Transformers: Age of Extinction Review

by

Like it or not, the new Transformers movie is here!  It’s 1:30 am as I write this, after just viewing the latest adventure of Optimus and friends.  How was it?  Read on and find out!  MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD!

transformers-age-of-extinction-posterTRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION
Producers: Michael Bay, Ian Bryce, Matthew Cohan, Tom DeSanto, Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Brian Goldner, K.C. Hodenfield, Michael Kase, Don Murphy, Steven Spielberg, Mark Vahradian
Director: Michael Bay
Writer: Ehren Kruger
Stars: Mark Wahlberg, Stanley Tucci, Kelsey Grammer, Nicola Peltz, Jack Reynor, Titus Welliver, Sophia Myles, Bingbing Li, T.J. Miller, James Bachman, Thomas Lenon, Charles Parnell, and more
Cinematographer: Amir Mokri
Distributor: Paramount Pictures
Runtime: 165 minutes

Previously in Transfomers: After defending the earth from destruction at the hands of Megatron and Sentinel Prime, the Autobots have had to go into hiding.  Seems humans don’t like having their cities destroyed by giant alien robots.

LET’S GET IT OUT IN THE OPEN

I’m going to start by saying I’m a huge Transformers fan.  HUGE.  You want to know the capital of Cybertron?  I’m the nerd to ask. I’m going to be as unbiased as possible but feel this needs to be said up front.  I make no apologies for the live-action movies, nor for enjoying them as much as I have.  First, lets run down my brief opinions of the previous three.

TRANSFORMERS:  I don’t care what some may say now, when this movie came out it blew people away.  For months I was ridiculed by a friend for being excited for a live-action Transformers film only to have him walk out smiling and now a huge fan.  It had many nods to the G1 series and of course changed many things.  I didn’t much issues with the changes and enjoyed it thoroughly. TRANSFORMERS:

REVENGE OF THE FALLEN:  It’s not a good movie.  The problem  is it’s a product of the writer’s strike at the time.  As a Transformers movie, I still argue some of its quality.  The obscure Transformers history and references throughout were impressive.  The Fallen, a character I never thought would be in the movies let alone gain head billing, was present, as was the Matrix of Leadership, a Pretender type bot, Jetfire’s faction switch, etc.  The action scenes became less frantic but the story, if you could call it that, was severely lacking.

TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON: My favorite of the three.  The end set piece in Chicago is mind blowing and there is again great Transformers lore.  Sentinel Prime and Megatron’s plan to bring Cybertron to earth’s atmosphere is straight out of the three part “Ultimate Doom” story from the original cartoon.  Plus, it had Shockwave, my favorite bot.

PLOT RECAP – SPOILERS AHEAD

No matter what some may say or think, people are going to see this movie even if they hate the others.  It’s a fact.  Not all mind you, but I went with someone who loathed the first and has seen very little of the other two.  Apparently, Optimus Prime riding Grimlock will put anyone’s butt in the seat.  Transformers fans are the minority audience member.  These are films for the masses The story starts with a great idea.  After Chicago, the government is untrusting of Transformers and a CIA team called “Cemetery Wind” is dispatched to find remaining Decepticons and kill them.  Like any good government agency, there are lies and no discrimination between Autobots and Decepticon.  Plus, they’re working with Lockdown, a bounty hunter Transformer sent by the Creators, beings responsible for Cybertronian existence to bring in the “Knights,” of which Optimus is one.  Optimus is found by Chuck Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) and reactivated.  He regroups remaining Autobots, and from there it spirals out of control into somewhat of a jumbled mess. In exchange for helping Lockdown, the human not only get alien tech, but will receive the Seed, a bomb of sorts that cyberforms giant areas of planets.  KSI, a company working with Cemetery Wind has used Transformers tech to create their own robots and are using the head of Megatron to do so.  This leads to the creation of Galvatron (finally voiced by Frank Welker), which is Megatron’s remaining intelligence manipulating KSI into recreating him and a Decepticon army in hope of getting the Seed and destroying Earth.  KSI falls, Autobots want to leave Earth after stopping Galvatron, with the help of the Dinobots.  Fighting, explosions, the end.

