How do you try to reboot of a franchise while making it a sequel? How do you make it seem fresh and new while maintaining some resemblance of the previous installments? Michael Bay had a lot of questions to answer for [Transformers: Age of Extinction](movie:206531). Question is, was he successful? Did he give us the Transformers movie we all wanted to see? Did he accomplish the feat of giving us the best summer blockbuster that blew our minds? I'm not 100% sure.
Released just over the weekend, Transformers: Age of Extinction on the cusp of summer season, raked in a satisfying $100 million. The biggest opening weekend so far for 2014, but does that mean that it was great? Let's see! While Transformers: Age of Extinction was a decent attempt to rebirth the franchise, it fell flat in some areas. Areas that - to an avid moviegoer like myself - made me want question the director. This will not be a traditional review where I break down each topic (plot, story telling, action etc.) Instead, I'll try to break down The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly.
**Spoiler Warning** Notice in the title of this article, it DOES NOT SAY "Spoiler Free". I'll try to maintain some decorum, however if I slip up, you have been warned!
Transformers: Age of Extinction introduces a whole new cast of characters. Set 4 years after the Chicago attack in Transformers: Dark of The Moon, the humans have not forgot. The civilians fear the robots while the government is hunting them down at ALL cost. As a result, the remaining Autobots are in hiding. The story leads to a family from Texas. Mark Wahlberg plays Cade Yeager, an inventor and a father. You have a cliche "Mother dies so daddy has to bare responsibility of raising the daughter right." It was a little predictable but it worked. Honestly it did. But, he also plays a strong protector of his family. When he discovers Optimus Prime in an abandoned movie theater, his gut tells him that there is more to this clunker that meets the eye. Tessa Yeager, played by Nicola Peltz, did a sufficient job holding the role down. She didn't seem as annoying and dim-witted as Megan Fox's Mikaela Banes (who knew her last name?)
You can't have an action-packed, end-of-the-world film without a strong antagonist. It just does not work! Kelsey Grammer was PHENOMENAL as the bad guy. He plays the government official who is calling all the shots. He proves he will do whatever it takes to protect his nation, even willing to embrace the dark side. This was perfect casting. In contrast to the government trying to weaponize the alien technology, you have the misguided scientist/inventor who is trying to "make mankind better." Well in a sense. Stanley Tucci was icing on the cake in this department. His character seemed a little bipolar at times, but that's what made it work. Very unpredictable and I liked what route they ended up going. I will not spoil.
Now let's touch on The Autobots and The Decepticons. Returning is Optimus, Bumblebee and Brains (Where the F**k was Wheelie?) New to the cast of the good guys, you have Crosshairs, Hound, and Drift. They all had their time to shine, however Hound stole the final act. John Goodman really rocked the theater with his voice acting as badass hound. The Decepticons however, who do we have? Galvatron? The government have recovered the severed head of Megatron, and with it they have built their own army of robots with Galvatron as the supposed leader. The main antagonist however was Lockdown. He is down right a bad ass mutha f*cka! He played an alien bounty hunter to the T. Disgusted with the race, it seems as if he had his own personal vendetta but who was he working for?
The Dinobots were bad ass! I will not lie. From the introductory scene in the woods, to the rampaging down city streets tearing Decepticons limb from limb was just a spectacle to see. I can't go into much without any spoilers but it was worth the wait for the reveal because they kicked ass.
The best part of the film is the action. Here, Michael Bay has turned it up a notch. From exciting chases, to robot battles, the action is in your face and you feel you are a part of it. The sound was amazing, the score set the tone, and the choreography was on par. You don't go into a Bay film for an in depth story, heavy plot, or amazing character development. You go for heart-pumping action and Age of Extinction Delivered. The film also sets up for another franchise. The door is open, but who will step through?
While the film excels in some areas, it fails in others. The main complaint is the run time. Topping out at 165 mins, the movie felt dragged in some parts. I know there has to be a distinction between humans and robots. I know they have to have enough time for development. But c'mon? Really? 2 hours and 45 mins?! I looked to the left, my wife was had a "blah" face. I looked to me right, the guy next to me looked like he was passing out. I, on the other hand, HAD to stick my eyes to the screen so I could soak it all in. Another bad about this film was Galvatron. He got a total time of what, maybe 10 mins of screen time? He is shown to take over in the final act but dude was NOWHERE to be seen until the very end. Where was he hiding? There are too many to detail without spoiling it so I'll just leave it there as they were my main complaints.
The Downright UGLY!
The story didn't make sense. Point blank and simple. Let me explain. Lockdown tells Optimus that he wasn't born, but created. Ok, that's a nice twist, but he goes around "cleaning up" the mistakes and he lets Galvatron go free? I know he is under orders, but he clearly seems to be making it personal as well. Another thing I did not like was the story of the Dinobots. It seemed VERY unimaginative. The beginning exposition of how the dinosaurs became extinct was very promising, but how the Dinobots arrive on the scene (spoiler alert), is explained by the fact they were prisoners on Lockdown's ship. REALLY? And then it is said that Optimus was created as one of "The Knights" along with the Dinobots yet looks NOTHING like them. I did like the scale difference however. In robot form, they tower over Optimus. Which leads me to my next point. The designs of the new Autobots were lazy. They have literal faces now, but nothing oustanding really. Sure, they had more character and personality, I just felt like the design was slapped together. Hound stole the show but not necessarily in a good way. Crosshairs, and Drift seemed to be absent during the climax of the battle scene. The last bad I would like to mention was the editing. It seemed Bay didn't want to sit through take after take of his almost 3 hours movie to make sure everything was right. In one shot you will have an empty car, and a second after, miraculously passengers were sitting in it. Then we had missiles going through people as if they were ghosts. The editing wasn't right and sure it might be minor, but it made a big difference to me.
Overall, Bay recycled the same formula he did for the previous 3 films. It was a rehash, but it was satisfying enough for entertainment. The humor was toned down a little but still maintained a light mood. The plot is the same as the 3rd. Age of Extinction does open up doors but unfortunately wasn't an OMG moment of a film. It is my second favorite in the franchise next to Dark of The Moon, but maybe I just went in with high hopes. There is already talks of Transformers 5. I can only hope some questions will be answered, as well as finesse and care to make the film more polished.
Solid score of C+ (7.7 - 7.9 / 10)