Reviewing Transformers: Age Of Extinction seems slightly pointless. It has an abysmal 18% rating on RottenTomatoes, with only 32 out of 178 that collated reviews saying it’s a decent movie. Despite that it’s currently the highest grossing movie of 2014 worldwide with over $1 billion in the bank (largely thanks to a gargantuan gross in China). So whether anyone says it’s good or bad seems a little irrelevant.
But just for the record, it’s not a good movie.
It’s all change on the human front this time around, with quite a few new bots too. It’s several years after Dark of The Moon’s battle in Chicago, and the world is aware of the presence of the Transformers. While everyone is told to report anything they think may be alien activity, the US government is still working with the Autobots. At least most of it is, as parts of the CIA, led by Kelsey Grammer’s Joshua Joyce, want to rid the entire planet of all alien activity, seeing even Optimus Prime as a threat.
To do that they’ve teamed up with another extra-terrestrial entity – which is neither Autobot nor Decepticon – a Transformer bounty hunter called Lockdown, who’s more than happy to kill any Autobots he can find, as long as he can take Optimus Prime alive. As well killing Transformers, Joyce also has another plan to hopefully ensure the human race can take on any alien threat.
Mark Wahlberg plays amateur inventor Cade Yeager, who buys a beat up old truck to use for parts. It shouldn’t come as too much of a shock to discover the truck is actually Optimus Prime, who’s severely injured after an attack by the CIA. Optimus teams up with Cade, his daughter Tess (Nicola Peltz) and her boyfriend Shane (Jack Reynor), along with several of the Autobots, to find out what is going on and to stop it – a journey that takes them back to Chicago to a company looking to exploit Transformer technology, and then onto China for a big, climactic showdown.
It’s easy to knock director Michael Bay for his love of everything loud and noisy, as well as the fact his movies often seem more about explosions and flinging cars around than telling a story. However as long as you give him a decent script to work from, he’s not too bad at working that around the 30,000 explosions nearly all his movies have to have. Unfortunately, as with Revenge Of The Fallen, he doesn’t have that here.
That’s not totally screenwriter Ehren Kruger’s fault, as it’s difficult to escape the feeling that he was hamstrung by a checklist of things the movie had to contain – dinobots, new Autobots, the presence of Megatron, and most especially taking the movie to China so they could suck up the money from that growing market – and then it was his job to find some way to turn it into a coherent script.
Unfortunately he wasn’t able to do that, resulting in a movie that has some good action scenes and explosions – and some absolutely amazing special effects – but nearly everything inbetween feels pretty random and as if it’s very slowly connecting the dots that will ensure Hasbro has plenty of new toys to bring out, Michael Bay can blow a lot of stuff up, and the studio can make a lot of money in China (even if they can’t find a proper, logical reason why the film suddenly needs to jump halfway around the world).
And boy does it slowly connect those dots. The film has about 90 minutes of story stretched out over 165 minutes, and a lot of the story it does have feels slightly unnecessary and irrelevant. That’s particular noticeable with the dinobots, who could have been removed from the movie without changing anything, but then there wouldn’t be the opportunity for tie-in toys. It’s also a major issue in the early stages, as the film takes an awful long time to get going, largely because while its attempts to introduce us to the new human characters are admirable, it doesn’t realise that these are rather tedious people and no matter how much time we spend getting to know them they’re still pretty annoying.
I had initially thought Michael Bay’s hideous sexism might have taken a break, but it soon kicks into high gear, including a rather creepily distasteful scene all about why 20-year-old Shane is allowed to have sex with the underage Tess due to a specific Texas law. It’s utterly unnecessary and seems to be there solely so that men can have an excuse why they can perve with impunity over a character who’s supposed to only be 17-years-old.
With the Star Trek movies they used to say only the even ones were any good. Perhaps with Transformers it’ll be the odd ones, as while the first and third were okay, the second and this one are pretty dire. Well, if you really don’t care about story, characters or the vaguest sense of logic, and just like action, effects and explosions, you’ll think it’s brilliant, but if you want anything else you’re out of luck.
The film does undoubtedly look good on Blu-ray, although there is more artefacting that you might expect at certain moment. The two-disc Blu-ray also comes with a large array of special features (around three hours worth), which really give you an appreciation for just how good the special effects and stunt work is. It’s just a shame about the rest of the film.
Overall Verdict: The action and effects are undoubtedly top notch, but the story and script are mainly about checking commercially minded boxes, even if they make the film seem dumber and more random than it needed to be.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac