film review – Transformers: Age Of Extinction

Michael Bay’s Transformers: Dark Of The Moon, his third film based on the toys created by Hasbro and Tomy, delivered what all audiences came to expect from both Michael Bay movies and the Transformers franchise: mindless action, cringeworthy one-liners, cardboard characters, nonsensical editing, shameless advertising, gratuitous shots of scarcely-clad young women, unfunny humor, racial stereotypes and explosions. Let’s rephrase that: lots of explosions. But unlike its predecessors, the third film also didn’t seem to take itself all that seriously, which made it surprisingly watchable despite all of its apparent flaws. Everything was cranked up to eleven right from the start, with both Shia LaBeouf and his foil Patrick Dempsey overacting their hearts out amidst all the ridiculous goings-on surrounding another dime-a-dozen MacGuffin. Now, three years after 2011’s Dark Of The Moon, Michael Bay has returned to give us his fourth Transformers movie, subtitled Age Of Extinction. This sequel functions as both a continuation of the franchise and a fresh start, signified by its new lead Mark Wahlberg who has replaced LaBeouf as the series’ hero. While LaBeouf was certainly watchable, he didn’t have the everyman charisma Wahlberg brings to the screen, which is certainly an improvement. Sadly that’s about the only compliment one can pay Age Of Extinction.

Bay’s fourth Transformers film is actually a step back for the franchise, despite Wahlberg’s efforts to make the most of what he’s been given. He plays Cade Yaeger, an inventor who stumbles upon an old truck that happens to be Optimus Prime, something which gets him, his daughter and her boyfriend into a lot of trouble since one of the government’s secret organizations is hunting Transformers down after the events of the third film. Before you know it another silly MacGuffin is introduced and the plot thickens, and with it the movie starts to makes less and less sense by the second. But that doesn’t really matter: story is fluff here, just a way to tie the dumb and loud action moments together, of which there are many. Age Of Extinction has a running time of 165 minutes and, as one would suspect, that’s overlong for what boils down to little more than an expensive fireworks and computer effects show. After the movie’s slow start the actors have very little more to do than just run a lot while spouting incredibly dumb one-liners or drinking a beer in between explosions because, even when it comes to advertising, Michael Bay doesn’t concern himself with subtlety. It’s a waste of talent: powerful character actors Kelsey Grammer, Titus Welliver and Stanley Tucci get to play caricatures of G- and company men, mere outlets for either exposition or lame attempts at humor. John Goodman and Ken Watanabe fare even worse as the voices of two nondescript Transformers: Goodman gets to say he wants to shoot stuff before he shoots it, and Watanabe gets dealt the quasi-spiritual lines that fit existing stereotypes perfectly (then again… his Transformer’s face is also yellow and his appearance modeled after a samurai armor). What makes all of this even worse is that, once again, Transformers: Age Of Extinction plays everything with a straight face and doesn’t poke fun at itself like Dark Of The Moon did. It makes the film’s crudeness and idiocies very hard to swallow.

While all of this is to be expected from a Michael Bay Transformers movie, it is surprising that the effects often don’t seem up to snuff. A new brand of robots changes into floating building blocks before transforming into either a vehicle or warrior, but these visuals are poorly implemented into the real environments. A scene in which Tucci’s character introduces the technology is obviously supposed to wow audiences, but instead is unconvincing; the effects look more like a video game tech demo from a couple of years back jokingly put into a movie scene, than like something Tucci’s character can interact with and actually touch. Stylistically it’s also a poor decision: people watch the Transformers franchise partly because of the cool transformation sequences in which parts of cars shift and get pieced together differently to give way to a hulking mech. It’s disappointing really, as are the action sequences: while they are big and loud, they are also extremely boring. The action goes on for far too long, numbing the senses, but it’s also shockingly amateuristic: there’s no thought behind the editing, choreography or pacing of the scenes. Instead it’s all just there up on the screen without any rhyme or reason to it, a long succession of flashy images and loud sounds that drags.

Michael Bay’s Transformers: Age Of Extinction is a sleazy and dumb 165-minute-long cocktail of punches, bullets and explosions that doesn’t equal excitement but tedium instead. It is an excellent example of how not to make an action film. 2/10

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