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Transformers: Age of Extinction (PGĀ­-13)




Transformers: Age of Extinction
Film Reviews

07/03/14



 Optimus Prime and Co. ride again (and, thankfully, Shia-­less) in Transformers: Age of Extinction, the fourth movie in Michael Bay’s Transformers series.

For what it’s worth, I saw this movie in its IMAX 3-D version. Michael Bay, three hours — I figured, heck, why not.
As mentioned, Sam and the Witwicky family are not even hinted at and only a sight gag late in the movie references Megan Fox (maybe). Instead, Texas­-based tinkerer Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) and his teenage daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz) are the focus here. Cade, who spends his time fixing and inventing stuff in a mostly failed attempt to make ends meet, is in a near constant battle with Tessa who, at 17, wants freedom and a chance to go to college. Cade is also in a battle with the bank, which really feels he should pay his mortgage.
Attempting to earn a little of that green, Cade is sifting through stuff at an old movie theater, looking for items he can fix up and sell, when he finds a junked truck. He takes it back to his barn and starts working on it, only to realize that he doesn’t have a vehicle at all, he has a Transformer.
So, apparently, previously on Transformers: It’s been about five years since all the stuff happened in the last movie. Apparently, humans are now super bitter about being caught in the Autobot-versus­-Decepticon-­versus-­other­-movie-­baddie violence and have disbanded all Autobot­-human joint operations. While the remaining Autobots have been given amnesty, a CIA agent named Harold Attinger (Kelsey Grammer) directs an operation called Cemetery Wind that is hunting down all Transformers, both good (Autobot) and bad (Decepticon).
Side note: “Cemetery Wind” sounds like either the title of some bad poetry by a high school freshman who has just discovered goth or the punchline to a Halloween­-themed fart joke.
Doing the dirty work for Attinger is James Savoy (Titus Welliver, who I now mostly think of as the sort of hostile pitchman for Comcast’s business services), a character whose name I don’t remember being said ever and who is most notable for dialogue such as, when he begins an illegal search on Cade’s property, “My face is my warrant,” which, what? When Transformers are successfully captured and killed, their pieces go to Joshua Joyce (Stanley Tucci), head of a giant tech company that makes everything from cars to drones to its own reverse-engineered Transformers.
This bad guy task force tracks Optimus (voiced by Peter Cullen) to Cade’s farm, necessitating a fast getaway by not just Cade, Optimus and Tessa but also Shane (Jack Reynor), Tessa’s boyfriend about whom Cade was not aware. On the run, Optimus tries to track down the other remaining Autobots: Hound (voiced by John Goodman), Drift (voiced by Ken Watanabe), Crosshairs (voiced by John DiMaggio) and of course, Bumble Bee. Together, Autobots plus Cade, Shane and Tessa try to figure out who is hunting them, why and what a freaky-looking, firestorm­-wielding Transformer named Lockdown (voiced by Mark Ryan) has to do with it all. The movie also starts some subplots about the discovery of a metal­-covered dinosaur and a geologist named Darcy (Sophia Myles) who is very serious and focused about something, I forget what, but she gets to threaten to shut something down because I Am A Geologist, Dammit! 
That plot fizzles away into nothing but Darcy does show up in later scenes, primarily to increase the number of ladies in scenes with Joshua. A potentially bad­ass assistant to Joshua named Su Yueming (Bingbing Li) also hangs around. T.J. Miller shows up to crack wise in the early part of the movie, serving mainly as someone off whom exposition can be bounced about Cade’s money woes. And, lest you think the franchise has forgotten about him in its quest to find new old Transformers to make a central villain, the spirit of Megatron lives on.
Here are some questions I had during this movie:
• Who is fighting whom? (This question came up during any and all action sequences when, in true Transformers style, I couldn’t tell which robots were good and which were bad nor could I tell which of the actions was supposed to be scary, since no person or robot ever seemed to be hurt by anything, except in, like, two cases where the movie slowed itself way down to make sure we understood that some robot we don’t give one puff of “cemetery wind” about has died.)
• In any given scene, what are the stakes? (As mentioned, nobody ever appears to be injured, no matter how many times, say, the humans fall dozens of floors only to be caught by a hard metal robot or how many times a robot appears to be run through with another robot’s sword.)
• Does Michael Bay have a three­-for-­one coupon for slo-mo?
• Where is the damn wind coming from? Why is it always windy and why does that wind primarily act on Peltz’s hair?
• And speaking of Peltz — whose character, by the way, is only 17 years old — is she allergic to clothes? Did they run out of money for her wardrobe budget and try to make it up by using as little fabric as possible for her short­-shorts?
• And, not just with Peltz but with most female characters (to include random extras), why do they seem to be shiny all the time, like there’s just been some sort of baby oil accident?
• Why does every scene seem to eventually include shots of the desert? Even scenes that, at least as far as I can remember in this mishmash of metal and lip gloss, don’t appear to start in the desert seem to end in the desert.
• So, the Transformers-­hating Savoy hates Transformers with a fiery hatred even greater than Welliver.
And finally:
• Three hours? Dear God, why is it three hours?
Actually, the movie is two hours and 45 minutes, so only if you stay to the end of the credits and only if your theater precedes the actual feature itself with 15 minutes or more of trailers does the movie really reach three full hours. But it still feels like you’re sitting through the whole three hours. At the hour­-and­-40-­or­-so-minute mark I really felt like the movie was coming to a close — there was a climactic battle scene, a bad guy seemed to be defeated (although I also realized at this point I no longer remembered who was the key bad guy and who were just peripheral bad guys). I looked at my phone and realized, nope, not the end, still an hour-plus to go.
I would offer more critiques of this movie’s internal logic and plot structure but, as I write this review only a few hours after leaving the theater, what I remember of its plot could be boiled down to something like: “Loud bass score! Dinosaurs! Metal dinosaurs! Hong Kong! Noises! Explosions! CGI fire! More explosions! Mwaah mwaah bass! Things! Wind! Don’t mess with Texas.”
Nor do I see much point in criticizing the acting, particularly since nobody appeared to really do any. Wahlberg’s performance is, at times, entertainingly hammy in a late­-era ­Bruce ­Willis kind of way. 
Stanley Tucci’s performance can be boiled down to the phrase “occasional over-enunciation.” Other roles have even less going on.
Transformers: Age of Extinction is probably mostly fairly judged by the experience of the ride. It is all about taking us over and under and through the explosion and not at all about why stuff is exploding. And it’s on this level that the movie’s faults truly matter. If Age of Extinction were fun — any fun at all — a good chunk of its problems wouldn’t matter. You would pick nits later, but enjoy the roller coaster while you were on it. But the movie is confusing, ponderous and — most deadly for an action movie — boring and predictable. D
Rated PG-­13 for intense sequences of sci­-fi violence and action, language and brief innuendo. Directed by Michael Bay and written by Ehren Kruger, Transformers: Age of Extinction is two hours and 45 minutes long and distributed by Paramount Pictures. 
 
As seen in the July 3, 2014 issue of the Hippo.





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