'Transformers: Age of Extinction'
‘Transformers: Age of Extinction’ feels like watching all of the previous ‘Transformers’ movies back to back in both the best and worst possible sense. It sure is dumb and action packed, but it’s also much too much in every conceivable way. You’ll be begging for the movie to end by the last thirty minutes regardless of how many robot dinosaurs Michael Bay shoves into your 3D glasses.
Sometimes it feels like Michael Bay actually reads reviews of his movies purely to make sure that he does even more of everything that critics complain about, because it will make him extra money. He’s not wrong, but that doesn’t make him right. ‘Transformers: Age of Extinction’ is the biggest and most visibly expensive movie of the summer thus far, and one filled with so much product placement that it should be illegal to show additional ads before the movie. Aside from being a franchise that existed primarily as a toy advertisement for thirty years, Bay finds plenty of screen time for Budweiser, Ford, Coke and even a couple of regionally specific products during an unexpected third act in China that punishingly pushes the running time to nearly three hours. This is, in many ways, the ultimate example of commercial filmmaking that exists purely to spend and make money. There’s something almost admirable about the purity of that approach and if the fourquel managed to clock in at a reasonable two hours, it might even qualify as a big, dumb, empty, guilty pleasure. That didn’t happen, though. So all you’re left with while walking out of the theater is big, dumb, empty guilt mixed with a little shame.
So, the plot… You know that Shia Labeouf storyline that’s carried three movies? Yeah, it’s never mentioned once this time, because it was always that disposable. Instead, we’re introduced to a new hero in Mark Wahlberg, an amateur small town Texas robotics inventor with a mountain of debt, a mysterious Boston accent, and a super-hot 17-year-old daughter (Nicola Peltz). One day, Wahlberg buys a beat-up old transport truck that he finds inside a rotting old movie theater (don’t ask, it’s never explained) and takes it home to discover that it’s Optimus Prime, desperately in need of some repairs and a new best friend. That classic robot truck/Texas farmer friendship lands Wahlberg in some deep trouble involving Kelsey Grammer as an evil CIA agent hunting down Transformers (yep, Frasier plays the villain), Stanley Tucci as a tech billionaire who figured out how to build his own Transformers from stolen Transformer parts (apparently they’re made out of, I shit you not, Transformium), a resurrected Megatron, evil Autobot clones, a team of evil CIA agents, and worst of all, his daughter’s first boyfriend (no!!!). It’s a whole bunch of silly convoluted fun that comes together for a 30-minute action climax in Chicago that wraps up just in time to hit the two hour mark.
Given that the climax throws every character and plot thread together for one massive action sequence, you’d think that would end the movie. You’d be wrong, because the first two hours end up being little more than the set up for a 45-minute Transformer smackdown in China involving Dinobots, which was clearly tacked onto the end of a completed script just to exploit the ever-lucrative Chinese market. Plus, the Dinobots get tossed in during the last 20 minutes because… god, I don’t know, but they’re there and they’re totally robot dinosaurs, so I guess that’s important.
So yeah, it’s a big dumb stupid script from hack screenwriter Ehren Kruger (‘Scream 3’) that doesn’t make a lick of sense. However, that’s pretty much a franchise staple at this point, so you can’t even call it unexpected. Truthfully, ‘Transformers: Age of Extinction’ includes absolutely every high and low from every ‘Transformers’ movie so far. It has stunning action, incomprehensibly shot robot fights, amusing comedy cameos, wooden central performances, bad taste humor, impressive CGI, offensive racial stereotypes, gaping plot holes, magic hour beauty shots, continuity mistakes, big explosions, bigger explosions, and additional explosions (sometimes big). I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I enjoyed some of the set-pieces, a handful of amusing performances, and some fantastic native 3D visuals. However, any good will those good sequences earn is crushed by the tedious butt-numbing excess.
This is a movie that simply won’t end, piling action scene upon action scene and plot twist upon plot twist without any sense of pacing, logic, meaning or purpose to connect them together. By the time you seen the 28th Transformer fight between indistinguishable hunks of twisted metal, it’s hard to work up any sense of excitement. This franchise was always going to be artistically bankrupt, but that was never really a problem or the point of making a ‘Transformers’ blockbuster. However, it should never have been boring, and this fourquel commits that unforgivable sin through sheer endless excess.
Ah well, at least it’s better than ‘Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen’, if that hunk of garbage (easily Michael Bay’s worst film) is even worthy of being considered as a yardstick to measure crap. It’s time for Bay to stop with this ‘Transformers’ stuff. He might not be a genius, but he’s not without talent and can be better than this.