Transformers: Age of Extinction
Review by Daniel Rester
I tried to remain optimistic going in to see Transformers: Age of Extinction. With a new cast and a three-year gap after the last film, I thought perhaps Michael Bay was going to put something different on the table. Nope. It’s the same metal-busting stuff, different day. Well, at least for the most part.
There is a smidge of freshness in bringing in a new cast, but that isn’t to say the acting is strong. Mark Wahlberg takes the lead as Cade Yeager, a struggling inventor from Texas. Think about that poor casting choice for a second. Got it? Good. Then we have Nicola Peltz as Tessa, Cade’s teenage daughter, and Jack Reynor as Shane, Tessa’s racecar-driving boyfriend. Throw in Stanley Tucci as a rich inventor, Kelsey Grammar as a CIA agent, and T.J. Miller as a comic relief friend of Cade’s and you have your cast. At least we don’t have Shia LaBeouf screaming every minute anymore.
The story takes place four years after the events of Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011). With the destruction of Chicago, select humans (led by Grammar’s character) are now against the Autobots. Cade happens to pick up Optimus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen), who has been hiding out from the humans. This sets the huff-and-puff chain of events that lead the main characters around the world.
On the side, Joshua Joyce (Tucci) has been working on building his own Transformers. This involves a sneaky partnership with Harold Attinger (Grammar), which in turn involves a device called the Seed and a bounty hunter Transformer called Lockdown (voiced by Mark Ryan). Basically it’s the same greedy humans plus angry Transformers plus ulta-strong device formula for the villainy. Oh, and we eventually get some Dinobots to help take down said baddies.
Screenwriter Ehren Kruger and director Bay don’t really try much that’s new here. If you’re a fan of the series, I guess that’s a good thing. Or it’s an insult to you for the filmmakers not willing to try something new besides just employing a new cast of characters. There is a difference between delivering to the fans and just being lazy in your storytelling and aesthetics.
Kruger’s story is both simple and jumbled at the same time, packing in four villains and whole lot of bad dialogue (“My face is my warrant” is actually a line in the film). The characters are okay, with some tension between the leads toward the beginning. However, most of the people lack depth and the relationship-building (especially between Cade and Shane) is very forced at times.
As for Bay, what more is there to say? The man blows stuff up real good and often provides terrific chase sequences. His visual effects army did a great job at creating the Transformers (like before), with a lot of colors and flashiness providing eye candy in the action scenes. And there are a few excellent uses of slow motion, music, and wide shots. But, like most of Bay’s filmmaking, it all feels like an overlong, repetitive, and exhausting music video or commercial after a while.
What is mostly annoying is that Bay is unwilling to try to step outside of his comfort zone, if you can even call it that. Myriad explosions with firework looks? Check. American flags waving during a sunset? Check. Humor that is often crude or forced? Check. Tons of product placement? Check. Shots that linger on young women in an almost perverted manner? Check. As for that last one, it is even more uncomfortable this time around given that Tessa is supposed to be a teenage girl; Bay makes her look like a model with perfect makeup and hair even during the destruction.
The cast doesn’t bring much to the table, either. Wahlberg and Tucci do what they can being the good actors they are. The same can’t be said for really anyone else; this is especially true of Reynor, who’s accent is all over the place throughout the film. But with this writing and Bay’s focus on action over emotion, can they really be blamed? Partially.
Despite the chaos and cynicism of the film, some fun is to be had at times (there is one excellent set piece involving characters balancing on wires). I actually enjoyed the picture in a dumb-but-fun way for about the first hour or so. And then it just goes on and on and on and on, with everything becoming bloated and irritating by the finish of the 165-minute runtime. There is an exciting 100-minute film somewhere in here, but this isn’t it. If only Bay knew when to quit.
This entry isn’t nearly as horrendous as the second film (Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009)), but it also isn’t as entertaining as the first film (which remains the best of the series). It’s about on par with Moon. But unless you are a diehard fan, I say skip it. Films like Edge of Tomorrow and How to Train Your Dragon 2 are much better options for this year’s summer movie entertainment.
Score: 2 out of 4 stars (Grade Equivalent for Me: C).
MPAA Rating: R (for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, language, and brief innuendo).
Runtime: 2 hours and 45 minutes.
U.S. Release Date: June 27th, 2014.