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Transformers: Age Of Extinction – Review
July 11, 2014
Where to start with a franchise like Transformers? This latest installment in the blockbuster saga is the fourth one, so we should all know what we’re in for when we buy a ticket to see the show. And Michael Bay knows this too: he takes what has worked in the last three films, what has earned him box office millions (loud action and robots fighting) and ramps it up to eleven, because that’s the only thing left to do in a franchise devoid of many ideas.
But, nearly three hours of robots fighting is a step too far for Bay this time, it’s simply exhausting. There was one time when Transformers would be considered fun or a popcorn flick, but this darts along into a pointless exercise for special effects students and product placement. All the explosions and clunking metal on the screen repeating itself over and over again is like being stuck on a three hour plane, and the magazine you have is interesting for the first hour, but then you’re left just reading the same articles over and over again for the next two.
In this film, action takes precedence over the story. But even the action falls behind the past franchise standards. They leave the action going on for too long, overcooked and with no idea of where one action scene ends and the other begins, that it becomes a tasteless spectacle. With the sheer amount of colossal destruction of cities and lives, it somehow misfires and seems to obliterate any memorable scene that the audience could take away with them.
This time around, after the epic battle that left the US torn and destroyed in the last film, the Autobots are being hunted as terrorists. But, with Mark Wahlberg and a cohort of new humans to replace the old cast, Optimus Prime and co. put aside the betrayal of humans to protect them from a whole new batch of villains. There are a few different bad guys here – there’s Kelsey Grammer as the government official taking on the Autobots, the mysterious alien bounty hunters that have come to take control of the situation, and the robots the humans themselves are making (enter a Steve Jobs-like Stanley Tucci), which they hope will protect them, but as you know with most stories, that’s not always how it goes. The film also takes us to China, in what’s thought to be a play at taking advantage of the Chinese box office which has been long neglected by Hollywood.
There are too many problems in the film to dissect in this review, starting with the uncomfortable sexualization of a 17-year-old character in which they are forced to bring up Texan defence laws against statutory rape in dialogue to clarify that her relationship with the twenty-year-old is perfectly legal. There’s also the overdrawn action, the insensitively stereotyped characters inhabiting the robots, and hell, they even throw in a slavery joke. And then there’s the crumbling dialogue. It is understood no one goes to a Transformers film to watch the crème de la crème in monologues and tense debates – even if the film does seem to gloss over talks of the human soul, the US immigration debate, and the problematic accelerating progress of human innovation.
Yet it seems as the film wears on, the characters themselves find it hard to piece together coherent phrases, resulting in Mark Wahlberg, a scientific inventor bent on making a masterpiece (only a tad more believable than his impression as a science teacher in The Happening), screaming out ‘Algorithms!’ ‘Maths!’ at one point. Character development leaves the room early on, and you feel for both Stanley Tucci and Kelsey Grammer for putting in quality performances with what is given to them. There also comes a point where after all the destruction and lives lost from the fight scenes, although the robots seem to protect humans, they’re also fairly careless when it comes to collateral damage, that you begin to wonder whether it’s worth just siding with the government official who wants to destroy all robots, even the good ones.
This film comes with what it promised, loud special effects-driven action, yet even this might not be enough to woo that audience that have propped up the franchise so far. It’s hard to think that this stale overwrought action scenes that leave cities destroyed and robots in the junkyard could be boring. Yet, with more films promised in the franchise, I’ll hold my breath to see if Bay and co. have any other ideas left in the tank for how robots can fight each other for three hours.
Transformers: Age Of Extinction is out in UK cinemas