaited Dinobots turn up, snarling at Autobots and chomping on Decepticons by turn. Whose side are they on? Does it even matter? 
 
I left the Imax cinema with my ears ringing and a thousand-yard stare.
 
It was close to 3am, but some patrons were still clearly excited by what they just saw, as they animatedly discussed the origins of the Dinobots and their pick of the countless action sequences.
 
I'm not sure if it's possible to overdose on reel-life violence, but after more than 12 hours, the Transformer Quadrathlon certainly comes close. 
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