Michael Bay has done it again. The maestro of overbudget blockbusters filled with as much spectacle as they are devoid of logic has returned to the Transformers franchise that he swore he was done with.
Following a very solid first entry in the franchise, where the world was first introduced to robot-smash-robot, save the world with nice cars and pretty girls, Bay’s two sequels dared to utilize the exact same formula to underwhelming results, at least to the critics of the world. Bay remained an absolute darling at the box office.
So hey, those films made buckets of cash enough to save the starving population of Africa, so Bay’s patented formula has got to work, right?
Wrong. In short, the latest Transformers suffers from major formula recycling, major déjà vu, and a M-A-J-O-R-L-Y ridiculous runtime, and it suffers severely.
Not all hope is lost, though. For what many presume to be the first entry in a new Transformers trilogy (God help us), the producers have brought in a new leading man in well-liked Mark Wahlberg, a legitimately dark villain, and a more foreboding tone with fits the universe well. Perhaps Bay has learned from his previous film, the severely underrated work of art Pain & Gain?
Perhaps. But again…if nothing’s broke (in the eyes of the cash cows), why fix it?
With the Transformers franchise, Bay has taken upon himself to almost create his own genre. A genre that is identifiable with cliché personalities, predictable plotlines, logical gaps aplenty, and a great fetish for all things that go BOOM.
In the newest entry, humans have taken upon themselves to utilize the technology of the Transformers for their own gains. To do that, they hunt down any and all Autobots and Decepticons with the help of neutral Transformers Lockdown, who may or may not have his own motives.
A thing about Lockdown. He is the freshest breath of fresh air for this franchise in Age of Extinction. Similar to The Winter Soldier in Captain America 2, Lockdown is the first villain in the universe to really be terrifying, with an atmosphere so foreboding and ominous that he steals the scene when he’s involved in a fight. He is pulled off fantastically, certainly a high point in the film.
Optimus Prime is again back as leader of a whole new crew of Autobots, with personalities as diverse and fun as those in previous films. Only this time, Prime is isolated and in a weakened state of mind, hiding from humans at the start of the film who are hunting him down after thrice saving their race. This conflict between the Transformers and humans is a truly fascinating one, as we never really thought before how much of a threat humans could be to these huge hunks of metals with their outrageous guns and advanced technology.
The human characters…where to start with them. Let’s just say I feel for Wahlberg’s character, a determined but down-on-his-luck inventor who basically can’t get his way with even his own flesh and blood. His daughter has her own motives, and however pretty she is onscreen, it is just so so so difficult to ever be on her side. She’ll make you wish for Megan Fox’s character back. No, really. You’ll see what I mean. The other characters fill Bay’s clichéd personalities so extremely and excessively that we tire of them very quickly, as we do most of the film’s components. At points you kind of just want certain characters to bite the dust (and this wish is granted to one of the most annoying ever introduced to the franchise! Yay!). The human’s motives are thoroughly, utterly predictable, and some other scenes with minor characters legitimately feel awkward to have to endure.
All of that excess doesn’t help a film that is running at a ridiculous 166 minutes. The astounding thing is that Bay doesn’t make too many of those minutes count, especially when it comes to the humans and their simply
flat, uninteresting, uninspired storylines.
Wahlberg (Ted, The Other Guys) replaces Shia LaBeouf as the lead of the franchise in Cade Yeager and he does a fine job amidst a time when his stronger performances are in comedies. He’s easy to like, he’s on point with the delivery of Bay’s trademark dialogue, and it certainly isn’t hard to root for him considering the people he’s surrounded by. Nicola Peltz(The Last Airbender, Bates Motel) Las does an okay job playing a bad character as Yeager’s helpless daughter who really doesn’t show any growth at all by film’s end. Jack Reynor (Delivery Man, Dollhouse) plays her squeeze, a Liam Hemsworth lookalike (sans the acting abilities) that I swear you’ll forget is even in the movie at times. He is that expendable.
The script, written by Transformers vet (uh-oh) Ehren Kruger is….exactly what you’ve come to expect. No more, no less. Some lines will make you laugh out loud when they absolutely don’t have the intention to do so. But that’s okay, because when has this franchise ever turned in a solid script? Moving on…
To Bay’s specialty! Yes, the action! The spectacle! The explosions! OH the explosions!
I’ve got news for ya. Unless you really crave the endless deafness of buildings falling, cars crashing, environments where seemingly just grass and wood can blow up…even Age of Extinction’s action is mundane.
Bay has no problems reaching new levels of ludicrous, but Age of Extinction suffers in the same areas as Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (the most expensive movie ever made) did…there is no fine line to Bay’s destruction and absurdity. There is no end game…and it actually makes it kind of boring.
At least in previous installments, the action and destruction meant something. Here it just feels imperative and without any weight or levity. Oh, Age of Extinction looks pretty, don’t get me wrong. But any movie can look pretty. It doesn’t mean Bay can skip out on substance, which Age of Extinction is devoid of.
The final act alone is a whole hour of nonstop, mind-numbing madness where I commend you if you have any idea what is going on. Bay’s gotten to that point. He must understand that a little added desperation and slightly higher stakes don’t make for an original or better story. It needs more.
Here’s hoping the ending of the movie holds a legitimate promise, with that of a potential all-Transformer, no-human entry…
In a Nutshell
It’s loud, it’s jumbled, and recycling is the name of the game in Age of Extinction. Sadly, you never care for our human protagonists enough, and the Transformers are too busy fighting to see they’re in a franchise which has become mediocre at best.
It is gorgeous though.
5.5/10 or You’ve already seen this movie. Three times to be exact.
Transformers: Age of Extinction is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, language and brief innuendo
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Nicole Peltz, Jack Reynor, Stanley Tucci
Directed by Michael Bay