Transformers: Age of Extinction
Enough is Enough

After going low-budget (relatively speaking) and directing one of last year’s biggest surprises, Pain & Gain, Michael Bay returns to his big-budget franchise with Transformers: Age of Extinction.  The movie is technically a sequel, picking up the story four years after the events of 2011’s Transformers: Dark of the Moon, but it also has elements of a reboot.  Gone are Shia Labeouf’s Sam Witwicky and the rest of the human characters from the first three movies, replaced by a whole new cast led by Mark Wahlberg.  With the exception of a few holdovers, most of the robot cast is new as well, including a brand new villain.

The new villain is Lockdown, a bounty hunter who travels the galaxy collecting various life-forms for reasons that are not entirely explained.  Arriving on our planet in search of Optimus Prime, Lockdown has joined forces with a high-ranking CIA officer who is determined to eliminate the Transformer presence on Earth following the destruction of Chicago that we witnessed in the previous movie.  Gone into hiding to escape his pursuer, Optimus soon finds himself in the company of a human inventor named Cade Yeager.  Accused of hiding Optimus, Yeager, along with his daughter and her boyfriend, must go on the run from both Lockdown and a CIA black-ops team that is tracking them.

Walhberg as Cade Yeager in Transformers: Age of ExtinctionIn order to get their lives back, Yeager and Optimus decide to pursue the source of the problem: a giant electronics company that is using the melted down bodies of destroyed transformers to produce the element “transformium” and build their own robots.  Inevitably, Yeager and the Autobots will confront their enemies in a manner that will destroy not just one, but two major cities.

Despite their undeniable box-office success, the first three movie’s in Bay’s franchise have been critically panned across the board.  The major criticisms usually attack the franchise’s annoying and poorly written human characters, the non-stop, mindless pummeling of the audience’s senses, and the design of the Transformers themselves, which makes it difficult to distinguish between the different robots when they start brawling.  You might think that pseudo-rebooting the franchise would allow Bay the opportunity to address those complaints and create a more intelligible and enjoyable cinematic experience.  Unfortunately, it seems instead that he chose to embellish the franchise’s faults, making them even more noticeable and problematic in what turns out to be a grueling 165 minutes of destruction porn.

The only positive thing I can say about this movie is that Mark Wahlberg does a lot less screaming and whining than Shia LaBeouf did as the human lead in the previous three movies.  Wahlberg is also much more believable when his character gets mixed up in the action.  But there is only so much Wahlberg can do with a script that, well, I’m not even sure qualifies as a screenplay.  The human characters are given nothing but trite, childish dialogue that is only made worse by the fact that Bay films every one of their conversations as if they are delivering the most important speech ever delivered on film. No actor is safe in Michael Bay’s hands.  Even the usually great Stanley Tucci comes off looking foolish, especially in a scene in which he inexplicably cracks up in an elevator.  As an audience, all we can do is beg for the elevator door to shut, but for some reason it refuses to do so.

The script for the robot characters is not any better.  Sure, these are characters based on kids’ toys, but even the cartoon from the 1980s managed to humanize these characters and make them worth rooting for.  Additionally, the army of villainous transformers is again made up of faceless drones who now somehow transform by turning from robot into a metallic dust and then into a vehicle.  One of the highlights of the previous movies was watching these giant robots turn directly into different Earth vehicles, but Bay even steals that from us with these bad guys.

Perhaps the biggest failure of Age of Extinction is that despite the fact that there is always something happening visually in every corner of every single frame, there is nothing that impresses visually.  Even the fight and action scenes are lost in what becomes a visual mess.

Having grown up a fan of the Transformers toys and cartoons, I have tried to be patient with Bay’s franchise in hopes that he will eventually get it sorted out.  It appeared he was finally getting on the right track with the second half of the last movie, but this latest chapter only proves beyond a doubt that he is doing nothing but running the franchise into the ground creatively.

Transformers: Age of Extinction is rated PG-13 for “intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, language, and brief innuendo.”  The intensity of the violence combined with how loud it is will likely turn off younger viewers.  The language also seemed more present than in most PG-13 movies.

 

Courtesy of a local publicist, Jeff attended a promotional screening of Transformers: Age of Extinction.