July 9, 2014

Movie Review: Transformers - Age of Extinction

Transformers: Age of Extinction has arrived. It has taken me a little while to catch up with it, but I have finally seen it. As I sit here pondering the experience, I wonder if there is really anything else I can really add to the discourse that has already been had about its merits, or lack thereof. There probably isn't, still I cannot help myself but offer up a little bit about it. The funny thing is that I find it relatively easy to defend it and attack it. It is one of those movies that does some things right and a lot of things wrong. Pretty much the same as the rest of the Transformers franchise, or Michael Bay's entire career.

The best comparison I had for this movie was did you like Pacific Rim? I did and absolutely loved it. Now, that movie made me feel like a kid smashing my toys together and having a great time in whatever made up world I had for them. Transformers: Age of Extinction is more like when a bully steals those toys and smashes them to pieces, breaking them. Michael Bay is that bully.

The story is pretty straightforward. In the time after Dark of the Moon, the alliance the Autobots had with the government has been dissolved and all Transformers are on the run. A corrupt Black Ops CIA boss (Kelsey Grammer) has teamed with a Transformer called Lockdown, a collector looking to trap Optimus Prime, to assist in wiping out the mechanical menace. Meanwhile, low rent inventor Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) happens to find a battered and hiding Optimus, chooses to help him, making him and his daughter, Tessa (Nicola Peltz, a dead ringer for Tara Reid), targets. Thus setting of a chase/fight between the few remaining Autobots and a new type of Transformer, made by humans.

If you have seen one, you have seen them all. There really isn't anything new to this movie. Still, there are a couple of things that I did like about it. First is the lack of Shia Labeouf, replaced as the lead by the Wahlberg character. I also think the robot design has gotten somewhat better, it has been getting easier to tell them apart, although all the films have been pretty bad at actually giving us the robot names. I also think the 3D shooting has resulted in more intelligible action sequences, forcing a bit of a slowdown. Lastly, love him or hate him, Bay knows how to make a big slick movie.

On the other side of the coin, these movies are just way, way, way too long. This one feels really padded out hero shots and the like (hell, every shot feels like a hero shot). I feel like you could cut 45-60 minutes and not miss anything. Also, the screenplay is awful, the characters are always shouting the dumbest lines you can think of. There is also the problem that in every movie you have hero characters yelling at the Autobots as if they own them, this after the effort to make sure you see them as their own living beings. Plus we get teased with an Optimus in the form we remember from childhood, and I actually preferred the vintage Bumblebee Camaro (although he will always be a Volkswagon to me).

I'd be lying if I didn't have a little fun with it, but in the end, all four of these movies are pretty much the same thing. I am still waiting for the real Transformers to show up, I mean, the stuff that Optimus Prime says, he would never say if you were being true to the character. This is more about making a movie that “looks cool” rather than actually making a good movie.

I kind of hate admitting I enjoyed this, but I did to a certain level. I liked Stanley Tucci in it, I liked TJ Miller, it is always nice seeing Bingbing Li. As far as its placement in the Franchise, probably put it close to the first. It is certainly better than Revenge of the Fallen, and I think I still enjoy Dark of the Moon most. Although, I would still love a Transformers movie that seemed like they had watched the old cartoons.

Not Recommended.

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