Movie Review: Transformers: Age of Extinction
By Matthew Huntley
July 3, 2014
I feel sorry for anyone whose first experience with the Transformers movies is Age of Extinction, which might be the worst in the series so far. I use the phrase “might be” because it’s not altogether clear if this is, in fact, the worst or not. For those of us who’ve seen the previous three films, we’ve developed a sort of immunity to the pain and discomfort they cause, which could prevent us from realizing just how bad this latest one truly is. Without this prior exposure, I may have walked out of Age of Extinction feeling angry, bitter and cheated, but because I knew what to expect, I was able to endure the nearly three-hour ordeal. Newcomers might not be so lucky.
What can you expect from Age of Extinction? In short: the epitome of stupidity. Like its predecessors, it adheres to what we can now safely call the “Michael Bay syndrome,” which means it’s loud, obnoxious, overlong, and features the same, boring cinematic devices the director uses to near exhaustion, including low angles; lens flare; characters running in slow motion amidst falling debris; muscle-bound, gun-toting agents dressed in black who drive giant SUVs; and shot after shot of things breaking, be they automobiles, houses, shops, skyscrapers, you name it.
Once again, we feel like we’re simply watching money burn, and despite the enormity of this movie’s budget (reported to be $210 million), it doesn’t contain a single thrilling, exciting, funny or poignant moment. Given its resources and runtime, how is this even possible? I’m not sure, but it is.
And yet, did I walk away from Age of Extinction enraged or distressed? Not really, because I expected everything I just described.
The plot, if you even care, takes place a few years after the events of the last movie, Dark of the Moon, in which the two feuding groups of Transformers - the robot alien race from a far off galaxy - waged war on one another in Chicago. Their battle resulted in over a thousand casualties and left the city in shambles. Now there are signs around town that read “Remember Chicago” and the alliance between the “good” Transformers, called Autobots, led by Optimus Prime, has been broken. He and his fellow bots have gone into exile, while their enemies, the Decepticons, have allegedly been annihilated.
Members of the federal government and an obviously evil corporation called KSI are now asking all humans to report where any and all Transformers may be hiding in order to rid the planet of them for good. But of course there’s corporate malfeasance taking place, as the brains behind the government and company (Kelsey Grammer and Stanley Tucci) are in cahoots. They’re secretly spearheading an operation that hunts Transformers and breaks them down to their elemental properties. A team of scientists has discovered their genetic makeup is actually a programmable metal, which they’ve deemed “transformium,” and so humans can now make their own Transformers, giving them free reign to control the entire planet’s robotic industry, among other power trips.
Out to stop them (and save the entire world, of course) is an ordinary, hard-working American from Texas, an inventor-engineer named Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg). Along with his long-legged, blond daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz) and her Irish, professional car driver-boyfriend Shane (Jack Reynor), they team up with Optimus Prime to thwart the government’s collusion with the Transformers’ original Creators, whose agenda is to plant a transformium seed in Earth’s biggest city and wipe out the human race.
And, yada yada yada, there’s a seemingly infinite number of chase sequences, shootouts, explosions, hanging-ons for dear life, etc., all executed in the most patronizing and macho-American of ways. Would you believe there’s even a scene when Cade conveniently spots a football to throw at one of the bad guys? How patriotic!
There was a time when Transformers: Age of Extinction would have been an “event movie,” despite its quality, and at the very least, it would have provoked enthusiastic criticism of just how audaciously bad it was. But nowadays, seven years after the original, this no longer seems to be the case. Judging by the other members of the audience, everyone has moved on and the reactions to what was happening on-screen were muted and lethargic at best. People only seemed to be in the theater for the hell of it, not because they actually wanted to be, which is sad and discouraging.
Nevertheless, as I write this, Age of Extinction is already a phenomenal success at the global box-office, and so no matter how negatively I write about it, it won’t matter. There will be another Transformers movie in the future and all we can do is hope that Bay and company will finally recognize what they have at their disposal and try to deliver something better, or, at the very least, different. We’ve seen this type of movie from them time and again, and if it’s this boring and pathetic to us, wouldn’t it be the same for them? Don’t they want to diverge from their standard practices simply for their own sakes? Again, we can only hope.