Color me surprised, Transformers: Age of Extinction marks the first Transformers film that didn’t make me feel I infected with that brain eating amoeba currently haunting local lakes. It is easy to point a finger as Shia LaBeouf and declare he was the reason the films didn’t work for me in the past...but…and…listen, try as I might to not kick the lad while he is down the truth is that there is something to be said about his absence. Mark Wahlberg is ultimately a more likeable screen presence than LaBeouf and also a better actor. Of course none the Transformer films are true “acting” enterprises, but Wahlberg can at least make believable the dribble his character utters in a way that simply made my eyes roll out of my head when LaBeouf delivered similar dialogue.
Speaking of dialogue there is less cheesy dopiness than in previous Transformer efforts. The racial stereotypes that have received criticism in the past are kept to a minimum, well aren’t as plentiful. Sure, the transformers themselves have their usual give and take but gone from the scenario are the Keystone Cops type of elements.
Joining Wahlberg in ‘The Michael Bay Playhouse Actors’ Studio’ are Kelsey Grammer, Stanley Tucci and T.J. Miller. Grammer seems truly menacing as a rogue government agent/power broker. Tucci, as he always does, adds humor and intensity to the role of a villain who may or may not have a change of heart (no spoilers here). J.T. Miller is that familiar face you are currently seeing all over media but yet don’t know his name (he is one of the lead characters in the HBO show Silicone Valley) is cast in the comic relief character role. The hot under-aged daughter is played by Nicola Peltz, who has yet to prowl a Victoria Secret catwalk, and her snooze evoking boyfriend is played by Jack Reynor.
The story begins four years after the events of the third film. Billboards in Texas remind folks of the devastation in Chicago. It is here where we meet alpha-named down on his luck inventor Cade Yeager and his Daisy Duke short sporting daughter who only wants to get a scholarship into a good college and see her car racing boyfriend on side (the one her father doesn’t know about). They live in a foreclosed Norman Rockwell home decorated with all sorts of Americana. Their lives however change when Yeager attempts to salvage of an old truck and discovers it is really a tired “ain’t having it no more” Optimus Prime. From there Yeager is put in charge of saving humankind.
Optimus Prime and his friends are being hunted by an intergalactic transformer bounty hunter who pilots a bada$$ ship. His friends this time aroud include familiar transformers and a few new ones, most memorable being one voiced by John Goodman. Near the end of the movie, when all of the action is taking place in Beijing, the Dinobots are introduced.
Where these movies have always scored is in the CGI department and this one is no exception. There are lots of battles but overall Bay is able to keep them interesting.
Transformer 4 isn’t a great film by a long shot, but it is superior to the past Transformer offerings. It is an interesting movie to study from the point of view that it takes deliberate strides to appeal to the Chinese movie market even though rumors are that Paramount is only getting a cut of the Chinese gross. Transformers: Age of Extinction is the type of film that you have to see in a theater to appreciate. The small screen only emphasizes the silliness of the whole concept. I recommend the Transformers 4 if you are in the mood for a movie that is truly a summer blockbuster following the tradition first established by Steven Spielberg (one of the producers of the film) in Jaws.
My only quibbles are one, in the end we learn Optimus Prime can fly (as in fly like a space ship) which seems to throw off some of the plot points. Two, upon the death of one of the cast it looked as if he was made of steel. Is that supposed to be significant?