I LIKED IT, BUT MY BRAIN HURTS

Lets start with the good.  The action is again the main selling point, as has been for the previous films.  It’s fun if overwrought, but easier to distinguish between good and bad bots and amazing to watch.  I saw the 2D version but it’s clear that Bay has learned to establish depth which will work to the 3D’s advantage.  The Transformers personalities are more evident as well, helped by some great voice acting.  Seeing Optimus and team giving up on humans and downright hatred was an understandable point as their protection has been ignored and unappreciated.  While all of the movies have used some kind of Transformers lore or influence, it isn’t all Generation 1.  They’ve pulled from various incarnations while crafting their own universe.  Here it is done the least, and the majority appears to be from Transformers Animated.  Lockdown’s character and “job” are the same, and Megatron’s head secret controlling tech is straight out of that series.  The Knights are mentioned, reminiscent of the Knights of Cybertron and other minor elements are sprinkled in as well.  Lockdown is the best villain of the series by far. Brutal in his methods and personality, he is a great threat.  Hound is a total badass and made for some great scenes.  And of course the Dinobots and final act in China could be worth the admission alone.  I was pleased to see they had robot modes, all of which are well designed. Of course, ILM’s effects continue to blow the mind and at very little points looked unconvincing.  Kelsey Grammar and Titus Welliver are the best of the cast and the humor is less ridiculous.  The action is what will pull in crowds and keep the audience entertained.

MICHAEL BAY’S GREATEST HITS

Walking out of the film, my companion said, “That was such a Michael Bay film” and he couldn’t be more right.  You want explosions, there here in gigantic abundance.  Unfortunately, he seems to have recycled many of the coolest parts of the previous movies, especially Dark of the Moon.  Once again, humans are thrown out of a vehicle only to be saved by an Autobot who Transformers back into his alt mode.  Slow mode shots are prevalent, this time to mainly emphasize drama, and come off silly rather than emotional.  Jokes are recycled and even a kiss in the sunset takes place at the end.  The human element is once again the weakest, as Mark Wahlberg consistently reminds us he’s a caring father and the bickering between her boyfriend becomes old quick.  Plus the choices made by them are beyond ridiculous.  A highly skilled mechanic, of which Wahlberg is unconvincing, who can create robots thinks it a wise idea to escape Lockdown’s ship by walking across thin unstable wires to a building hundreds of feet away. On the robot side, the Dinobots appear only at the end for less screen time than I was expecting even though it is some of the coolest parts of the movie.  The Creators are never revealed, though I’m guessing Quintessons, and by the end too many plot threads are left dangling.  Galvatron escapes vowing to finish Prime and Optimus leaves Earth with the Seed in search of the Creators.  For a movie close to three hours in length, it feels bloated with too many ideas that are never resolved.  My greatest problem with the series is for robots in disguise, they certainly choose cars that stand out.  You don’t see many concept Lambos or high priced luxury cars driving down the street, though this time some are adequately explained.  The metal that composes Transformers is called Transformium, as ridiculous as Unobtainium but explained better (focus groups).  While I enjoyed the inclusion of different references to source material, there wasn’t as many which a let down.  Optimus leaving Earth worries me of his absence in sequels and where this will lead the franchise.  Maybe Peter Cullen demanded a bigger check?

BOTTOM LINE: WHAT YOU EXPECT IS WHAT YOU GET

If you’ve stuck around this far you no doubt know what you’re getting.  A giant popcorn flick with grandiose action pieces of giant robots beating the hell out of each other.  The Dinobots are the coolest but get little screen time for the amount of hype they received and the human cast’s acting is poor as well as the story.  The nods to multiple Transformers source material are nice but much less than previous entries which disheartened me greatly and the ending leaves concerns of where the future installments will go.  I recommend it for fans of the movies and even Transformers but those hoping the new human cast ups the quality will be let down.  I was slightly less disappointed than when I walked out of the second one.  Transformers: Age of Extinction gets 2.5 out of 5 stars, though I personally felt it a close 3 cause c’mon, it’s Transformers.