Michael Bay and the Transformers are back for Transformers: Age of Extinction. The forth in the series is more of a reboot in a sense that there’s a whole new cast of human characters and some returning bots from the first three films. This time around, the transformers are enemies of the government and are being hunted and killed. An inventor/mechanic and his daughter (Mark Wahlberg and Nicola Peltz) find the injured Optimus Prime and help him back to health. But in doing so, they start a domino effect that brings the Autobots, Decepticons, and the paranoid government all crashing down around them, changing their world forever.
There is all but no mention of the first three movies, except they make reference to the battle of Chicago from Transformers: Dark of the Moon. There are no conversations on the other characters, which is one way to cut the cord letting you know this is a whole new ballgame. They even changed the design of most of the Autobots. The filmmakers want you to know this is a whole new series with new characters and challenges. And in doing that, they were successful. The introduction of the new humans, story, and plot was done in a way where it makes sense and is believable.
Mark Wahlberg plays the lead Cade Yeager, an inventor/mechanic who’s down on his luck when he finds Optimus hurt and in hiding from the humans who are now hunting the Autobots down. Wahlberg is a much better character than Shia Labeouf ever was. Whereas Labeouf’s character Sam was kind of rude and whiny, here Cade is strong, self-confident, and someone the audience can root for.
As is his daughter’s boyfriend, Shane (Jack Reynor), a well placed character that comes in when they need him to. He has skills that are useful to the plot and his acting is solid. He is another good hero that the audience can look up to. Who isn’t good is the character of Tessa Yeager (Nicola Peltz). She never becomes useful. Unlike the last three films, where the female leads were supermode-hot but also could handle their own, here Tessa is nothing but “damsel in distress” the whole time, and frankly, just keeps causing issue after issue. Also, it doesn’t help her case that Michael Bay and the costumers have her dressed in such a degrading fashion that it borders on the ridiculous. I know that’s not saying much, but even for this movie she stands out.
But enough about the humans, because unlike Bay, who thinks the human’s story is the most interesting part, it’s not. It’s all about the Transformers. We get the returning bots of Optimus Prime and Bumblebee. Newcomers to the game are Hound (John Goodman), Crosshairs (John DiMaggio), and Drift (Ken Watanabe). Also we get some cool looking Dinobots towards the end of the flick. All of their CGI are amazing, and they really have gotten better with each movie. All the voice actors are well used and each gets their moment to shine, unlike some of the past flicks. The movie this time made use of allowing each bot to be shown in wide shots rather than close ups. We got to see them fight this time, and each was so different that it made it easier to know who was who. But just by a little bit, as confusion spread all over the screen, but not as bad as it has been.
Our heroes are only good as the villains, and here we have new ones to cause some series issues. Kelsey Grammer plays a paranoid CIA agent who wants all Transformers eliminated from the earth. He teams up with Stanley Tucci, who is making his own transformers from technology he is using from the bodies of the Decepticons from the battle of Chicago. Little does he know that he is being used by Megatron’s AI from his body, thus making him reborn as Galvatron. Using his new upgraded Next Gen system, he becomes a whole new problem for Prime. But he’s mostly a set up for a future flick, because the real issue for the heroes is Lockdown, a Decepticon bounty hunter who has been hired to track down Prime. There are many seeds being planted along the way that clearly shows they are setting up a new series of films.
But the real villain of the movie is time. What could be a good 2 hour action adventure movie turns into an almost three hour robot slug fest that really loses its charm after it hits the two hour mark. So many things are happening all at once that you start to lose track of where the plot is going. There is no reason why this is so long. There are many scenes and characters that just don’t belong. They don’t move the movie forward, nor do they help with the plot. Frankly, you just get tired of watching the movie because at certain times nothing is moving along. If anything, Bay needs an editor or at least someone on set to say “no”, because so much time is wasted on the minutia instead of focusing on the main story points.
As you expect, everything blows up. But after the 100th explosion you just become desensitized to anything that’s happening on screen. You just don’t care anymore about the 20th building that cracked into two and is falling over, because Bay has used that trick in all four flicks. Bay relies on the re-use of his shots over and over that it becomes so cliché that you laugh out loud at them: slow helicopter blades, everything blowing up, the 360 turn, the up angle getting out of a car, which is used so much in this it should be illegal for him to ever use again. In all his years as a director, he hasn’t learned anything new. He, like his films, have become complacent and average. This isn’t news to anyone, but for some reason here they are more apparent than before. I think maybe we’re seeing all he’s got, and we’re on to the trick now.
Generally, the Transformers flicks aren’t great. Some are better than others, but over all they’re just big summer action flicks with robots fighting each other. And that’s fine. Hardcore fans of the series hate this with great passion, but a passing fan is usually entertained. After looking at all four, this is one of the better ones. But the time issues hurt the movie in more ways than one. Good acting, great effects, and seeing Prime kick ass with a sword is a great highlight in the flick. It’s entertaining and worth seeing on the big screen. The Transformers movies are getting better, but are still miles away from awesome.