Transformers: Age Of Extinction


Reviewed by: David Graham

Transformers: Age Of Extinction
"The reality of enduring this 165-minute car-wreck is depressing in the extreme."

The Bayhem continues in yet another unnecessary Transformers sequel, this time sorta-rebooted perhaps to accommodate Shia LaBeouf's career face-plant. After a breezily entertaining original, it didn't look like things could get much worse than the woefully incoherent Revenge Of The Fallen, but 2012's more-of-the-same Dark Of The Moon wasn't much better. It's hard not to give in to your inner schoolkid when presented with another trailer for a new Transformers flick - they can't get any worse, surely? - but the reality of enduring this 165-minute car-wreck is depressing in the extreme, with Bay falling back on superficial changes but piling on the redundancy even as he attempts to curb some of his more dispiriting indulgences.

I'd try to recap the plot but I don't know where to start - there's some alien race that apparently metallurgically wiped out some dinosaurs, the remaining Autobots are in hiding as the US have put a bounty on all Transformers' heads, there are some science boffins attempting to control their technology by melting down parts to create 'Transformium', and some evil bastard super-'former called Lockdown has formed an alliance with the CIA to try and track down Optimus Prime. Still with me? That's just the tip of the iceberg, barely even touching on the reams of human characters and the much-hyped but barely registering Dinobots that basically function as Autobot cavalry for about 5 minutes of the climax.

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To be fair there are a few attempts at political relevance: in particular the dread currently felt towards the potential destructive power of 3D printers is echoed intriguingly in the human ability to build their own Transformers - this results in Megatron being resurrected through new creation Galvatron, and infecting the other dormant new-builds to create a mechanical army. Now that people have proved guns can be made with 3D printers, it's not hard to see this Frankenstein homage as a valid and commendable warning from Bay, although it's somewhat hypocritical given he's built a career out of gun fetishism.

Elsewhere all the usual illegal alien cliches are trotted out in a vague attempt to stay in vogue, while there are teases of a Prometheus-riffing creationist confrontation between Prime and his makers, perhaps glimpsed in an alien hand at the controls of the prologue's extinction-dealing ships. It's all hideously convoluted though; no amount of 'Bot-intoned exposition can untangle that many plot threads and there are far too many poorly drawn characters of unclear allegiance - Stanley Tucci goes from power-mad corporate bigwig to hug-administering comedy sidekick, and that's without touching on his racist lechery. Li Bingbing and Sophia Myles crop up intermittently to kick ass and spout scientific rhetoric respectively, while John Goodman's tones are a perfect match for his cigar-chompin', chain-gun-wielding Autobot, it's just a shame his sub-Arnie one-liners are so awful.

Mark Wahlberg is earnest enough in the central role, but apart from kick-starting Optimus' engines, his role in the ensuing fracas is pretty pointless, with practically half-naked teen daughter Nicola Peltz providing some eye-candy-in-distress and hilariously accented boy-racer-friend Jack Reynor flitting between Oirish, American and what sounds like bastardised Aussie brogues every other minute. Kelsey Grammar makes a somewhat back-seat villain, with Titus Welliver at least giving good snarl as his CIA hitman, but to be honest with Ehren Kruger again on scripting duties, the chance of anything interesting, amusing or meaningful coming out of anyone's mouth is slim to none, his falling back on inappropriate language proving particularly distasteful for what amounts to an overlong kid-flick.

Not content with plugging Hasbro's toys, Bay's product placement is unbelievably blatant, distracting from already eye-straining framing with huge logos everywhere and Bud Lights littering the streets - it's almost satirical - while his mixed bag of camera tricks (Abrams-esque lens flare, unnecessary slo-mo) and restless editing just disrupt the momentum. He does let some set-pieces breathe in a way many of his chop-happy peers seem to have forgotten, but even with state-of-the-art CGI and 3D - surely suited to this kind of intricately-detailed mechanised madness - the effect of it all is deadening. Car chases segue into interminable robot battles and back again without any sense of peril or flow, despite a few key characters being offed at surprising points.

Even the score fails to raise pulses, with some lame inspirational rock song popping up at inopportune moments to remind you that Bay actually takes this gung-ho patriotism stuff seriously (anyone remember Armageddon?). There's none of Battleship's self-aware cheesiness and cheek, and Pacific Rim has recently done all this city-leveling robot action in much more spectacular and rousing fashion. It's not quite an unmitigated disaster - occasionally the childish humor works and the action can be impressive when it's kept to a manageable scale - but with each franchise entry getting longer and earning more than its predecessor, it's high time audiences came to their senses and left Bay and his 'Bots in the box for once.

Reviewed on: 10 Jul 2014
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A mechanic hooks up with Optimus Prime as alien robots trick humans into hunting down the Autobots.
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Director: Michael Bay

Writer: Ehren Kruger

Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Nicola Peltz, Jack Reynor, Stanley Tucci, Kelsey Grammar, Nicola Peltz

Year: 2014

Runtime: 165 minutes

Country: US, China


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