Optimism and hope are what make life worth living and bearable. This is also what keeps (or should keep) film critics everywhere from just turning into sour, jaded adolescents. I learned early on you have to stay optimistic when going into a film because if you go in expecting it to be utter trash, you’ll find a way to see it that way. I see films for that feeling of excitement and surprise that comes from an unexpectedly great film hidden in a rough exterior. I don’t do it for the money (because there isn’t any), but I do it for the experiences. I also do it for films like Transformers: Age of Extinction, that has surprisingly transcended even our wildest predictions of it. For that reason alone, I write this review because I think you deserve to be warned.
In this mini franchise reboot, Optimus Prime is back and he’s more wanted than ever. Cade (Mark Wahlberg) is a struggling inventor and single father to the definitely not high school age looking daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz). The family has lost their wife/mother, Cade lost his job, and they are on the verge of losing their farm. That is until they stumble upon a broken down freight truck, buy it, and fix it enough to find out that it is in fact a wounded transformer, Optimus Prime. Turns out a covert government group, headed by Harold Attinger (Kelsey Grammer), designed to take out the left over Decepticons have gone rogue and started hunting down and destroying all transformers, including the Autobots. The government is being helped by mercenary transformer Lockdown, who is actually working for the elusive creators we have yet to see. Well, technically we saw an organic/metallic hybrid hand, so that’s something.
The government goons track down Optimus, and one barn explosion later, Cade is now homeless, hunted and nearly witnessed his daughter get murdered. Naturally he decides to fight the government, a huge corporation led by a Steve Jobs impersonator Joshua Joyce (Stanley Tucci), and some intergalactic menaces in order to keep his family and future son-in-law Shane (Jack Reynor) safe. Aside from all the known enemies, like corporation KSI making their own transformers, there is also a dark hand guiding them in the form of a reincarnated Megatron, now known as Galvatron. With the help of the Dinobots (that don’t get introduced until the last quarter of the film) and some humans, they are able to save Beijing from being turned into metal. By save I of course mean some of the city is still left standing. Only some. But at the end of the film, a greater threat looms, and that is the threat of possibly another sequel.
I’m not going to beat this dead horse. Everyone will be tearing this movie a new one, but there is no need to be unnecessarily mean in order to tell you what was wrong with this film. Let’s start off with Michael Bay, who is one of the most successful directors in Hollywood not because of the quality of his films, but because of how much they gross. What he overspends in over-the-top, overblown explosions and CGI, he could easy put into having a decent script with a coherent story and believable characters. I’m sorry, but writer Ehren Kruger isn’t cutting it. The explosions that Bay is known for are usually the only part of these movies that I even enjoy a little. There is something satisfying about seeing landmarks from my hometown of Chicago being destroyed. Unfortunately I seemed to have developed a tolerance to it because at almost 3 hours, this bombastic destruction porn has me desensitized to the point of numbness. I found myself at the IMAX theater spending more time admiring Jack Reynor’s pretty eye lashes and wondering why the over-sexualized “teenager” Nicola Peltz’s face was so orange. The fact that this was one of the first blockbusters to be completely shot with IMAX cameras doesn’t do it any favors.
I had high hopes for this film, especially seeing the talented cast of Wahlberg, Tucci and Grammer, who pretty much automatically raise the caliber of any film they are in. You can only do so much with what you are given, and the actors weren’t given much. You can tell the human characters are not the focus of this scattered story because each is so lazily done and such a caricature of pre-existing film archetypes. The only characters with any personality are the Autobots, voiced by the talented John Goodman, Ken Watanabe and legendary voice actor John DiMaggio.
In the end, no matter how many of us say how bad Transformers: Age of Extinction is, it will still gross at least $100 M at the box office. Despite the subpar directing, inadequate screenwriting, wooden acting, and mind-melting explosions, people will go out in droves and devour this film like its predecessors. I don’t know how to feel about that, or even want to speculate on what that says about us as a society. All I know is that even Optimus Prime was disenchanted with the human race to the point of wanting to leave, but I think I’ll stay here and just keep up the hope.
RATING: ★(1/10 stars)
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