Transformers 4 sees Michael Bay return to kinda reboot the franchise with an all new cast and ready to destroy another city. Our opinions may surprise and maybe appal you as we go easy on Mr Bay and turn the spot light on why he makes so much money.
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So says Kelsey Grammer’s villainous Harold Attinger near the beginning of the 4th film in this seemingly unstoppable franchise. But judging from a $300+ worldwide opening weekend, I’d say he’s probably wrong.
I’m an apologist for these films (the 1st and 3rd at any rate, no amount of sorry can make up for the cinematic disaster that was Revenge of The Fallen), I think there is nothing wrong with a ‘switch your brain off and enjoy the many, many, many things that go bang and boom’ style of blockbuster. Sometimes, that is really all you want. I thought Dark of The Moon did this perfectly, it was a film I very much enjoyed because it was loud, brash and stupid. Everything we expect from a Michael Bay picture. It was pure spectacle and destruction on a massive level but it worked.
Age of Extinction kicks off several years later. Transformers are despised by humanity, made out to be villains for the Battle of Chicago that left thousands dead and changed the world as everyone knew it. It’s an interesting way to start the film, which is a sequel but almost feels like an attempt at a soft reboot at times, and the first 90 minutes are entertaining, thrilling and with a few jokes that actually land. We meet inventor Cade Yeager, played by Mark Wahlberg, who is down on his luck and utterly broke, his home is about to be repossessed. And then he finds a Transformer.
And not just any Transformer. Inexplicably, inside an abandoned theatre, is a giant truck, who just happens to be the leader of the friendly Autobots, none other than Optimus Prime himself. Cade, being a decent guy, helps repair Optimus, who has been hiding while Attinger and his menacing minions who are helped by the evil Lockdown have been hunting down any and all Transformers remaining on Earth.
Soon men with guns show up and threaten Cade and his family, and then the explosions begin. Cade, along with his daughter and her ‘racer’ boyfriend must go on the run, hunted by an elite military unit that have ties to the government. Eventually we learn that a company called KSI have been melting down the captured Transformers to their raw metal state, known as Transformium. Back to the plot in a second, lets just take that in. TRANSFORMIUM!!! That is a word they made actors, good actors, say! It’s just ridiculous and makes Avatar’s Unobtanium seem perfectly reasonable.
At some point, meandering along as the plot does and even with Wahlberg doing his best to keep things lively, we meet Joshua Joyce, the founder of KSI, played wonderfully by Stanley Tucci, who actually seems to know what kind of film he is in and plays up to it. Joyce has been using the Transformium to make human controlled Transformers, namely a retooled version of Megatron known as Galvatron. Now, if you know Transformers at all, from the G1 tv show to the excellent IDW comic collections, Galvatron is a big deal. Obviously not to Michael Bay and screenwriter Ehren Kruger, who waste what could have been an interesting villain in such a way that it will leave fans decidedly angry.
What happens next is sequence after sequence of things blowing up. You get the sense even Bay is getting bored at this point, because he is the master of explosions (a far cooler title than he deserves) and it all just seems very perfunctory and by the numbers. We lurch from set piece to set piece, each more boring than the last. And it’s here that we reach Age of Extinction’s biggest failing; it’s boring. And in a film where everything, and I really mean everything, explodes, at no point should you be bored. But at a stonking 165 minutes, you will have had enough long before the credits roll and the 5th film is set up.
There is another great sin committed here. And for me this one was unforgivable. If you sat as a kid, fumbling with your Transformers, and some of those were dinosaurs, then Age of Extinction is likely to leave you upset, annoyed or angry. Possibly all three. The marketing, from trailers to posters, made a big fuss about the inclusion of fan favourites the Dinobots. If that’s the big selling point for you, then I would say don’t bother. They appear for maybe 15 minutes towards the end and add absolutely nothing to the film, massive letdown. Absolute waste of something that should have been a lot of fun.
Acting wise, this is a real mixed bag. Wahlberg is genuinely good in the role, the guy is charming in almost every film, and he seems to have enthusiasm for what he’s doing here and it comes across, especially in the first half. You won’t miss Shia LaBeouf. At all. His daughter played by the terrifically pretty Nicola Peltz is the real weak link here. She makes Rosie Huntington Whiteley look like an Oscar worthy actress and will make you actively wish Megan Fox was back. Jack Reynor as Shane Dyson fairs a little better as Peltz’s love interest but there’s little personality to the character.
But there is stuff to enjoy here. Grammer as the human villain is superb, and Tucci is the standout for me. He knows he’s in a bad film and just goes for it, he’s a far better actor than this film deserves and is clearly having a lot of fun. I’d be a lot happier if he came back for the sequel instead of anyone else.
The Transformers juggernaut will continue to roll. The immense box office haul will see to that but the whole effort feels tired, there’s an attempt to reinvigorate it with new human characters and that works to a degree, but this time we get a dull roster of robots, a run time that would make Peter Jackson fans weep and too many explosions to count, none of which are as exciting as Dark of The Moon.
I hope Michael Bay is finished with this series, because he seems bored and I think most peoplein the audience will be too. If you enjoyed the other three, then maybe there’s some fun to be had here, but not enough. The runtime kills it dead, the rest of the plot is utter nonsense and difficult to follow towards the end. It all feels half baked to me, Wahlberg is game but you can tell Bay’s heart is no longer in it. This feels like a weak ‘Greatest Hits’ of all that he’s done before, a copy of a copy, its tired and it shows.