Explosions, hot women, a touch of plot and a slice of Americana in early summer, can mean only thing. A Michael Bay summer blockbuster, and Transformers: Age of Extinction does little to disappoint.
Bay, the much-maligned and uber-hated director of the last three Transformers movies serves up another hulking hunk of explosions, women and inter-galactic carnage in his latest 165-minute tour de force, Age of Extinction. Set four years after Dark of the Moon, Autobots and Decepticons are now hunted down by humans after the 9/11-esque “Remember Chicago” mantra.
At the risk of not revealing any major plot points, I will stop right here and say that if you are a Bay-hater, who lives to bash the brash master of sex and destruction, you will not be disappointed as you will be subject to Bay dangling his newest muse in Nicola Peltz who skirts around in short-shorts, tank-tops and shows plenty of leg in playing Tessa Yeager, the daughter of main protagonist and struggling inventor, Cade Yeager(Mark Wahlberg).
Wahlberg, who replaces Shia LeBeouf, is a welcome and much-needed breath of fresh air in adding a sense of maturity in playing an over-protective and widowed father, as opposed to LeBeouf’s neurotic and anxious Sam Witwicky, who struggled for constant attention.
While many reviews of TF4 have mostly been negative—mainly due to Bay—I have to say that as a life-long Transformers fan, who grew up on the original 80’s cartoon—and is very familiar with the Generation 1 canon—that I was pleasantly surprised in the more darker and serious tone that bay went in AoE. One area that I particularly enjoyed was the departure of the annoying comic relief, teenage-angst and immature sophomoric, sexual innuendos that dragged down the first Transformers trilogy.
As Bay stated, TF4: AoE was the start of a new trilogy, and it clearly showed, as Optimus stated, “the rules have changed”
In a scary and all-to-real foreshadowing of the present, you have Stanley Tucci—channeling his inner Steve Jobs—plays Joshua Joyce, head of KSI, a contractor who has developed and reverse-engineered their own Transformers, thanks to the dead remains of Autobots and Decepticons in a shadowy human-alien alliance to rid Earth of all Transformers alongside CIA agent Harold Attinger(Kelsey Grammer) and Titus Welliver(James Savoy)
Sophia Myles, Bingbing Li, Jack Reynor and T.J. Miller provide passable supporting characters and background fodder in Bay’s latest droid demolition derby. The Transformers franchise has never been known for it’s actors, and TF4 does not disappoint in this area as most of the human cast with the exception of Wahlberg and Grammer carry an otherwise mediocre cast.
The main star of TF4 is the bounty hunter, Lockdown(Mark Ryan), who manages to steal the movie as a deadly menace worthy of fighting Optimus Prime(Peter Cullen) droid-to-droid. Other standout performances was that trigger-happy munitions expert, Hound(John Goodman), Crosshairs(John DiMaggio), and of course, the Dinobots.
A long-time favorite from the cartoon series, the Dinobots, Grimlock, Strafe, Slug and Scorn are called upon by Prime for reinforcements after escaping Lockdown’s ship. One area that may alienate many die-hard TF fans is the lack of screen time and development given to Galvatron(Frank Welker) as he seemed more of a background and secondary character to Lockdown.
While some can see this as a way to set up Galvatron’s rise to power in TF5—and possibly TF6, many were hoping to see more of the re-formatted Megatron, which is a big disappointment to many fans.
Once again, the special effects and action help TF4 stand out, as the last hour alone is on par—if not better than the epic metal-knuckle downtown Chicago street fight in Dark of the Moon. While TF4 is hindered by a lack of substance and plot, this is a summer action movie that prides itself on action, carnage and destruction, which it delivers masterfully. This writer will go on record and rate TF4: AoE slightly above Dark of the Moon, but below the first Transformers, thanks to it’s action, special effects and jaw-dropping visuals.
As stated, while the human cast is a bit flat, Wahlberg, Grammer and Lockdown are a more serious, darker and mature trio of characters that you cannot help but be drawn too, as all are fighting for their own reasons, one for the safety of his daughter in Yeager, another for his country and survival of his race in Attinger and the return the Transformers back to their creator in Lockdown.
Overall, if you’re looking for an excuse to blow two and a half hours in the summer and expecting to find the next low-budget, Emmy-worthy independent/art flick, Transformers 4 is not for you, as it is long, loud and proud. Critics will continue to bash and malign anything Bay touches. Make no mistake, before criticizing the “Master of Disaster”, be sure to keep an open mind and your expectations low, as you will certainly come away deaf, entertained and awe-struck in an otherwise all-around solid action movie.
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