Transformers: Age of Extinction - Review
Review by Rob Carnevale
MICHAEL Bay may have rung the changes for this fourth instalment in the Transformers series in terms of cast but the formula remains very much the same – and that’s as bad as it is only occasionally good.
Age of Extinction is a big blockbuster both in terms of spectacle and running time (clocking in at almost three hours). But it’s also as loud and excessive as we’ve long come to expect from Bay and does rather batter you senseless.
Picking up four years after the climactic events of Dark of the Moon, the film picks up as the Autobots, led by Optimus Prime, find themselves on the run from a shady CIA official (Kelsey Grammar), who is hunting them down to use their metal to create his own robot army with the help of an egotistical technology mogul (Stanley Tucci).
Standing in their path, and thereby carrying humanity’s hopes with them, are all-American father and daughter Cade and Tessa Yeager (Mark Wahlberg and Nicola Peltz), as well as the latter’s Irish immigrant boyfriend (Jack Reynor), who pluck Prime from exile, give him a place to hide and prove that Earth is still worth fighting for.
But in doing so, they also find themselves targeted and forced to go on the run from both the CIA and yet another external alien threat.
Early on, Bay’s film has its moments, especially when placing Grammar’s pursuit of the Autobots centre stage. But once all of the various components are in place and new allegiances have been formed, the countdown begins to another inevitable final confrontation between the Autobots and the latest threat to Earth. And it’s not long before boredom sets in.
As we’ve come to expect from Bay, the attention to detail in the special effects is terrific and there are some money shots worth savouring, several of which arrive in slow motion (including the type of a car butting a CIA bad guy). Technically, the film has plenty to recommend it.
But Bay also over indulges and eventually wears you down with his relentless assault on the senses – all of which arrives with a wafer-thin plot that barely makes sense and some lousy dialogue that does the human characters no favours at all.
Of the new cast, Wahlberg acquits himself well as the all-American hero and is suitably up to the physical challenges. But there’s nothing he can do to elevate his character to someone really worth caring about, especially since there’s little or no peril in the script.
Reynor is similarly poorly served, while Peltz (like Megan Fox and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley before her) are mere eye candy, especially since Bay can’t resist training his camera upon every curve.
Of the more serious cast members, Grammar does mean and moody effectively but is also poorly served by the banal dialogue and is something of a one-dimensional villain, leaving only Stanley Tucci to deliver a performance worth raving about. His egotistical businessman is a hoot – hysterially OTT but perfectly in tune with the absurdity of the whole endeavour. Most of the films laughs stem from him and his deft delivery.
Of the Transformers, Prime remains staunchly patriotic, Bumblebee continues to be the coolest of the lot and the Dinobauts bring belated technical spectacle that should have the die-hard loyalists screaming with delight. The locations, especially China and Hong Kong, also enliven the overall look of proceedings.
But for everything that’s good about this latest adventure, there’s plenty that’s bad and it’s difficult to overlook the shortcomings when the film runs to such a self-indulgent length. It is robots bashing other robots at the end of the day, no matter how subtle some of Bay’s early touches and nods (including some directed towards cinema itself).
If you sign up, you get what you pay for… in spades. But that’s not necessarily a good thing.
Running time: 166mins
UK Release Date: July 5, 2014