I’m going to tear this movie apart. It’s coming right below the jump. Just be ready for it. Because of that I want to open with this: Optimus Prime riding Grimlock into battle in Hong Kong is frickin’ awesome. There’s just no denying how cool Transformers can be and that Michael Bay can pull off some awesome stuff. There are parts of this film that will blow you away.
It’s just that the rest of it is so bad it isn’t worth it.
Transformers: Age of Extinction
Director: Michael Bay
Release Date: June 26, 2014
I’m not even sure I should credit this rambling train wreck with a plot synopsis since it completely lacks coherence. Jumping from scene to scene and making little sense for most of the film Age of Extinction is substandard in story even for a Michael Bay film. Characters are tossed around like nothing, plot points pop up and then disappear and action sequences are tied together by logic so loose duct tape couldn’t even save it. By the time we were rolling into the second hour (it’s 2 hours and 45 minutes long) I began to wonder if the screenwriters were actually challenging themselves to make the most incoherent mess they could just to see if people would still pay for it (Answer: they will).
The thing they try to call a plot starts out in Texas long after the events of Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon. We find Cade Yeagar (Mark Wahlberg) living with his daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz) in Texas. The Autobots have gone into hiding after the U.S. government has started hunting for them thanks to the evil leadership of Harold Attinger (Kelsey Grammer). He’s working with inventor Joshua Joyce (Stanley Tucci) to steal the Autobots technology and do something evil with it. They’re also being helped by some sort of Transformer bounty hunter who wants to capture Optimus Prime. Also there are three new Autobots we’ve never heard of and we’re supposed to care about them. Anyway, Cade finds Optimus Prime broken down and without knowing it revives him and then explosions start happening.
In reality that’s all I really want from a Transformers movie. That plot seems pretty dumb, but we can work with it, right? Not really. Nothing holds together well in the film. The screenplay is easily the most banal of the entire trilogy (though I still think this is better than the horrendous Transformers 2). It treats the audience like they can’t see what’s going on on screen and tosses out one-liners with no meaning at all. John Goodman voices the Autobot Hound whose only job is to spit out nonsensical one-liners that have no context. Good one-liners are supposed to be a given in a movie where you aren’t expecting much else out of the screenplay, but Age of Extinction can’t even handle that.
Speaking of not being able to handle things, Michael Bay must have lost his sanity when putting this film together. The one consistently good thing you can say about the director is that he has an incredible talent for piecing together surprisingly coherent and well done action sequences. Not this time around. The action is miserably all over the place with scenes jumping around so much they make even less sense than the plot. I’m not sure what Bay was doing during the shoot, but it definitely wasn’t getting the shots he needed to piece together some great action. This isn’t to say there aren’t still moments of brilliance. It’s still Michael Bay and he still blows stuff up good here and there, but it is far from his standard quality of action.
Aiding in this action downfall is the fact that Bay decided to shoot some of the film with IMAX cameras much like Christopher Nolan did with the The Dark Knight Rises. Except unlike Nolan, who shot entire scenes in IMAX, bay seems to randomly select which shots he did in IMAX. This means that in the middle of fast paced action sequences, full of quick cuts, you’re constantly switching back and forth between IMAX and regular film and it might be the most jarring experience one can have without stopping the film outright. It’s as if your television was constantly switching back and forth between HD and standard definition. The IMAX stuff actually looks incredible and it is stunning to see Optimus Prime pummel robots in that format, but it is ruined thanks to Bay’s inability to use it consistently.
Talking about the actor’s performances almost seems like a moot point since it is a well known fact that continuing to have human characters in these films is the series biggest downfall. When giant robots are fighting for the future of humanity do we really need to spend at least half the movie learning about family issues? The human/robot balance is actually one of the things the first Transformers got right and the rest simply failed at. Wahlberg by the way is horrendous. It may be the worst role he’s ever picked up and it is definitely his worst performance. I can’t really comment on Nicola Peltz’s acting ability since most of her time on screen is spent with her ass facing the camera while glad in daisy dukes or panning up her legs slowly. I’ve never seen an actress in so many shots just so we’re allowed to once again check out her body.
Then again half this movie is needless. The extraordinary long running time is given for almost no reason and with a plethora of bad guys and “final” battles it gets impossible to tell when the movie will actually end. I thought at one point it was near over, but then I realized that the Dinobots hadn’t even shown up yet.
There’s almost two movies here really. The producers were clearly demanding that half the film be made for the Chinese market so an American film takes places and then a Chinese one after that, the setting jumping from Chicago to Hong Kong. Suddenly they have an entirely new country to use product placement for and that means we evidently need a bunch of new plot that relates to the previous hour and half in no way whatsoever. Don’t forget to feature as many cameos of Chinese movie stars as you can even if they say nothing and do nothing. I’m not begrudging the film appealing to a market that is quickly overtaking the U.S., but then just make your movie in China, don’t just decide to stretch what should be a two hour film into a nearly three hour movie.
I did state that there is some awesome in this movie. Optimus Prime voiced by Peter Cullen will always be awesome even if he’s spewing the worst dialog he’s had. The new, sleeker design of the Autobots is pretty cool too, though I can’t say it is better than the previous ones. The less racist, though still stereotypical, new Autobots are also cool, with Drift (Ken Watanabe) being a Samurai and Crosshairs (John DiMaggio) being a sort of Dante from Devil May Cry rip off. Goodman’s cigar chomping Hound is forced upon us as if we’re supposed to instantly relate to him, but there’s nothing really there. At least with Bumblebee we’ve got some emotional attachment from previous films, but Hound is just dumb.
When I came out of Dark of the Moon I had had fun despite its many flaws. When I came out of Age of Extinction all I could think about was how bored I was until the final battle. Bay lost a step with this one. The film is somehow both over-plotted and yet completely lacking in story and the action just too disjointed to work. The really surprising thing though is that I still want a sequel, and that’s because Optimus Prime riding on a Dinobot is really freaking awesome.