When director Michael Bay brought the famed Transformers to the big-screen in live action form it was met with mixed results. Despite being a box office mega-hit the hardcore fans have been pretty vocal about their dislike with what he did with the robots in disguise. Clearly their hatred hasn’t wavered their willingness to check them out since it not only spawned a full trilogy with the original cast he has now done a reboot of sorts continuing the story with an all new cast in the fourth entry Transformers: Age of Extinction. Could this be the one that finally gets fans back on track with the franchise or are they too far gone to be transformed?
Transformers: Age of Extinction follows the aftermath of the Chicago battle where a paranoid government official has now set his sights on wiping out all the Transformers, both Autobots and Decepticons. When an down on his luck inventor mechanic and his daughter make an unexpected discovery it will thrust them into the war between not only the Transformers, but against the government hell bent on taking them down. Like them or not there is no denying that each of these films gets bigger in scope and destruction with seemingly no chance to get any bigger. Bay has once again proven that he can still take it to the next level by not only bringing his usual love of destruction to the story, but also delivering the first film to be shot on the new IMAX camera. This new process gives the film an even bigger feel and helps them to deliver some amazing visuals. The sweeping shots of the landscapes alone make the film look amazing, but when they CGI effects of the Transformers themselves are added to the mix it is a site to behold. Bay has mastered his craft with these films to perfectly mesh the giant robots into our world like they were actually there making it even easier to buy into.
The new cast including Mark Wahlberg, Stanley Tucci, Kelsey Grammer, Nicola Peltz, Jack Reynor, Titus Welliver, Bingbing Li, T.J. Miller, Peter Cullen, John Goodman, and Ken Watanabe give it a fresh facelift without feeling like they are starting over. There is no mention of anyone from the previous cast and instead just use the discussion of the battle of Chicago as the connection to it all. Kelsey Grammer probably gives one of the best performances making for a great bad guy, a far cry from his ‘Fraiser’ persona that made him famous. Goodman and Watanabe step in as some of the new Autobots and both mesh in great with Goodman being the most entertaining and Watanabe looking the coolest to date. While it isn’t a surprise at this point in the series there is still something about hearing Cullen’s Optimus Prime that takes you back to your childhood and makes everything work like it should. Hardcore fans of the Transformers are likely to be angry with the designs and directions of the story as always since they are not taking things back to the beginning to change everything. There are a few moments here with some homage to the original designs of Prime, but still make sure to take him back to his cinematic design. While these same fans will be excited to finally see the Dinobots come to life they are likely to complain about their origins, which actually make sense, and the lack of their original personalities. As far as the story goes there is a lot going on and enough for a couple of films and even though it has such a long run time does feel rushed at times to make sure they get all in there.
The real star of these films is always the action and there is plenty of it here. This film runs about two and a half hours and seems to be filled with enough destruction and car chases to fill two films. The fighting was some of the better of the franchise as you can much more clearly see the robots doing their thing. The biggest issue here is that there are numerous moments with the human characters that are just way to unbelievable. Every one of them should have died numerous times, but when you step back and realize you are watching a movie about alien robots that turn into vehicles and dinosaurs it is a bit easier to accept. The 3D works pretty well adding the depth that most of them use, but also showcased numerous moments where stuff actually came off the screen like 3D should. This is a big film shot for IMAX and should be seen that way.
While this film is likely to be another huge hit at the box office there will no doubt be a major backlash from the hardcore fans that just can’t separate the two. We all have things that we are fans of but there is a separation from the original source material and others interpretation of it. Sure there is a reason that the original material became so popular, but there has to be evolution and Bay has done a good job with this franchise bringing something fairly ridiculous into the real world. Those that have already decided that they hate everything that Bay does will hate this movie going in or avoid it all together, but those willing to just go in, have a good time, and let it be what it is will likely have a good time.