Review: 'Transformers: Age of Extinction' is an Epic, Lazy Shit-Storm
by Jeremy Kirk
June 27, 2014
Pardon the pun, but Michael Bay is on cruise control now. At least that's the case with the Transformers franchise. The series of mega-budgeted, summer blockbusters were never going to win awards for excellence in storytelling. Beyond the explosions, mayhem, and people shouting "No" in machine-gun rapidity, there have hardly been stories to gel all the action together. That's what makes Bay's movies so up the alley of anyone looking for escapist fun. Unfortunately, not even the computer graphic carnage and epic scale destruction on display in the latest Transformers sequel, Age of Extinction, can keep the sloppy and lazy attitude into which this franchise has shifted from rearing its ugly, mechanized head.
This latest one does have dinosaurs and Mark Wahlberg in it, though, about the only way to differentiate it from the previous three films. Wahlberg takes the lead role of Cade Yeager, failed inventor and failing father of a 17-year-old girl (Nicolas Peltz). He believes he's found the answer to all their financial worries, a bullet-holed, dust-covered, beaten-up semi truck that may or may not be one of the famed Transformers. Actually, it's probably the one whose name everyone knows. Since the events in Dark of the Moon pretty much wiped out any mystery of their presence on Earth, the Transformers, both Autobot and Decepticon, are in hiding at the start and for a good reason.
A shadowy, black ops organization headed by Kelsey Grammer is hunting down all the mechanized aliens, good and bad. His belief is that another, cataclysmic event such as the one that leveled Chicago in the last film is best deterred by completely wiping out the alien problem. His men, complete with black SUVS and black coats that like to flap in the wind, target Yeager's farmhouse as soon as that familiar semi truck is found out. Needless to say, that familiar semi truck soon transforms into an even more familiar, giant robot.
That word, "familiar," is springing to mind far too often when it comes to the Transformers series as a whole. It's as if the people who write these films, Ehren Kruger this time around, have a template set up that just needs names and locations filled in as they go: a few humans team up with Transformers, notably Optimus Prime; humans and Transformers travel to various locations around the globe fighting other Transformers and humans along the way; and the final battle, epic as it may be, is just a shit-storm of metal scraping against metal that rarely addresses the stakes and never once delivers any kind of real suspense.
For lack of a better comparison, it really is like watching Bay play with action figures, action figures that have been brought to life thanks to a few hundred million dollars worth of digital effects. Sure, Bay delivers the explosions like only he can, giant fireballs that engulf the screen and an overabundance of sparks flying every which way. On the surface, it looks like it should be an entertaining event of ultimate proportions. Unfortunately, nothing ever gels to make it feel like a complete film.
The Bay brand of humor steps in here and there, most of it coming in the form of comedian/actor T.J. Miller, the comedic relief this time around, making a goofy quips and expressions over the first part of the film. The back half offers up Stanley Tucci, this film's genuine actor who makes wild gestures and screams most of his line. Easily the best part of Age of Extinction, his schtick is still far too familiar from previous Transformer movies to ever provide genuine breaks of laughter. Still, at least he tries.
The rest of the cast is following Bay's lead for this fourth go-around, lazily hitting their marks and even more lazily going through those motions, almost as if their as tired of the franchise as most audience members are despite this being the first film for most of them. Wahlberg is fine, as believable as he can be playing an inventor from Texas. If anything, he gives a better performance here than he did as a science teacher in The Happening, but we all know that isn't saying much. Grammer turns on his nefarious side well, but, again, there's just nothing behind his character's motivations to ever make him a plausible threat, just more and more guns providing bigger and bigger explosions at his whim.
That same description goes with every aspect to Age of Extinction, more and more, bigger and bigger. "More interesting" is never even a consideration. Forget about the clunky dialogue being thrown around, especially when any of the Transformers decide to open up their voice boxes. Forget the incomprehensible battle sequences that drain every last drop of energy the movie had going for it. You can even forget the pointless Dinobots that decide to show up at the tail end of this 165-minute movie. The idea of a Transformers series had little to offer to begin with. With Bay finding little interest in anything but those damned explosions, it's a wonder they ever got to four movies in the first place.
Jeremy's Rating: 3 out of 10
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