With Paramount Pictures sitting comfortably behind their cash cow that is the Transformers series, it’s time once again to call Michael Bay in for another installment. I hope you can tell by my initial tone where this review might be headed. The vastly different and sprawling entries have always had fans rallying behind their favorite film; but one thing is clear – Transformers: Age of Extinction (once the new shine has worn off), will be considered just as, or even worse, than Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.
Five years after the events that leveled most of Chicago, a secret CIA division known as “Cemetery Wind” is now hunting both Autobots and Decepticons. They are aided in this effort by Lockdown: a Transformer bounty hunter. (Yup, that’s a thing I guess.) Joshua Joyce (Stanley Tucci), runs the technology firm KSI, which breaks down the lifeless Transformers into a material they have engineered and for some reason named Transformium. KSI’s work with the Transformium leads to the creation of their own Transformer prototypes, completely controlled by them — but that would be too convenient if it all worked perfectly. (I haven’t even gotten to the “actual story” yet.)
In rural Texas, a struggling robotic inventor Cade Yeager (Mark Walhberg) and his partner Lucas (TJ Miller) purchase an old semi-truck to salvage for some quick cash to get Cade’s daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz), into college. Cade quickly discovers the truck is none other than Optimus Prime, the leader of the Autobots — soon after that, Lockdown and Cemetery Wind operatives storm onto the Yeagers’ farm and threaten them for information. On the run, Cade (and company) and the newly formed Autobots team search for answers about the new threat of the Autobots made from Transformium and the secret the dinosaurs took to the grave.
The synopsis above is all basic knowledge to anyone who has seen a trailer for the film. This is essentially the only portion of the story that was written. Many lines throughout the film felt forced or unneeded, as if much of the script was left up to the actors for improvisation. The direction it takes is confusing and there is no real motivation for any of the characters. One Autobot basically says “Screw it, why do this?” during the film and is immediately met with violence for going against what everyone else is doing, even though no one really knows exactly where their little band of misfits are headed next.
I was excited to see a new line up on the Autobots team, but one left me very uncomfortable in my seat. Drift is a new face to the franchise, and one not easily forgotten with the obvious samurai design and the head scratching voice performance from Ken Watanabe. Transformers: Age of Extinction has somehow reached a whole new level of racism topping even that of Revenge of the Fallen. Granted, all of the films have had some sort of racial undertone, (Transformers: Jazz, the only black voiced Autobot on the team is the only one to die in the entire movie), but I spent a good portion of the film sitting there trying to give them the benefit of the doubt with Drift. Yet I could not.
All Transformers are from another planet, they talk the way they do, and behave a certain way. On other planets, such as Earth, they may find customs they enjoy and adhere to those. Unless I’m mistaken, I do not think there are multiple languages on Cybertron, and if there were, the systems inside each Transformer would program (much like Bumblebee’s radio) to speak with each party fluently. So why do we have an Autobot speaking in broken English? He’s either become a caricature of the Japanese culture in relation to an American one, or he has a speaker malfunction, which can’t be since someone would have noticed and fixed him (I.E. Rachet… oh wait.). Don’t blame “that’s how it was in the show” on this one.
I have the most difficult time with suspending my disbelief and knowledge for films and will end up on a logical rant that enforces the movie’s written-in logic and rules if I’m not careful. The other thing while I’m at it that made the newest entry hard to get into was the obscene amount of product placement. I usually don’t mind one or two, and some can even be tastefully done and no one’s the wiser, but this movie is brimming at the seams with the perpetual amount of things in your face you don’t need. I can already see people opening their Budweiser bottles on the top of a car door. Also, don’t get me started on the Dinobots.
The whole movie’s plot left something HUGE to be desired, mainly a coherent story. When you feel like the movie is close to being done, remember that it ends in China. You won’t even be near China when it comes for you to wonder how much time is left. The score was top notch and actually helped make many scenes more encompassing amidst the explosions. The film wasn’t shot in 3D, but I had no idea until the credits. The masterful work throws dirt particles and sparks at you that really push you back into your seat to get away. The graphics are still top notch, and the ending could put the future fifth movie into something resembling the original 80’s Transformers movie. So I’m excited about that prospect.
While there’s no Sam Witwicky in this Transformers (Not even a mention Bumblebee? Rude.), but this fourth installment is in the same breadth as its predecessors. Stanley Tucci’s character really outshines Mark Walhberg, but they’re both pretty boring in terms of character development. Don’t even ask about his daughter or her lucky charm boyfriend. (Hey that’s racist too!)
While this reboot/continuation doesn’t pull out all the stops, it’s still nice to see Chicago, perfectly rebuilt (in five years), get its due again. I don’t really know who out there is calling this movie a reboot, because clearly it’s not. The Autobots are just hanging out with new friends, but I kinda miss the old gang.
Photos via: Paramount Pictures