“Transformers: Age of Extinction,” the fourth film in Michael Bay’s franchise that hit theaters June 27, 2014, has opened to mixed reviews. Among the most common complaints are the film’s long run time, shaky plot and awkward dialog, but one of the strongest aspects of the film is the addition of Mark Wahlberg to the cast. Despite his less-than-glorious track record, Wahlberg owns his role as the film’s main human protagonist, lighting up the screen even when the film itself falters.
When audiences discovered that a fourth “Transformers” film was in the works, it was announced that Wahlberg would replace Shia LaBeouf as the film’s lead. According to Michael Bay, this is because the fourth installment would mark the beginning of a new trilogy in which the character of Sam has no place. Although fans were initially hesitant to accept Wahlberg’s Cade Yeager, they quickly realized upon watching the film that Wahlberg’s performance was stunning to say the least.
Rather than rising above the script as other notable actors have done when cast in questionable films, Wahlberg instead dives into his role head first, portraying his character with such passion that even the cheesiest lines cannot dampen his stellar performance. Although the rest of the cast puts in a decent effort, Wahlberg truly carries the film through its shakier areas.
One of the most notable aspects of the actor’s performance is a separation from most of his earlier work. Wahlberg had become well-known as the charming, lovable character with his roles in films such as “I Heart Huckabees” and “Boogie Nights.” On the other hand, he has also shown himself to be capable of playing the stoic and serious-faced tough guy in films such as “Max Payne” and “Four Brothers.” These two types of roles had become a staple for the actor, but his portrayal of Cade is something else entirely.
There are a few instances when Wahlberg seems less than committed to his role, such as moments when he delivers dialog about being a Texan when his accent and mannerisms reveal no such affiliation. Still, it is clear that the actor takes his role more seriously than the rest of the cast, something that has become one of his greatest strengths in his acting career.
Perhaps Wahlberg’s intense dedication to the “Transformers” film comes in part from his children’s excitement. The actor said that this was the first film that truly interested his children, and he even convinced Michael Bay to let them have a small cameo appearance in the film. The actor also claimed that he thought the human element of the script was very powerful, foreshadowing his own impressive performance as the lead human character.
In addition to his commendable acting during more dramatic and even humorous scenes, Wahlberg steals the show during every action sequence. From watching the film, it is clear that the actor went all out in making his character strong and capable alongside the monstrous CG robots. He reported that he even injured his neck during shooting in Hong Kong, leading him to wear a neck brace with 10 days of action-packed shooting left on his calendar. Unfortunately, the overblown CGI robot fights and excessive explosions do not allow Wahlberg to shine on screen as much as he deserves. Even still, the capable actor holds his own alongside show-stealing characters like Optimus Prime.
Despite his heartfelt portrayal, there is only so much an actor can do with average material. The character of Cade Yeager is a simple, small town mechanic who also claims to be a robotics expert. He purchases on old truck believing that it is a Transformer, and it just so happens to be Optimus Prime, leader of the Autobots. Throughout the film, Yeager and his family dedicate themselves to fighting alongside the alien robots, but he must also convince Optimus Prime that not all humans are evil.
The introduction of the first three “Transformers” films led fans to believe that the incredible robot fight scenes are the best element of any “Transformers” film. In fact, the human element has often been seen as the weakest in the franchise. Wahlberg’s stellar performance turns that assumption on its head, however, creating a promising platform for the launch of the new trilogy. Fans cannot wait to see how Walhlberg’s character and acting develop as the franchise continues.