Transformers: Age of Extinction

Genre: Action

Director: Michael Bay

Writer: Ehren Kruger, based on Hasbro’s Transformers action figures

Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Stanley Tucci, Kelsey Grammer, Nicola Peltz, Jack Reynor, Sophia Myles, Li Bingbing, Titus Welliver, T.J. Miller

Running Length: 165 minutes

Synopsis: A mechanic and his daughter make a discovery that brings down Autobots and Decepticons – and a paranoid government official – on them.

Review: By the end of a very trying 165 minutes, the only thoughts of extinction I had in my mind were the (futile) ones about the franchise itself. Despite a reboot with a brand new cast of humans, Age of Extinction is essentially a showcase of all the worst possible traits of a Michael Bay action blockbuster – it’s hopelessly self-indulgent, totally devoid of any depth or character development, and features explosion upon explosion upon explosion (Michael Bay is not joking when he says he loves to blow shit up) way past the point of tedium. Add to that a complete disregard of subtlety with its scores of product placements (just imagine Jack Neo given the reins of a Hollywood blockbuster) and the fact that this is the first installment for another planned trilogy, it’s difficult for me to muster up anything positive to say about the movie at all. The irony is that the film is a criticism-proof one, sure to net massive box office no matter what anyone says about it, especially since every other summer blockbuster giving the film a very wide berth.

Ehren Kruger once again returns as the scribe for Age of Extinction, but the screenplay practically writes itself, given that it’s really no different from all the Transformers movies before it. Despite this, somehow Age of Extinction is the longest-running Transformers movie yet (oh how I tremble at using the word “yet” – as if there’s a potential that the next two movies could run even longer than the current marathon length), though “only” by an extra ten minutes. Much like the previous Transformers, there’s still no reason for Age of Extinction to run this long – it’s a bloated behemoth of a movie that would really have worked far, far better if it was shaved down to about 90 minutes, but it wouldn’t be a Michael Bay movie if not for excess, would it?

Although the action is much clearer this time round, further improving upon Dark of the Moon, it is also mind-numbing to sit through a seemingly infinite number of action sequences, and because the audience is never vested in the outcome due to the paucity of plot, none of it actually feels like it matters in any way. That being said, the editing of the film still leaves a lot to be desired, and Bay’s signature style of rapid-fire editing becomes increasingly annoying the longer the film unspools.

In an attempt (I presume) to stir things up visually, and also obviously because Chinese money is being invested in the franchise, the finale moves the action to China and Hong Kong, but with the final confrontation running almost an hour long, the catatonia sets in long before the end credits had rolled. The change in location does not make any part of the movie feel fresh in any way, and the same tired movie tropes are paraded in front of the audience. The much-vaunted appearance of the Dinobots is woefully short and inconsequential, with the new robots being nothing more than a ride for the existing Autobots. I honestly can’t imagine any fanboys of the Dinobots feeling sated by their existence in the movie.

The entire human cast of the first trilogy has been jettisoned, and the replacement cast is indeed better (Mark Wahlberg is a far more agreeable presence than Shia LaBeouf), but with such a bare-bones script (and frequently laughable dialogue), there’s simply not much the cast could do to rescue the movie. The only actor to make any impression is Stanley Tucci, and that’s really only because he’s playing a broad caricature of Steve Jobs and gets all the funny lines in the script. I did, however, appreciate the fact that Li Bingbing was given a whole lot more to do than Fan Bingbing in X-Men: Days of Future Past. There’s no doubt that financially, Age of Extinction will make a ton of money, ensuring that the next movie will not be far away, but given the terrible state of affairs for this current film, it’s hard to imagine anyone other than action junkies and Transformers fans feeling enthused about another future episode of this mechanical, soulless franchise.

Rating: * (out of four stars)

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