Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Nicola Peltz, Jack Reynor, Stanley Tucci, Kelsey Grammar.
Director: Michael Bay
The original Transformers film from 2007 was slated by critics, but loved in the box office, taking $710m. This patten has continued ever since with parts 2 and 3 in the Shia LaBeouf starring trilogies. It’s not surprising as Michael Bay movies have always been a big box office draw, encompassing good looking stars with huge budget action, what’s not to love? Well actually, everything. Everything single thing is not to love. Whether they saw this and decided to change their cast, I don’t know. But now with Mark Wahlberg replacing the arrogant, up himself LaBeouf, things will be different, right? No, absolutely not. There was a lot of optimism and hope for this film, as if bringing in new blood, dinobots and Stanley Tucci instead of John Turturro would fix all of their problems. Really all of these factors should have but 4 films in, they still all have one fundamental problem which needs to be resolved. I’m talking of the over the top director Michael Bay. There are plans to make 2 more films, thus creating a new trilogy. Bay would really need to step back and take his Bayisms away from this franchise. The studios will happily keep him at the helm of any movie he wants to work on due to the fact that he makes them a shocking amount of money or such dreadful movies.
In Transformers: Age of Extinction, the US government has moved on from the events of the last film in which Chicago went under attack and declared that the age of the Transformers is over. Which basically means it’s not and they will be around somewhere, causing some sort of mayhem (of Bayhem, if you will) but there’s no longer an alliance involving the military and all Transformers are being hunted down to be destroyed once and for all. After what we have seen in 3 films, I think most people want this. But no, we have to suffer through more nonsense.
Bayisms are Michael Bay’s shallow and frustrating techniques of telling his story. These include explosions, low angle shots when anyone is getting out of a car, hot girls saying “woo” a lot, slow motion running, slow motion of anything (in Age of Extinction, there is an unintentionally humorous moment where Wahlberg punches the outside ground and screams all in very slow motion), too much patriotism, too much product placement and I will stop right there. All of these Bayisms are present in Age of Extinction, as is the comedy which is present in all of his movies. No matter how fruitless and empty the joke might be, Michael Bay will through it in for good measure. Counteracting action with a small slice of humour so the audience can have something to relate to is an old trick but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad trick, but it is here. Oh Michael Bay, is there nothing original left in that head of yours?
The change of main character is the biggest thing to happen. Mark Wahlberg is much better than Shia LeBeouf in movies like this and he did improve it but not enough. He plays an inventor who spends his money and time on junk, strips them for parts and sells them. He also has his own inventions and dreams of one day being able to create something that will provide for his family and keep the eviction notices off of his payment over-due home. It’s during a clear out of an old abandoned cinema when he discovers a truck (what the hell is a truck doing in there?!) which turns out to be Optimus Prime. After this, the story unwinds, with Wahlberg’s character and his daughter teaming up with her secret rally car driving boyfriend and the remaining Autobots to stop the slaughter and at one point later in the movie save Wahlberg’s daughter (she’s pretty much a replacement of Megan Fox from the first two films, although she’s slightly better). Then there is Stanley Tucci, who plays the the CEO of the company who figure out the DNA of the Transformers and they start to create their own. He struggles with his morals but comes around later on in the movie which is one of the rare moments where you feel there’s some good character development. But as much as I love watching films with him, always entertaining, he’s a good actor and I just can’t fault him it felt as if he was held back, he wasn’t as engaging as he could have been, the script didn’t feel right for him, his lines were stale and lifeless. For the most of it, he just wasn’t great.
During the film there was a constant feeling that certain lines and scenes were thrown in so they had something to put into the trailer other than the typical actions scenes. Including a badly timed “OH MY GOD” from Stanley Tucci’s character, constant passionate speeches about family and sticking together and several shots of the American flag, in case you forget who is really in charge! You can almost hear the right wing nut cases chant “USA! USA USA!” I’m from London and I like the US but just don’t need it thrown in my face.
I was fortunate enough to see this film (for free thanks to a friend of mine) in IMAX 3D which is a screen so big it can hardly contain those mashing metal objects but no screen will be big enough or small enough to take away the fact that this is yet another film in which Michael Bay has indulged fantasies of making people look taller than they are, sexy girls as well as his obvious fetish of blowing up everything you can see. He’s taken a producer’s seat for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles which may help it’s chances with the critics and we might finally have a great Turtles film. This felt a lot like the second and third film combined and there were very surprising and lazy similarities such as yet another attack on Chicago, being in China for part of the film, it’s as if there are not other places in the world. But as for the future of Transformers, with the fifth one currently in pre-production, only time will tell whether or not those Bayisms will keep the God of Annoying Explosions (my title for him) at the top of the box office and on the Christmas card list of everyone at Paramount Pictures.
Verdict: 1 / 5