When Transformers: Age of Extinction was announced, the reaction of the public was quite mixed. There were many people who were excited to see another Michael Bay-directed action flick, full of great special effects, explosions, and cool cars. Others rolled their eyes at the trailers, believing that this would be nothing but another summer cash grab with a thin plot and few redeeming qualities. The past three Transformers movies have proven that the franchise can pull in huge profits even in the face of scathing reviews, and I have no doubt in my mind that Age of Extinction will rake in mounds of cash, as well. Is this new movie worthy of these sales, or is it just more fuel for the hatred that Bay has received throughout his career?
Transformers: Age of Extinction presents us with a much darker world than the one that we were first introduced to in 2007. In the aftermath of the events of Dark of the Moon, the US government has severed all ties with the Autobots, and CIA agent Harold Attinger, played by Kelsey Grammer, has been working with other Transformers to hunt down and destroy the remaining robotic heroes. Attinger is also working with Joshua Joyce, played by Stanley Tucci, the head of a company attempting to build new Transformers. In Texas, a simple engineer named Cade Yeager, played by Mark Wahlberg, happens upon an old semi that turns out to be Optimus Prime, the leader of the Autobots. When the CIA discovers Optimus’ location, Cade, his daughter Tessa, and her boyfriend become caught in the middle of a dangerous battle that could lead to the destruction of the human race.
If there is one thing consistent throughout all of the Transformers films, it is that the special effects on display are great. These movies are all big-budget affairs, and it seems as though every penny goes toward creating excellent models for the Autobots and Decepticons. One thing that this movie can hold over its predecessors, however, is that the direction and editing of the action scenes improved dramatically. Gone are the strange transitions and constant slo-mo that plagued Dark of the Moon, and we also aren’t forced to suffer through the confusing fast-paced camerawork of Revenge of the Fallen. This time around, all of the action felt smooth and satisfying. I also have to point out that the scene from the trailer with Optimus riding the robotic T-Rex is also just as ridiculous as it sounds, but it was an undeniably fun part of the movie.
The high points of the movie’s action scenes might be what many audience members want to see this summer, but I’m afraid that many viewers will be disappointed in what little else Age of Extinction has to offer. Despite great performances from Wahlberg, Grammar, and Tucci, their talent is completely wasted on this movie’s ridiculous script. Lines such as, “My face is my warrant”, “I’m like a fat ballerina”, and the numerous clichés on display drag this movie down to juvenile levels. The story, although more coherent than the one in Dark of the Moon, still didn’t draw me into the film. The editing didn’t help the narrative, either, as there were huge lapses of time during the movie that we were not shown where Wahlberg’s character was. The movie was also full of the horrible Bay-style humor that was present in the previous three films, most of which only a young child could appreciate.
I also would like to say that even though the action in the film was great, it was hard to care about any of the conflicts going on when I couldn’t invest myself in the characters. Although the Autobots are made of metal, their personalities are very cardboard, and I cared just as little about the gargantuan heroes in this film as in did in the previous ones. The dinobots, which appear toward the end of the film, are put into the movie only for eye candy and fan service, and don’t serve the plot at all. Although Cade proved to be a relatively likable protagonist, the rest of the human characters didn’t seem very interesting to me, and I don’t think that any of their dilemmas merited the 150+ minute runtime.
There was also a bit of racism in this movie, something that has dragged down the entire franchise so far. One of the Autobots, Drift, is voiced by Ken Watanabe, and thus, has a distinctly Japanese accent. Unfortunately, Drift’s design and appearance is distinctly reminiscent of a Japanese shogun outfit, and Watanabe is given many lines that contain offensive uses of words such as “honor” that many Americans use when mocking Japanese culture. Michael Bay and screenwriter Ehren Kruger have now offended more people groups than George Lucas, and it’s a shame that this sort of humor is appreciated on a large scale in our country.
Besides these complaints, I was also upset by the script’s reliance upon coincidences, the ridiculous words that the filmmakers came up with (“transformium” is officially a much more idiotic word than “unobtainium”), and the overall feel of the film. Age of Extinction might be better than both Revenge of the Fallen and Dark of the Moon, but only slightly so. This film left me with an upset feeling in my stomach that I always have after I watch a disappointing movie. I thought that perhaps Bay and his crew would get it right this time around, and maybe Wahlberg’s performance would add something to the franchise that it never had before. In the end, though, Transformers: Age of Extinction is just another bad summer action film, and I would recommend that you save your money for some of the more exciting adventures coming out next month.