"Transformers: Age of Extinction" (2014)

Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014)
Directed by: Michael Bay
Running time: 165 minutes

I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry. I know I said I wouldn’t do this, that I wouldn’t go see this film after Revenge of the Fallen and Dark of the Moon were so awful. But it was a Wednesday night, and my girlfriend and I were keen to go to the movies. Every other film we wanted to see was either not released yet (missed Mr. Peabody & Sherman by one night damn it!) or not on at a time that we could go to. I knew that going to see Age of Extinction would undermine everything I have said in the lead up to its release, phrases such as: “I look forward to NOT seeing that,” and “fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me a third time and I’ll eat the hat I’m not wearing because I’ve never really been a hat kind of a guy.” But, I am ashamed to say that my cinema popcorn addiction got the better of me and I actually uttered the words: “I guess we could go see Transformers?”

I know. I have a problem.

Now Showing this week is Transformers: Age of Extinction, directed by Michael Bay. Following the climactic battle from Dark of the Moon, the US government has decided that the Decepticon Transformers are a threat (I thought they knew that three films ago!) and have established a section of the CIA to be tasked with hunting them all down. Unsurprisingly, the head of this task force, Harold Attinger (Kelsey Grammer), is also hunting down the friendly Autobots and claiming they are Decepticons in order to get away with killing them. As a result, the Autobots have gone into hiding. That is, until Autobot leader Optimus Prime is discovered by Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg), a financially struggling electronics enthusiast (I can’t call the guy an “inventor”, even though the film really wants me to) and both he and Optimus discover the truth: that the CIA has made an alliance with a Transformer bounty hunter named Lockdown to assist in their Transformer genocide, and that they are using the bodies of fallen Transformers to manufacture new “human controlled” ones.

I bet you can imagine how that turns out.

I’ll be honest, Age of Extinction was actually not that bad a film when I really think about it. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t GOOD but it wasn’t a complete travesty like its two predecessors. As one would expect, the action scenes were pretty awesome. If it is one thing Michael Bay can direct, it’s an explosion! And there are plenty of them in the 165 minute run-time! Geez, it was way too long for the kind of film that it was. There are only so many big kabooms, disorienting robot wrestles and crappy dialogue I can sit through before I start to check my watch.

A large criticism that has been aimed at Bay’s Transformer movies in the past has been that everyone finds the Transformer characters much more interesting than the human ones and that the films should be solely focused on them. I have previously disagreed with that criticism as I’ve found it hard to actually see any interesting characters in the CGI robots and so it was their relation to the humans that made the films work for me. But in Age of Extinction I did actually find myself agreeing with the naysayers. There were so many instances where I found myself thinking that taking advantage of the Transformers and their relationships with each other would have been a much more compelling story than doofus Cade and his family. Optimus and Lockdown clearly had a history between them that was not really discussed, and Lockdown himself actually felt like a villain that had a little edge and menace to him. He had presence, which is much more than Megatron ever did in these films. There were also rumblings of a possible mutiny within the remaining Autobots, which would have been awesome! I don’t know, maybe I’m seeing a “grass is always greener on the other side” situation here, but those were some areas that I wanted to see more from rather than the boring human characters.

I’m sorry, but I just can’t buy Mark Wahlberg in the science wiz type of role. I don’t know what it is, but when I hear him talk about complex electronics or physics I just don’t really believe him. I love Wahlberg in roles like John in Ted and as hit-man Melvin Smiley in The Big Hit, but in this film (and The Happening), I just can’t see him as a science type. It could also be the crumby scripts (it probably is). The rest of the cast were mainly archetypes, especially Tessa Yeager (Cade’s daughter, played by Nicola Peltz) who just screamed “self centred damsel in distress”. Boy did that get old fast.

I suppose the biggest thing that the film struggled with, same as the last two, was the forced comedy. Why are there still Transformers who are wise cracking sidekicks? The little troll-doll looking one in this film was completely unnecessary, and was a little reminiscent of the “Twins” from Revenge of the Fallen (read: racist stereotype). The biggest comedic blunder would have to be that of Stanley Tucci’s character Joshua Joyce. For the first half of the film he is a cold, semi intimidating, villainous character but then suddenly switches to comic relief for the rest of the film. It made absolutely no sense.

But you know what? I had fun watching Age of Extinction, so there’s that at least. Yes, the characters were mainly boring and flimsy. Yes, the movie was way too long and the dialogue was crappy. But the action sequences were good fun. By the time Optimus Prime was charging into battle riding a fire-breathing, robot dinosaur, my mind had found that its way to that little place where it stops registering the glaring lack of quality storytelling and just had a long laugh.

…What the heck is wrong with me…

See you next time!

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