‘Transformers: Age of Extinction’ Review: LOUD NOISES!!

'Transformers: Age of Extinction'

Movie Rating:


‘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.

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  1. Drew

    Here’s the bottom line, on this one:
    If you’re a fan of the series, you’re going to love this one. It’s definitely the least terrible, out of the four films. The over-the-top behavior is toned down, and the non-stop absurdity is kept in check. If you already hate the series, this film won’t change your mind at all. If you’re indifferent to the series, this one is worth seeing in the theatre, simply for the awe inspiring visual feast.

  2. Derp

    Almost 3 hours? Of transformers? Really?!

    You make the same amount of money per ticket if it’s half that length.

    There’s far better films that barely warrant that time stamp. Why are movies getting so bloated?

    Also, Tucci?

    Tucci is in this?!

    C’mon now, I’m sure they could have found a place for you in the Marvel universe if you needed a big paycheck that badly.

  3. Drew

    I meant to include this in my comment, yesterday…

    The scenes that were shot with the brand new IMAX digital cameras are truly astonishing. This will sound cliché, but they are literally jaw-dropping. In fact, for my money, they might just be better than any 70mm film, or any true IMAX 65mm footage that I’ve ever seen. If you like to go see movies, strictly for stunning visual feasts, don’t hesitate to see this in IMAX.

    • Riley

      Drew, that is such a ridiculous comment. Firstly, even though the movie was shot with both 4K (Phantom 65 aka the “new IMAX digital 3d camera”) and 6K (Red Epic) cameras, IMAX digital projectors are only 2K. True IMAX 65mm or 70mm resolves to a resolution four times that, if not higher. Maybe it looked good because you were watching it on a smaller LIEMAX screen, but at a real 70mm equipped IMAX theater it’s a different story. Blu-ray resolution projected on a 72’x53′ screen is not a good thing at all.

      • William Henley

        Agreed. While the scenes may look great, ALL digital IMAX are 2k. Imax 65 and 70mm have a resolution between 18k-24k (the reason it is not more exact is it is really hard to compare resolution on film to digital).

        I am not saying it doesn’t look great, I am sure it does, but seriously, there is no comparrison. Imax is 2K. The new camera may be 4k, but Imax would have to put 4k projectors in all their theaters for you to see the difference. You are not seeing 4k. What may be amazing about the picture is that these new cameras have some amazing sensors and optics, and I am sure that will lead to better looking pictures.

        What is sad, though, is that even though they used these new 4k and 6k cameras, the digital intermediary is 2k:

        I thought it was strange that it was not showing up on the list of 4k releases this year, and that is why

        • RIley

          I’m thinking this movie will be re-released once the majority of the 4K laser projection systems are installed. It’s a shame that Paramount doesn’t authorize 70mm DMR prints anymore, then at least the full resolution could’ve been seen in IMAX.

          • William Henley

            Yes, but the digital intermediary is still 2k. That means the movie will always be 2k, unless they go back to the original files and recomposite ALL effects shots and rerender all CG. Not saying that the will never do that, but that would be quite expensive, and I doubt that will ever happen.

  4. Freakyguy666

    I’m going to see it just for the Imax 3D. Expecting to be bored but looking forward to seeing if this new digital Imax 3D camera is a contender or pretender….

  5. Thought it was awesome, better than the others, maybe not AS good as the first one but its pretty damn close. Everything was toned down, not so much goofy dumb humor, action scenes were much easier to follow and of course they were shot better than anyone else in the business. I’m a Bay fan as most people around here know and he didnt disappoint me yet again 🙂

    As far as the complaint goes on product placement, I never understood that argument. If you are running around in the real world thats all you see, why shouldnt it be the same in the movies? This is supposed to take place on planet earth and in our real cities right? I always felt that product placement makes the movies fit into the real world better because we all see it every day just walking down the street.

  6. Oh and I’m sorry, but even at the almost 3 hour runtime, I wasnt bored in the slightest and I never felt like I had sat that long either, it went quick and honestly I was surprised it was as long as it was

  7. William Henley

    Not even going to bother with this one. First one was okay, two was awful. 3 I waited for the Blu, and rented it, and it was awful. Not even going to bother with this one.

  8. Rick

    In the end, when Optimus Prime flies into outer space he sums up the movies best for us. He says something like they are not sure where they come from or who’s looking for them, but they are going to pay for it. LOL! I couldn’t help laughing at his lines, because that’s exactly how I felt. What just happened? Storyline was terrible!!!!

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