Four for four? Anyone that has ever questioned why Hollywood continues to push out sequel after sequel, just look at the “Transformers” series. It’s one that technically didn’t need more than one movie, yet we are at number four and possibly moving to a fifth. Fans of the series clearly love it though, having poured into theaters accounting for over $3 billion in box office revenue. That’s crazy and why I almost had no choice but to go watch “Transformers: Age of Extinction.” I just wish it would have lived up to the hype and followed suit a bit better as it just felt like a fourth installment with very little connection to its predecessors.
What’s it about? I’m still trying to figure it out, but it appears as if it’s been a few years since the Battle of Chicago that took place in the last film. Because Chicago is built back up and seemingly better than ever thanks to KSI, a company who apparently was able to crack the code and start building a fleet of Transformers. This fleet was led by one Galvatron, said to be molded after Megatron and his brain according to KSI head Joshua Joyce (Stanley Tucci). And while Galvatron was made by humans, it possessed the unstable metal transformium, which was in all original Transformers. But, something wasn’t right, especially when local inventor Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) bought an old semi to use for parts only to find out it was really Optimus Prime. Next thing he knew, he was helping his new transformer and the Autobots figure out who was hunting down the remaining transformers. That path of course led back to KSI, where they eventually figure out the human-made transformers were part of an even bigger plan leading to ridiculous yet questionable conclusion full of action and intrigue.
Who was in it? Unfortunately this cast turned over quite a bit since the last time we saw them. That’s unfortunate as I think they really had a good thing going with Shia Labeouf as it didn’t feel the same without him. And whether that’s because this film is technically the start to a new trilogy or not, I think not having him in any capacity was a mistake. Because at some point with any series you have to be able to tie the past to the present, no matter what took place in-between. Without that, you’re left with a whole new set of characters with no relevance. Sure the transformers were there, but it’s a little challenging to grade them. Plus Peter Cullen is such a pro as Optimus Prime by now that you almost look past what he does in these films. John Goodman was a pleasant surprise though playing Hound, which eerily looked just like him.
As for Mark Wahlberg, who I never expected to be in a series like this; he was just OK given I could never buy into his character fully. I mean, he is supposed to be playing a struggling inventor, so where he learned how to wield a gun the way he did in this film is beyond me. Clearly that was not part of the overextended backstory they gave us on him and his daughter played by Nicola Peltz. Yet, there he was acting as if he had done it before making me question his character even more that I already was. And I like Wahlberg, so to see that happen in a film like this was disappointing. That being said, I did enjoy the addition of Stanley Tucci, who played the KSI figurehead. He always brings a unique twist to a film in my mind and here proved that yet again stealing each scene he was in.
Too big to fail – Setting aside the absurd box office numbers for a minute, I believe the popularity of this series has made it to a certain level. And much as I hate to admit it, it’s because of director Michael Bay. He had an outline and so far has managed it perfectly over the course of the past four films, given the buzz that always surrounds these films. It’s actually quite amazing when you figure no one gave him a chance when he started this back in 2007. I just wish he carried what worked so well with “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” into this fourth installment, as it just never seemed to get on track. Some sort of ‘cinematic bridge’ from the last film to this one would have gone a long way into understanding why we’re now going in this whole new direction. Listen, I’m not a hardcore fan of this series by any means, but I do enjoy the extreme action and subtle humor that tends to accompany it. There just wasn’t enough of that and by the time it does come, you’re so tired from the extended background story from Wahlberg’s character, you don’t care as much. That’s a problem given the fact the primary reason we are watching these films is for the Transformers themselves, so when they are not around as much, what’s the point?
Bottom Line – For fans of this series, they will go and watch a film that winds up being better than “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen,” but not by much. That’s both a good thing and bad thing as we move forward with a series that probably should have stopped after the third installment.
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