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7/6/14

TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION - REVIEW


As we enter the Age Of Incomprehension, so do the Transformers enter the Age Of Extinction.

In other words: what WAS this movie?!

Now, a lot has been said about the Transformers franchise and about its director. With each release comes a backlash usually mocking either Michael Bay's incompetence, how silly the films are, the leads' miscasting or the bots themselves.

Well...

This one won't be any different, I imagine.

Which is a shame seeing as this is easily the best (read: least painful) Transformers film since the first one. Having said that, Bay's asking for it, at this point.

After the surprising return to form that was Pain & Gain, this would have been the perfect opportunity for the director to take the money-grubbing franchise into a new, more involving, better direction. On the plus side, the grating Shia Labeouf is absent this time around, replaced by the infinitely more appropriate and likeable Mark Wahlberg, a man who can make even the worst movie (see The Happening) watchable. Also, some of the comic relief, one of Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen's biggest issues, actually does work as new addition Stanley Tucci does his best to not be too annoying as a Steve Jobs-esque cowardly baddie. There's a greater emphasis on the Autobots and the villains they face this time around, which is always good as some of the film's (and the films before it) best moments involve Optimus Prime being awesome.

Unfortunately, this particular sequel suffers from a ludicrous running time and an overwhelmingly bloated plot where dozens of main characters battle for screen time. The story could have been a simple revenge mission or something about the Autobots facing a new, more powerful threat and hiring the help of Dinobots to get the job done but the film chooses to have both these plots and about ten others! Talk about a greedy Summer blockbuster. Not only are we introduced to like 5 new human protagonists but we've got no less than 3 main human villains to worry about (Kelsey Grammer, Tucci and Titus Welliver's characters), 2 big new robot villains, John Goodman and Ken Watanabe Autobots AND those friggin' Dinobots. Oh, and the Chinese. Oh and Megatron, kind of. Oh and that little Beetlejuice robot from the last movie. Oh, I almost forgot Wahlberg's daughter's racer boyfriend. You think that's enough?! Jeesh...

I swear even Magnolia didn't have this many people involved.

And that was an ensemble flick!

This could and should have been a much shorter film (two hours, max) and a much simpler film. I can't imagine adults following this from start to finish, let alone kids. The entire second act is like a blur in my mind and the third act: mostly explosions. I guess if mindless destruction is what you're looking for then Age Of Extinction has A LOT of that but Transformers: Dark Of The Mood also had a bunch of carnage and I could still kinda tell what was going on. Here, we're being served Bayhem up to 11 and, although it's not a complete train wreck, it sure feels like being in a train wreck. The product placement in this one is about as shameful as it can get with Tucci holding Beats speakers up to our faces in 3D and Wahlberg stopping by to gulp down a Bud Light in the middle of the action, not to mention the destruction of Hong Kong leaving only well-publicised brands on billboards alive and well. Even Man Of Steel couldn't compete with this level of destruction and in-your-face advertising. Add to that a heck of a lot of unlikely stuff we're meant to buy such as Mark Wahlberg as a cooky inventor, a cigar-smoking, bearded robot, the line "My FACE is my warrant!" and about a thousand plot holes and inconsistencies and you've got a headache waiting to happen. Luckily, so much (and, at the same time, so little) is happening and the special effects are fancy enough that you'll barely have any time to let any scene sink in before something else happens, distracting you instantly.

The whole Autobots going into hiding and being hunted down by humans and a new enemy plot should have been the only thing going on here. Why concern ourselves with Optimus Prime dying another 10 times, the daughter being kidnapped onto that alien ship for no reason, robot hyenas and poor old Stanley Tucci literally running around with a bagged macguffin, not knowing what to do with it? This is a mess which makes all the other Transformers films look completely sober and, somehow, it still manages to be better than the last two sequels which were little more than some cocaine-fuelled fever dreams ram-packed with offensive stereotypes and loud, obnoxious screaming and whining. Don't get me wrong, there's still some of that in Age Of Extinction but, believe it or not, this is still a step in the right direction for the franchise. As OTT and overlong as it is, we're left with a much better lead as the focus and more robot action, which is always something I guess...

While probably the best Transformers film since the first film (that's not saying much, granted), Age Of Extinction is also the most stuffed and, by extension, the most unapologetically nonsensical of all of them. It should leave you shell-shocked and unsure of how to spell the simplest of wordz (typo intended). That said, if your idea of a good time is watching bits of stuff flying around in all directions, waving American flags during sunsets scored by Imagine Dragons and drinking Budweiser while laughing at an Irish dude being called "Lucky Charms" then this is the film for you.

What the hell did I just watch?

I'm really not sure, frankly.

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