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Review: Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014) — Mind-Numbing Autobot Boom-Boom, Another Bay at the Office

Transformers-Age-of-Extinction banner

Michael Bay returns to the bombastic robot-fisticuff franchise in Transformers: Age of Extinction; the fourth film in the series, and despite reports to the contrary, not a reboot. This Transformers film deals with the effects of that gigantic battle in Chicago, and it’s not good for our Autobot pals:  CIA operatives are out to capture and destroy all Transformers, Decepticons and Autobots alike. Fugitive Transformers have scattered all across the USA, and it’s in a small town in Texas where failed inventor Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) finds a dilapidated truck that winds up being the wheeled form of Autobot leader and franchise stalwart Optimus Prime.Yeager and his family must join the Autobots in evading the US government, led by Harold Attinger (Kelsey Grammer), and their associate, a mysterious bounty hunter known as Lockdown.

Twin guns? Check. Explosions? Check. City-wide destruction? Check.

Twin guns? Check. Explosions? Check. City-wide destruction? Check.

These Transformers movies need to be taken with a grain of salt; you know exactly what you’re getting when you purchase your ticket. It was to my surprise that the first act of this film was actually quite enjoyable: the character interactions were reasonable (despite clunky, cliché dialogue), and Bay’s directing was surprisingly restrained (for his standards). But after a major car-chase action sequence at the end of the first act the film becomes a mind-numbing bore. Meaningless action scenes with no plot development, wretched and laughable dialogue, and awful pacing and editing: the exact stuff I was initially dreading. This is a film that goes well over two and a half hours, but could easily have been edited down to one and a half. Classic Michael Bay over-indulgence

As expected, the human characters are completely flat and one-dimensional, which is especially disappointing considering the talent involved (Michael Bay, for all his flaws, can certainly gather a talented cast). We follow a new group of humans, with Walhberg taking over the lead role from the extremely busy Shia “The Beef” LaBeouf. Wahlberg has the potential to be excellent (The Departed, The Fighter), or extremely mediocre (The Happening), and this film is amongst his worst. If there’s one thing Wahlberg isn’t, it’s a brilliant inventor. They tried their hardest by putting glasses on him, but I don’t buy it.

Grammer plays the villainous CIA agent tasked with finding and eliminating all Transformers; calling them unwelcome, illegal aliens. His role could have really said something about the current state of immigration policies in the US, but the character has little nuance and winds up more a big-screen Zeb Colter:

"We the people!"

“We the people!”

Given the paper-thin material provided, I did actually enjoy Stanley Tucci‘s role as industrial tycoon Joshua Joyce, a man hell-bent on manipulating the molecules of captured and slain Transformers to create man-made versions — culminating in the creation of Galvatron. Tucci was a highlight, but because of a weak script he occasionally appeared nothing more than a big-screen Steve Jobs:

"...we the people?"

“…we the people?”

Much like its predecessors, Age of Extinction has a terrible script from Ehren Kruger full of lazy writing and logical fallacies. When Optimus Prime is uncovered by Wahlberg’s character, he is in pretty bad shape and states he needs his Autobot compadres to fully repair himself. When they meet with the rest of the Autobots in the desert, Optimus scans a new truck and is magically returned to working order. This is frustratingly not explained; I assume because it can’t be explained due to plot holes. Why did Optimus have to find his buddies before he could scan a new form? Actually, wasn’t Optimus’ arm torn off during the last film? And if the Autobots can be repaired by scanning a new vehicle, then why doesn’t Bumblebee’s voice get repaired when he upgrades? He just continues to communicate through his radio (which is just movie quotes).

I can’t pinpoint when it happened but the film iteration of these characters are now downright bloodthirsty and seem relatively eager to slay anything that stands in their way. I realise that Optimus Prime is in revenge mode after the brutal execution of his ally and friend Ratchet, but I always read the Autobots as fairly noble aliens. They’re no longer kid-friendly, that’s for sure.

Get in the *Beard*

Get in the *Beard*

The design of the Autobots is dumb as well. There’s a Autobot called Hound (voiced by John Goodman), who has a beard and cigar. Why the fuck does a robot need a beard and cigar?! Then there’s Crosshairs who sports a long green jacket. Robots don’t need jackets, because they are robots. And it’s not cool because it’s no longer 1999.

