Movie Review: Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014)
EVEN THOUGH I FELL asleep halfway through the action scenes in Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon, having Mark Wahlberg as the new male lead in Transformers: Age of Extinction was enough to get me excited when the first trailer came out a few months ago. That and – hey – I don’t think I could give up on one of my favourite childhood robots.
Transformers 4 begins after the ‘Fall of Chicago’ in Transformers 3. As expected, whole lot of things are happening in the opening sequence: we see how Transformers arrived on earth during the prehistoric era, we see a Dinobot fossil unearthed in the Antarctic, and we see how the ‘Fall of Chicago’ in Transformers 3 has changed Earth’s (read: US) views towards all Transformers. WE DON’T WANT TO DEPEND ON THEM FOR PROTECTION SO THEY MUST BE HUNTED DOWN.
The CIA is doing the hunting down, with Kelsey Grammar in the lead as CIA director Harold Attinger whom nobody, not even the US President, can call into question on his operations. He is THAT powerful. US president knows nothing, which is seen through a cute exchange between incredibly nervous Chief of Staff (Thomas Lennon) trying to ask Attinger what the CIA is up to, pretty please?
We get the idea that the White House and the CIA are not on the same page when it comes to the Autobots: Mr President wants to find Optimus Prime to give him a photo-op worthy handshake before he gets shipped off Earth, and the CIA wants to destroy him.
From the shadowy CIA office to rural Texas, we meet struggling robotics inventor and single father Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg), his quirky surfer friend Lucas Flannery (TJ Miller) and teenage daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz).
Cade puts food on the table by salvaging electronic and electrical junk and turning them into robots. He’s got the passion, but his inventions come up short of their intended purpose. His determination to spend money they don’t have on ‘junk’ to make more junk is a cause for tension between him and Tessa, who’s worried about her future in university. That, and his clause on no dating. *sadface*
Anybody who’s seen the trailers will know that Cade’s luck changes when he hauls in a beat-up cab-over trailer, “I think we got a Transformer!” and what follows; CIA comes knocking on the Yeagers’ door, threats are made at gun-point, Optimus Prime comes crashing out of the barn in hyper-definition slow-mo.
What we don’t see in the trailers is the ‘mysterious stranger from the cornfields’, Tessa’s secret Irish racer boyfriend Shane Dyson (Jack Reynor) coming to the rescue of Cade, Lucas and Tessa in his souped-up Chevrolet Sonic. (You’ll get a lot of product placements being dropped in the movie: Bud Light, Victoria Secret, and what is possibly a tourism promo for Hong Kong, although I might be stretching that one a bit.)
At this point, the solid human element gets taken over by director Michael Bay’s need for speed, explosions and special effects. The story gets choppy from here on in, and you get the impression that the script for the actors was different from what ended up on screen as you see a mismatch of reactions to what’s happening around them.
Stanley Tucci, who plays KSI robotics mogul Joshua Joyce, almost saves the movie with his likability and his sarcastic, quick-witted lines. The women, geologist Darcy Tirell (Sophia Myles) and Beijing-based business partner Su Yueming (Lee Bing Bing) moreover, are actually interesting, strong, intelligent female characters, but don’t get enough screen time.
There are annoying exchanges between Cade and Shane throughout the movie, where both of them are trying to prove which one’s a better man for Tessa – the father whose passion for inventing has put them in the red and getting evicted, or the boyfriend who’s got a racing deal with Red Bull.
Before you vote for the Irish boy, there’s a scene in the movie that MIGHT change your mind, besides the fact that he’s a 20-year-old dating a 17-year-old girl.
And what about the Transformers?
I suppose being hunted down to extinction by the humans you swore to protect can make you a tad resentful, but there was little to nothing of the spark that made Optimus Prime, Optimus Prime. When it does show up, it’s just so that the Japanese Autobot, Drift (voiced by Ken Watanabe) can say, “Because he is Optimus Prime.”
In keeping with a little of the original Transformers’ storyline, Galvatron makes his debut here as the reincarnation of Megatron. He seems suitably evil, but his evil is overshadowed by a bounty hunter Transformer called Lockdown who is the main antagonist. Unless you’ve seen the cartoon series Transformers: Animated, you won’t understand from the movie alone who Lockdown is, who he works for and why.
It’s worth watching Transformers: Age of Extinction on the big screen for the special effects, so go with a bunch of friends and enjoy the cheesy one-liners that pop up from time to time.
Transformers: Age of Extinction
Director: Michael Bay
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Nicola Peltz, Stanley Tucci, Jack Reynor, Lee Bing Bing, Han Geng
Running time: 165 minutes