Movie Review - Transformers: Age of Extinction
|Who is this robot? Who cares?|
He's parachuting while shooting guns!
Crosshairs, if you must know.
Never fear the robots because they're too cartoonish. Never take them seriously because they're too cartoonish. After all, one robot is a freaking samurai! Never did director Michael Bay learn any lesson from James Cameron. The robots, despite loud clanging, never have any real weight, threat or terror. One evil robot came just short of stroking his beard and giving a maniacal laugh.
Deaths do occur but they rarely matter. It makes me wonder if the movie could have worked if we didn't follow Yeager and company who tag along for the robotic ride. I suppose their presence was necessary to make the "us-versus-them" argument at the end, but that argument could have been underscored without the need of Wahlberg's bad acting.
Wahlberg is funny at the beginning but his behavior in instances like running after a realtor who wants to sell his farm with a baseball bat is off-putting and less comical. He's supposed to come across as desperate and over-protective, but it all doesn't quite convey.
The screenplay by Ehren Kruger references the previous film a lot. A lot of the conflict comes as a reaction to the previous film's final battle scene, which laid waste to Chicago. Kelsey Grammar co-stars as Harold Attinger, the ultra-conservative leader of the CIA who thinks the alien robots, known as Autobots, should all be rounded up and killed or deported because of what happened in Chicago.
Helping him to do that is Stanley Tucci who plays Joshua Joyce, a scientist who has found a way to replicate the Autobots, perhaps to make their own slave robots or robot army. What he ends up creating is Frankenstein's monster named Galvatron who refuses to be controlled. Much like the so-called Winter Soldier from Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Galvatron is merely introduced here, perhaps to be a villain in the fifth Transformers.
Bay perhaps tries to make his human characters not feel so small by shooting low angles with the camera constantly looking up their noses. It also helps when framing his human characters in the same shot as one to two-story living machines. I'm not sure Bay ever reconciles the mis-match of scales here. I believe the humans and supremely larger robots exist together, but one never touches the other in still or quiet moments. It's always in action when both are clearly CGI. Unlike with Shia LaBeouf, you never feel like a rapport or bond ever forms between the leader of the Autobots, Optimus Prime, or any of the robots, with that of Yeager.
It's pointless to try to recount any of the plot because it's all dependent on the ridiculous premise that Grammar's character can act without any check from the President. Kruger also fails to point out Attinger's hypocrisy. Throughout the action scenes, Kruger and Bay will have characters point out obvious things that are happening on screen, almost as narration, but never does Kruger or Bay indicate that Attinger hates the alien robots and wants them gone, but all the while he's in bed with an alien robot named Lockdown.
What Kruger is good at doing is raising ideas but never exploring them. Either that or Bay buries any possible exploration under a rubble of CGI destruction. Since I've not seen all the Transformers films, I don't know if this was already explored, but this movie raises the idea that the humongous, alien robots have souls and perhaps their lives are just as precious as human life.
Instead of exploring this, Bay would rather pad and frankly bloat the running time with action scenes, which have no stakes, like a high-wire sequence to the Sears Tower, or of course make sure Bud Light beer gets its prominent product placement. Because there's only so many different ways to destroy a city in these alien invasion or disaster movies, echoes from other films are seen as well as heard. I was reminded of Spielberg's War of the Worlds and even most recently Mr. Peabody & Sherman.
Nicola Peltz who plays Yeager's teen daughter Tessa is merely the damsel in distress. Jack Reynor who plays her boyfriend Shane might as well have not been there. He contributes nothing. A better father-daughter-boyfriend dynamic was done in the Oscar-nominated, animated feature The Croods. A way better performance from Reynor is the independent, Irish film What Richard Did.
I also thought this film didn't warrant the ending that felt ripped from Prometheus (2012). The beginning is rather ripped from the Ridley Scott film too in that you see aliens visiting the Earth in its infancy or at least what might be its dinosaur period, although a similar opening scene occurs in The X-Files (1998) as well. Again, Kruger raises the idea of "the creator" of the alien robots but never wants to explore it. Otherwise, it's just set up for the next film.
One Star out of Five.
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, language and brief innuendo.
Running Time: 2 hrs. and 45 mins.