The biggest disappointment was the misuse of the Dinobots, who featured quite heavily in the marketing. They show up in the film’s climax (after a solid two hours, mind you). Their introduction has no build-up and their appearance in inconsequential. Such a massive let down for something so hyped.

This is just a complaint about the current state of blockbusters in general, and holds true for this film, but you know what I hate? Nano-bots. It’s such a cheap screenwriting ploy because by nature nano-bots can be whatever and do whatever they want, therefore any ridiculous plot contrivance can simply be explained by nanotechnology. Filmmakers want cool robots but want their powers to be virtually limitless for story purposes. Nano-bots can Get in the Bin!

gitbnanotech

Unabashed product placement is a standard in Bay films, but this film features the most blatant act of placement that I can remember, when Stanley Tucci’s character holds a Beats Pill speaker directly in front of the camera and lingers for a hilarious amount of time. It was groan-worthy. I understand the business of product placement and I appreciate the filmmakers that include it with guile, but Bay has all the subtlety of an excited goat.

Robots in disguise.

Robots in disguise.

Another staple from Michael Bay is his sense of humour, or general lack thereof. Kruger and Bay’s humour is devoid of subtlety, and the joke is normally mean-spirited and at someone’s expense. One consistent of Transformers films is the racial stereotyping, which Bay must find hilarious. I don’t know why the Autobot Drift (voiced by Ken Watanabe) has to be a samurai, considering he’s an alien, other than it’s easier to create a stereotype as opposed to an actual character. The cast is mainly white, but the few Asians that appear shockingly know martial arts. It’s generally unwise to mock a culture that you are actually relying on to fund your movie, which leads to my next point…

The final act of the film takes place in Hong Kong, for no other discernible reason other than money. Asia is a huge market for blockbuster Hollywood films, and China in particular have laws in place for a certain percentage of American films to feature Asian cast and locales to receive release in the country. It makes little sense for the climax to take place in Hong Kong; it has simply been added to make the film more financially successful on a global scale.

It’s very clear that this film isn’t about art or entertainment, or even staying true to the origins of these beloved characters, it’s simply an empty money-making vehicle. What a cop out.

But the biggest travesty? The missed opportunity of casting Mark Wahlberg in a Transformers movie, yet making no reference to this:

Llama Score: 3Due to the reasonably engaging and — for Bay — restrained first act of the movie, Age of Extinction is the best Transformers since the first, but honestly that’s not saying much. I lost interest about an hour in, which is exactly when my butt started to fall asleep. There was an hour and a half left! If you liked the previous ones, you’ll like this. It’s about time another director tackled this franchise.

 

Award: The Dr. Ian MalcolmAward: RecycleAward: Converse All-Stars Vintage 2004Award: Cool Guys Don't Look at Explosions

Highlights Banner

– The meaningless action is well produced. You can actually tell the Transformers apart!

– Classic Michael Bay, if that’s your thing.

Lowlights Banner

– Stanley Tucci shilling a Beats Pill.

– Wasted Dinobots.

– 2 hours, 45 minutes!

– Classic Michael Bay, if that’s not your thing.

Further Viewing Banner

Transformers The Movie (1986)

Transformers (2007)

Everything (EVERYTHING) you want from Transformers available here.

Directed by: Michael Bay Written by: Ehren Kruger Produced by: Don Murphy, Tom DeSanto, Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Ian Bryce Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Stanley Tucci, Kelsey Grammer, Peter Cullen Distributed by: Paramount Pictures Run length: 165 minutes Australian Release: Out now in theatres

 

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5 Comments

  1. Thanks you SO much for mentioning Ehren Kruger! Everyone places all of their hatred on Michael Bay, when really the two of them deserve an equal amount of public shaming. And I agree that the cast was talented, and there were even parts where I thought that Kelsey Grammer could make a great sci-fi villain, but overall, this movie didn’t justify its running time at all.

    You can read my full review of Age of Extinction here:

    http://heavymetalebert.wordpress.com/2014/06/27/transformers-age-of-extinction-movie-review/

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  2. Thank you, Michael Bay, for killing Transformers for future generations. This movie is similar to the previous Transformers like a formula. Pointless characters, no plot, plenty of explosions, its all there. The movie is extremely long at 2.5 hours and it dragged halfway through. Going into the movie, I knew I would be disappointed and am upset I spend money on this piece of crap. Avoid and save your money for something better.

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    Reply
  3. Very fun to watch. Not much substance, but you don’t go to a Michael Bay film for that anyway.

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