Seven years after Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) first bought Bumblebee from Bernie Mac (RIP), the Transformers franchise has taken a new direction for its fourth outing.
In the lead role now is Mark Wahlberg, playing a failed inventor from Texas named Cade Yeager (the first of many doubtful scenarios). Cade is a single dad to Tessa (Nicola Peltz) and the creator of a million gizmos unfit for publication in SkyMall. After purchasing a junked truck at a condemned movie theater (it makes as much sense as you’d imagine), Cade discovers that the truck is actually the remains of Autobot leader Optimus Prime. Eventually the government, working with shadowy figures to kill/capture all transformers, discovers Cade’s secret and goes all out to secure the alien machine.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know how this movie is going to go. At 2 hours and 45 minutes, “Age of Extinction” is by far the longest film of the series, but still follows the same pattern of the last few films. The film’s finale will be an action scene that lasts a full hour and roughly 15 minutes of the film will actually try to explain the plot.
With the Battle of Chicago from “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” having left an entire American city desolated, “Age of Extinction” deals with the aftermath in multiple ways. The more obvious result is that all the transformers are wanted fugitives, but more interestingly, the robot remains from the battle have been salvaged by corporations and governments so that they can try and harness the transformational metal material that makes up the aliens’ DNA. The direction this is taken in, though nonsensical at times, is actually one of the best plot ideas the series has ever had. Kudos.
Along with replacing its leads in LaBeouf and Megan Fox, even smaller players like John Turturro and Josh Duhamel were cut for this new story (the first in a new trilogy). This provides the film with a clean slate for past mistakes to be fixed, but sadly most of the complaints from those films still fit the new addition.
Stanley Tucci, Kelsey Grammer and T.J. Miller are among the new faces added, but only Tucci provides a character worth remembering. As the CEO of a major tech company that is probably supposed to poke fun at Apple, his character is a somewhat conflicted one that actually advances the plot and keeps the jokes to a minimum.
As with any Transformers film directed by Michael Bay, there are endless compaints to make with a script that includes such dialogue as “My face is my warrant.” You could also point out the terrible characters Shane Dyson (Jack Reynor) and Lucas Flannery (Miller), who fail so hard at being funny and/or worth screen time that you simply hope a Decepticon steps on them. It’s really sad because Miller is a comedian who is usually funny, but no one can save this script. Next on the Transformers checklist, annoying product placement. Again, the film goes out of its way to show as many product labels as possible. Every beer is label out, every car has a medium close shot on the front bumper so you know it’s a Chevy, etc. Honestly, you can just go read a review for the last 3 films and 85% of it will still apply.
This is an easy film to rant on so I’ll try to boil it down more clearly. Everything that Michael Bay does as a director is based on him asking himself “Wouldn’t it be cool if____?” Throw out plot consistency, character arcs and basic logic. Decisions are made based on how cool they would look onscreen. That’s why there is a scene where our heroes drive out of the side of a 6-story building and land on an X-Games approved ramp. Or why there’s an alien gun small enough for Mark Wahlberg to use despite the fact that the aliens are 5 times his size.
All complaints aside, everyone knows what they are getting into with this film. Bay and Co. have toned down a lot of the immature jokes from the last 3 films and Mark Wahlberg is a breath of fresh air for those of us tired of LaBeouf and Fox running the show. In some ways “Age of Extinction” is an improvement on past films, but it is still guilty by association for a multitude of sins that still poke their heads up. Until Michael Bay is no longer at the helm and the scriptwriting pen is not in Ehren Kruger’s hand, these films will continue to be an exercise in bonehead filmmaking.