Sunday 29 June 2014

Film Review: Transformers - Age of Extinction

Transformers: Age of Extinction is the fourth entry into the divisive Hasbro film franchise; with a fresh cast including Marky Mark himself, can director Michael Bay attain critical acclaim and restore fan faith in the series?
Hell no. That's the short version.

Oh, you want the long version? If you insist...

Age of Extinction sees humanity at war with the Transformers - after the cataclysmic events of the third film Dark of the Moon, the US have formed a black ops task force to hunt and destroy the remaining Autobots and Decepticons.

Meanwhile, a down-on-his-luck inventor, Cade Yeager (Wahleberg) and his daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz), stumble across a rusty old truck that soon exposes itself to be none other than Optimus Prime, leader of the Autobots and public enemy No. 1. With the military bearing down on them, Cade and Tessa must hit the road along with Tessa's boyfriend Shane (Jack Reynor) to expose the dark secret lurking behind the villainous soldiers hot on their heels.

Whilst this synopsis may sound simple enough, the harsh truth is that this film is super convoluted and messy. There are way too many story-lines being crammed in here, with shady robotics corporations, intergalactic bounty hunters and prehistoric Transformers all being thrown into the mix.

The end result is a film that loses focus after the initial set-up - I actually found the opening 45-minutes of this film to be pretty solid, but beyond that things go downhill rather fast. The pacing is completely off, with what feels like a semi-decent conclusion actually feeding into another hour and a bit of mayhem. It just feels like Michael Bay was allowed to run wild with this film, with little regard for narrative cohesion or selection of footage. At nearly three hours, it's unnecessarily long and I found myself growing very weary of the unending carnage unfolding as the movie winds its way from Texas to Chicago to Beijing and Hong Kong.

The direction is completely chock-full of classic Bayisms with countless slow-motion and low-angle shots pushing the cheese factor to 11. Seriously, the amount of slo-mo carnage in this movie would make Zack Snyder faint. It's really tiresome, and I found it hard to take the movie seriously when every other shot was a super slo-motion shot of Nicola Peltz's perfect lips, raining debris and massive explosions.

Peltz's character also didn't work given that the movie is torn between reminding us she's underage and hyper-sexualising her, as is custom of any female in a Michael Bay film. I'm fairly certain Mark Wahlberg comments on her being just 17 about a billion times, only for this to be followed by a lusty pan of her mini-short clad legs. Erm, are we supposed to be okay with this? I know it's a movie aimed at 13-year-olds, but it just struck me as being a bit creepy (even if the actress is 19 in real-life).

Also, the much publicised appearance of the Dinobots suffers from the film's poor pacing, as they're shamefully tacked onto the end of the movie, rather than playing a central role as you would expect from the posters. That being said, credit where credit is due, Bay knows how to please his audience and doesn't shy away from playing up the whole Optimus Prime riding a robot dinosaur wielding a huge sword silliness.

The dialogue in this film is really bad, with what I can only assume are serious lines coming across as super dumb. Case in point, below:

"Men, search the perimeter."
"You can't do that without a warrant!"
"My face is my warrant."

That's legit what the dude says. Not even kidding. My face is my warrant. WHAT THE HELL DOES THAT EVEN MEAN!?!

Now, product placement in movies is to be expected nowadays, most notably in Sony movies like Spider-man and Jump Street. But in Transformers, it's just ridiculous. Oreo, Budweiser, Beats by Dre, Chevrolet, Victoria's Secret, Armani, Ford, Lamborghini, GM, Red Bull - you name it, it's shamelessly plastered across the screen (only to be promptly blown to smithereens of course). The VFX work still suffers from the same problem as the first three movies, with the swirling mass of metal and concrete often leaving audiences to wonder at what on Earth they are even looking at.

That being said, there are some redeeming factors with Age of Extinction. Mark Wahlberg is a big improvement over Shia LaBeouf in the lead role, and his act as the protective father who comes good is a lot more relatable. It was refreshing to see the lead human character actually take up arms and make a difference, rather than just stand around and scream "OPTIMUS!".

Bonus points come in the form of Stanley Tucci's likeable business tycoon Joshua Joyce. I also found that the Autobots were a lot more distinct and characterised this time around, with actors such as John Goodman and Ken Watanabe lending their voices to Hound and Drift respectively.

Other characters were either completely redundant or annoying, with Sophia Myles' character adding nothing to proceedings and TJ Miller playing a stoned surfer dude who helps Cade in his workshop - the flaw here being that Paris, Texas ain't exactly a place renowned for its surf.

Now, people might take this opportunity to criticise me for ripping apart a film that can be excused for being a dumb summer flick, but the simple fact is, this film brings nothing new to the series. Michael Bay has essentially made the same film FOUR times. It's bloated to the point of indulgence, and is generally dumb, overblown and boring. There's even a joke about slavery chucked in.

Summer movies don't have to be this overblown and indulgent - X-Men showed us intelligence, Edge of Tomorrow originality and The Lego Movie nailed humour. Age of Extinction gets none of these right. I think it's high time Bay packed his bags and rolled out.

The Verdict: 2.5/10 

Transformers: Age of Extinction is not the worst movie starring the famous robots in disguise (that title is still claimed by Revenge of the Fallen) but it does nothing to rejuvenate the bloated, noisy, tiresome franchise. It's all style and no substance, with some dull cookie-cutter characters, an incomprehensible plot, an excessive runtime, unconvincing CGI and lots and lots of repetitive, unimaginative, sickening action. The end result? I think I need a lie down.


  1. Dang, this one is getting eviscerated. I dunno, I expected more of the same with this one, but came out highly impressed by how much of a major improvement it was over the prior three. Eh, I dunno, though the "plot" is a bit convoluted, I will admit...

    1. I think the bloated length really drags it down - if Bay had shaved off some of the excessive action and trimmed back on the unnecessary plot elements, I think this film would easily be the best so far. Instead, it feels just as indulgent (to me) as the others. Thanks for commenting Chris, glad you enjoyed the movie! :)

  2. Good review. It can be fun when Bay's feeling the creative juices flowing. But it's too bogged down by explosions and craziness that doesn't add to anything, except just total mayhem.

    1. Good summary Dan! You're right, the excessive Bayhem just goes on and on and on.... Thanks for commenting :)

  3. The "My face is my warrant" line had my mom rolling in her seat, which made it seem even worse! ha

    Good review, although I didn't hate it quite as much as you.

    1. That line man, that line. I looked over at my girlfriend like "did he seriously just say that?!" As for the whole film, I can see why people would like this movie, I just thought it was overly long and too similar to the rest. Thanks for commenting Tanner :)

  4. Haha... I love that you gave this a 2.5 rating and say it isn't the worst in the franchise! I'm only seeing this if it comes out on my local TV in a few years and I have nothing else to do. And to think I was excited when they first announced the Dinobots would be in this!

    1. I think giving it a miss is a good move to be honest! 2.5 might be a tad harsh, but it certainly isn't the worst - that title will always be Revenge of the Fallen :P Thanks for commenting!



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