It’s easy to say that The Transformers franchise under the direction of Michael Bay has produced some entertaining, albeit misguided movies since its inception in 2007. This summer sees Bay bring the Transformers back to the big screen in a fun, flawed, oddly dark special effects blast with its fourth installment: Transformers: Age of Extinction.
The plot of the movie has two main layers, which at times work together cohesively and at others become a chaotic mess. Age of Extinction begins with developing the dastardly plot of Harold Attinger (Kelsey Grammer) to track down Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen) for the Cybertronian bounty hunter, Lockdown (Mark Ryan) and gain a Cybertronian bomb that would produce a lifetime supply Transformium. Using this alien metal that comprises all Transformers, Joshua Joyce’s (Stanley Tucci) company, KSI, plans to build an army of controllable robot soldiers.
Within all this black ops/betrayal/technological advancement, Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg), his daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz) and her boyfriend Shane Dyson (Jack Reynor) find Optimus and get pulled into the fray, and begin fighting to restore the Autobot’s faith in humanity.
At times, it does seem like Ehren Kruger’s screenplay is choppy and overdone. The opening scene shows spaceships dropping bombs on dinosaurs, and while visually exciting, the whole episode gets explained at excessive length later through dialogue. There are small scenes scattered throughout that are clearly meant to build back story, but end up being nothing more than meaningless special effects blitzkriegs in a movie already chock-full of effects. In a movie that hits 2 hours and 45 minutes, this type of repetition is wearisome.
Kruger’s dialogue is also at times laughable. Now this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and in fact the unintentionally humorous dialogue maeks for several memorable moments in the movie. As the evil lead CIA agent, James Savoy (Titus Welliver) searches Cade’s property for Optimus Prime, Cade predictably questions the CIA’s need for a warrant. Savoy responds, “My face is my warrant.” Classic. While not positioned to be humorous, the scene serves to lighten the mood from Lockdown’s hunt for Optimus.
A stand out problem with Age of Extinction that’s actually hard to get over is the fact Bay spends just as much time promoting products like Budweiser, Red Bull, and a slew of automobiles as he does focusing on the legs and butt of 19-year-old Peltz. Sure, the audience is a bunch of teenage boys, but Transformers also markets itself to a younger generation through toys, making these choices just seem off-putting.
There’s also a lot of unnecessary subtext to the storyline. Crosshairs (John DiMaggio) seems to be a persistent mutineer among the Autobots, which gets really tiresome, and Bumblebee portrays some uncharacteristic self-esteem issues. Sure, these moments could be conceptualized to show that the Autobots aren’t all too different from humans, but they’re sorry attempts at turning what’s clearly intended as an action heavy blockbuster into a character-driven film.
These flaws aside, the special effects are outstanding. The battle choreography – whether it’s Optimus Prime battling Galvatron (Fred Welker), the Dinobots joining the fight, or Hound (John Goodman) holding off an army of robots – is jaw dropping. Age of Extinction‘s special effects are on another level! From KSI’s newly created robots fluidly shifting from into vehicle mode or Optimus Prime’s flare for a dramatic transformation, impressive visual moment like these make all the flaws worthwhile.
All in all, sure, the movie isn’t good, but it’s entertaining. Yes, Bay probably should recognize his audience a bit better and Krueger should take a class in dialogue and organization. Though, what more should we expect or even want from a merchandise driven action epic? It has what’s needed: impressive action and special effects. Lower your expectations, don’t take it seriously, have a laugh (whether it was intended or not) and enjoy.