For the second time in a week, the amazing has happened as there is a movie out in the populace the defies explanation or a traditional rating. All it simply demands that you yell, “WOOOO” at the screen at the top your lungs. For the fourth installment of the franchise, Michael Bay makes the movie that HE wants you to see as “Transformers: Age of Extinction” is a tiring onslaught of action and violence that I actually still managed to have fun with.
Five years after the events of the last film, the Decepticons are being hunted down and the Autobots are scattered across the planet as a mysterious government force is intent on destroying not only the remaining Decepticons but the Autobots as well. When a down on his luck mechanic and inventor (Mark Wahlberg) finds a truck that he thinks he can salvage for scrap metal, he learns pretty quickly that it is actually Optimus Prime in hiding, severally wounded and fed up with the human race. Quickly he learns that everything he knows isn’t quite the truth and when the government shows up on his door step threatening his family, he is forced to trust the remaining Autobots and convince them to help stop a plot that is much more nefarious and dangerous that they had previously imagined.
It’s almost like Michael Bay considered his last movie, “Pain & Gain” as a dare since it had an actual plot and made an effort at crafting a solid narrative where as “Transformers: Age of Extinction” is an effort in excess that almost…and I said almost satirizes itself.
Make no mistake, Michael Bay can make things go boom with the best of them and stage some epic and drawn action sequences. However when we have to endure 2 hours of set up where acting is either over the top, or simply out of breath, it doesn’t make for the best of movies. Bay’s characters are either kind of dumb, very unlikeable or statuesque blonds wearing the shortest shorts imaginable as the movie goes through moments of scowling menace that was actually kind of funny, hammy jokes that aren’t all, some unnecessarily harsh moments considering the younger kids that will actually want to be going to this movie, because the Autobots (deservedly so) get pretty nasty in this film. It all felt very haphazard, doing as little as they possibly could before the final monstrous action scene, which to his credit Bay does astonishingly well. Plot points get abandoned, and so many key elements of the story are either poorly established, or just not at all. If he only put a little more effort into not bombarding us with these overwrought moments where we are supposed to care about his characters as they are bathed in sunlight looking as sexy as humanly possible while running for their lives.
At times the story did have a little more attitude as it was poking fun at the American military complex and the socio-economic tensions between the US and China and playing into that while shooting it in China was a nice touch, but it never registers like it should. Bay simply throws everything and everything against the wall in an effort to beat our retinas into submission and even though the payoff is great, Bay and his characters took far too long to get us there.
To Michael Bay’s credit, no Shia LaBeouf this time out is an automatic step up, but Mark Wahlberg was playing this hero role to the point that he was relentlessly out of breath and it gets tiresome for 166 minutes. Nicola Peltz certainly fits the Bay leading lady mold from a physical standpoint, but is a little too rigid in a part that is underwritten and Jack Reynor as her boyfriend basically does nothing other than stand around while Wahlberg quips bad overprotective father jokes. Kelsey Grammar and Titus Welliver got to ham it up and chew the scenery as our bad guys to some fun levels but the usually great Stanley Tucci is the most poorly written evil industrialist who learns the error of ways before it is too late that I have ever seen. He goes from trying to be menacing to goofy in the span of about ten minutes and his forced flirting with his associate Bingbing Li while the city is being destroyed around them is forced and not nearly as funny as Bay thinks it is. Meanwhile the likes of TJ Miller, Sophia Myles and Thomas Lennon just get wasted and while the voice work was solid with some familiar voices joining the cast as some new Autobots, it all just had too dark and mean spirited a tone to work.
At the end of that day, you go to see a Michael Bay movie for action and he gives us that in spades but that can’t be the sole make up of a movie. It feels like he has so much distain for all the other elements that make up a good film, that you can’t help but think that you are being talked down to and abused by an hour and 40 minutes of disdainful nonsense before he gets to the crowd pleasing action sequences that will placate most audiences…just not this one, because he has actively shown us that he is capable of more. “Transformers: Age of Extinction” works in the areas you’d except but fails in so many others.
“Transformers: Age of Extinction” is opens in select theatres tonight, and everywhere tomorrow.