Bay’s ‘Transformers’ Series Facing Age of Extinction
Four films in, Transformers: Age of Extinction has the rare luxury of a clean slate. Shia LaBeouf is gone. So are many elements of the first three films. The exception being Optimus Prime and Bumblebee. There’s not even an end credits Linkin Park song to rock out to this round.
Still, director Michael Bay manages to copy and paste his signature ridiculousness from the previous installments. Age of Extinction picks up a few years after the last film. The remaining Autobots and Decepticons are picked off one by one, blamed for the carnage in Chicago. After being on the run, Optimus Prime lays low in Texas with inventor Cade (Mark Wahlberg), who buys the broken down truck for parts.
When the government gets wind of this, a black ops unit is on Cade’s doorstep immediately. But they’re not the only one’s with a price on Prime’s head. Robot bounty hunter Lockdown is also on the hunt, collecting for unknown reasons. With his teenage daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz) and her race car boyfriennd (Jack Reynor), Cade and Optimus go on the run.
Age of Extinction was the perfect opportunity to rebrand the franchise. Instead, we have a film that goes through the same ridiculous loops expected of Bay. When it comes to length, Bay knows no limits. The first Transformers was an enjoyable 144 minutes. Age of Extinction clocks in over 20 minutes longer. Some films can justify a run time near three hours. This film cannot.
Even with some muddled editing, the first hour is a nice change of pace from the previous three films. Cade’s origins and involvement with the Autobots parallels Sam’s in the first film. Wahlberg is slightly more interesting than LaBeouf, but not convincing enough as an inventor.
Once Cade, Tessa and Optimus get on the road, Age of Extinction takes a downward spiral. From here on out, Bay’s out to make this the loudest, most explosive and obnoxious installment to date. In many ways, it unfortunately succeeds in achieving those goals. 90 minutes in and you’re pleading with the screen for it to be over. But there’s still another hour plus to go. The climatic battle in Hong Kong is nowhere in sight.
Bay dangles so much junk in front of the screen, it’s a chore to pick out what’s worth salvaging and what isn’t. There’s a lot happening in Age of Extinction that so much gets lost in translation. It’s not a confusing movie, just bloated. With four villains, who’s worth hating on the most? Then there’s new Autobots voiced by John Goodman and Ken Watanabe, who are shoved in there with little care.
New additions like bounty hunter Lockdown and Stanley Tucci’s business tycoon are the film’s minimal highlights. Even the much-anticipated Dino-bots are little more than cameos tacked on the climax. There’s no real reason for the Dino-bots to even show up except to sell more toys.
Ehren Kruger’s screenplay rivals that of his from Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. The dialogue is laughable, having to explain every single plot point along the way. And both the humans and robots have some cringe-worthy dialogue. Painful to hear, Age of Extinction doesn’t look like its gone beyond a first or second draft. At least there’s no offensive Mudflap or Skids this time around, but there is a lot of unnecessary swearing for this 165-minute commercial.
Transformers: Age of Extinction is plenty dumb, but it’s not here to win over anyone who hasn’t already enjoyed the previous films. By no means is it as dreadful as Revenge of the Fallen. But if there’s a Transformers 5 (and this film set it up), Bay needs to buck up and fix what’s wrong. Otherwise, this franchise faces extinction.