Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Movie Review: Transformers: Age of Extinction

Transformers: Age of Extinction
Directed by: Michael Bay.
Written by: Ehren Kruger.
Starring: Mark Wahlberg (Cade Yeager), Stanley Tucci (Joshua Joyce), Kelsey Grammer (Harold Attinger), Nicola Peltz (Tessa Yeager), Jack Reynor (Shane Dyson), Titus Welliver (James Savoy), Sophia Myles (Darcy Tirrel), Bingbing Li (Su Yueming), T.J. Miller (Lucas Flannery), James Bachman (Gill Wembley), Thomas Lennon (Chief of Staff),  Peter Cullen (Optimus Prime), Frank Welker (Galvatron), John Goodman (Hound), Ken Watanabe (Drift), Robert Foxworth (Ratchet), John DiMaggio (Crosshairs), Mark Ryan (Lockdown), Reno Wilson (Brains).

The most frustrating thing about Michael Bay is that he is clearly a talented director – or at least he can be. In almost every movie he makes, he’ll give you something that you have never seen in a movie before – although sometimes, there is a good reason why you haven’t. The Transformers films are the best and worst example of his filmmaking ability. I liked the first film – which was big and dumb, but quite a lot of fun as well. I hated the second film, which was big and dumb and loud and incoherent and no fun at all. The third movie was also loud, dumb and largely incoherent – as well as way too long – but the last 45 minutes was a pretty much brilliant action sequence the likes of which we hardly ever see. Too bad the movie ran more than two and half hours, and beat the audience into submission well before that brilliance started. Now comes the fourth Transformers movie – which reminded me a lot of the third one, minus the brilliant extended action sequence which ends the movie. The film runs nearly three hours, which is way too long for a movie that has barely any plot – and whose makers clearly don’t care about what little plot they do have. The human characters have changed from the last time, although they’re still cookie cutter characters with no real purpose. Bay, who has always sexualized his female characters to an uncomfortable degree, goes even further this time – as he uses poor Nicola Peltz as nothing more than a sex object, even though she’s supposed to be only 17. A joke about the “Romeo and Juliet” laws that make her relationship with the older Shane (Jack Reynor) not “technically” statutory rape just makes matters worse.

Transformers: Age of Extinction pretty much pummels the audience with loud, incoherent action from start to finish. That seems to be all Michael Bay is interesting in doing – and in that, I guess, he is successful. The plot is an afterthought – and introduces multiple villains for the dwindling number of Autobots to fight against. In the aftermath of the Battle of Chicago that ended the last film, and results in a massive loss of American lives (nice to see a blockbuster acknowledge that – as usually they don’t) – the Transformers have become unpopular. The surviving Decepitcons are being hunted down and killed – and although the Autobots are supposed to have sanctuary, CIA Agent Harold Attinger (Kelsey Grammer) – who apparently can do whatever the hell he wants – wants them destroyed as well. He’s reached out to another alien robot – Lockdown – to help eliminate everyone. But they need to find Optimus Prime, who has gone into hiding until Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) – an “inventor” living in Texas finds him by accident. This sets the plot in motion, which will not stop or slow down for nearly the next three hours as one long, violent chase sequence/shootout leads to another long, violent chase sequence/shootout.

I think it’s fair to say that Bay knows what audiences want to see in a Transformer movie. At this point, he’s made four and all of them are wildly popular with audiences, even if critics hate them. I don’t think you can argue that people don’t t like the films – if that were true, they’d stop showing up, and that isn’t happening. With each passing film it seems like Bay wants to top the loudness and non-stop action quotient that seemingly hit its peak in the last film. And each time out, he “succeeds” in doing just that.

A film like Transformers: Age of Extinction is tough to review for a number of reasons. A critics job is to watch the film and report on what he saw – in some part to let people reading know if they’ll like the film or not. But I think at this point, you probably already know whether or not you’ll like the film – it’s the exact same film as the first three Transformers movie except even moreso. To me, watching the film was a punishing experience – not one I would like to repeat. The whole thing gave me a headache – and I didn’t even see it in 3-D. But you know if you’ll like the movie, right? Transformers: Age of Extinction is pretty much precisely the film you think it’s going to be. And if that’s something you enjoy, than go ahead and enjoy.

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