Reel Freak

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Review – Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014)

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Transformers: Age of Extinction is the purest example that Michael Bay can parody himself without even realizing it.  Even the most stunning visuals can’t make up for the lack of plot, decent dialogue or watchability.  Once again Bay proves that all he is capable of with the intriguing Transformers franchise is just scratching the surface of what “could have been” a great series of movies.

It has been four years since the destructive battle between the Autobots and the Decepticons in Chicago, leaving over a thousand civilians dead in the process.  Humans have since cut their alliance with the Autobots, and instead are hunting down and destroying them one by one with the help of Lockdown; a Transformer bounty hunter .  Optimus Prime has decided to go into hiding in Texas, where he is discovered by inventor Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) and his co-worker Lucas (TJ Miller) as an old, worn-out truck.  The Government- led by Kelsey Grammar & Titus Welliver’s CIA characters- realizes Yeager is in possession of an Autobot, and threatens him and his daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz), only before Optimus helps them escape.

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Optimus sends out a distress call for all remaining Autobots, which end up including a newly-designed Bumblebee, along with Hound, Drift, and Crosshairs.  Together, they take the Yeagers on the run with them, once again proving Autobots and humans can team-up together for good.  Meanwhile, wealthy inventor Joshua Joyce (Stanley Tucci) has used his company Kinetic Solutions Incoporated (KSI) to build his own Transformers from the remnants of previous bots.  His most powerful is Galvatron, created from the data inside Megatron’s severed head.  Now, the remaining Autobots must band together, with the help of the Yeagers, against both Lockdown and the CIA, as well as Joyce’s newest army of Transformers.  Oh hey, and ya know those Dinobots the advertisements praised and teased so heavily the past six months?  The Autobots get some help from them too, for all of ten minutes at the end of the movie.  Can’t forget them.

You can already tell from the plot given that Age of Extinction (I’ll call it T4), is once again a very human-driven story.  At the very beginning of the movie you’re almost tricked into thinking we may see some intergalactic, prehistoric Transformers action.  But then you realize that all Michael Bay is good for is giving the bare minimum nod to the franchise’s origins, and jumps right back to modern day, focusing directly on humans.  We don’t even see an actual Autobot in action for about fifteen-to-twenty minutes in.

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Like I said before, all Bay is really doing in T4 is parodying himself.  Once again, he takes out what so many have deemed the “Michael Bay checklist” and gets right to work; offering up explosions, low-angle shots, slow-motion sunset pans, and worse dialogue than a late-80’s action sequel.

Is Mark Wahlberg an improvement as the lead man?  Of course, anyone with half a brain would prefer him over Shia LaBeouf.  I would rather see Wahlberg run around actually fighting off Transformers than LaBeouf straight-up running from them.  Another typical Bay-ism is getting the beautiful teenage girl to play an “all about the looks” role in Nicola Peltz.  It’s also a shame, because about 80% of the human-on-human interaction in this movie is Wahlberg trying to preach his parenthood techniques to Peltz, telling her how she can’t date a guy three years older than her (oh, by the way that’s Jack Reynor’s character).

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The plot is so flimsy and lackluster that, when all is said and done, you will be bored with T4.  With a whopping runtime of 165 minutes, it’s simply impossible to just sit there for the entire length, drooling over the visual effects.  This is honestly too long of a movie to not have any depth to it.  This movie could have been cut down twenty-five minutes if they edited out the slow-motion action shots.  Even great actors like Wahlberg, Tucci and Grammer cannot shake the poor direction Bay has given them, and are characters so dispensable you could care less what happens to them.

The dialogue is absolutely horrendous.  My friends and I found ourselves laughing at nearly every time any character spoke.  Lines like “We have a saying; the enemy of my enemy is my friend”, replied to with “We have a saying as well; I don’t care.” or “You don’t have a warrant!” – “My FACE is my warrant.” don’t even make you cringe, just laugh.

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Let’s face it, at this point in the series any Transformers fan is only going to see these movies because of Optimus Prime.  You can try to deny it, but you’d only be lying to yourself.  I will say this though, the banter between Hound (voiced by John Goodman) and Drift (Ken Watanabe) is easily one of the highlights.  Goodman’s Hound had a much bigger role than I had thought he would, which is good if you’re a fan of his.  Optimus (voiced as always by the great Peter Cullen) gives some great monologues, but unfortunately they end up meaning nothing after an explosion of some sort occurs seconds after.  The Dinobots, including Grimlock, Strafe, Slug and Scorn; are probably the best part about T4, and you’ll think so even before they appear on-screen.  Half-way through the film you will question where the Dinobots are, only to be disappointed that they appear in the final battle for only about ten minutes (if that).

We already know that Transformers 5 is happening, and that Michael Bay will most likely return to direct.  However, unless he realizes that he’s running out of the basic material he’s presented to us over the course of ten hours of screen time so far, we can probably count on simply more humans running around, with a new set of villains and Optimus Prime and Bumblebee somehow still alive when all others have fallen.  Bay’s prolonged T4 may dominate the box office, but expect a number of poor reviews.  And speaking of expectations, keep yours very low when and if you go see this movie.

My Rating: 2.5 out of 5 Transformium molecules

stars

– Josh Sazin, 6/28/14

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