“Transformers: Age of Extinction” is the franchise’s fourth installment, but instead seems like it’s grasping at an attempt to be a reboot to the franchise. Billed with an all new cast led by Mark Wahlberg as trying inventor Cade Yeager, the film makes no mention of past characters—human characters, that is. For that reason, and that reason alone, it seems clear that this film was trying to distance itself from past installments.
Set five years following “Transformers: Dark of the Moon’s” events, we learn that remaining Autobots and Decepticons are being hunted by the C.I.A. due to the events which befell the city of Chicago. Aside from previously featured transformers (Bumblebee and Optimus Prime), that’s all that’s linked to the past. Considering the story line, it makes sense as to why there is no mention of Sam Witwicky or any of the other past characters. Because of their being hunted, the Autobots go into hiding, and when Wahlberg’s character stumbles upon Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen) while searching for scraps and parts for his inventions, he and his daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz), work partner Lucas (T.J. Miller), and Tessa’s secret boyfriend Shane (Jack Reynor) get involved in the C.I.A plot.
What follows is a series of action packed chase scenes, equipped with explosions, metal-on-metal fighting, and, well…transforming. The action in the film is done extraordinarily well, which is something that has been consistent throughout the franchise. In a nearly three hour film, there’s plenty of these scenes, and in some, it does seem overdone and redundant. Also redundant was the film itself, unfortunately, as it evolved from a somewhat appealing spark of a story to convoluted and farfetched overkill about halfway through.
The human-robot conflict has obviously been done before, and when KSI company head Joshua Joyce (Stanley Tucci) and C.I.A. agent Harold Attinger (Kelsey Grammer) team up to bring down the remaining earth-dwelling robots in order to build their own, that conflict heightens. There’s a slight subliminal implication of man’s arrogance and desire to reign supreme above all other beings here. It was a message that could have been driven home more, giving the film deeper complexity, but instead the focus was too heavily on a longwinded plot and forced humor that wasn’t really humorous at all.
Perhaps being the film’s saving grace (if there can be one) was the incorporation of the Dinobots. They were done extremely well, yet were far too scarce to be considered a main driving point. The trailers feature them somewhat heavily, but because of the film’s length, it only seems as though they appear as a cameo. Albeit short lived, their appearance added a nice oomph to the drawn out plot, yet left a longing desire to see more of them. If the film continues to a fifth installment—which is likely considering the way it ended—the Dinobots must make a return to spice up the action some more.
Overall, “Transformers: Age of Extinction” was very action-packed and visually stunning, but too drawn out and tiresome. The plot, which started out appealing, waned into a farfetched and convoluted display of pomp and circumstance. The Dinobots were a nice added touch, and the bonus of getting to know new characters and their stories in a franchise that’s been done to death was a welcoming pleasantry. Unfortunately, the cons overshadow the pros, possibly sending the franchise to its own age of extinction.
“Transformers: Age of Extinction” opened in U.S. theaters Friday, June 27th 2014.
Final grade? C+