Revisiting a franchise after a hiatus has not been a sound idea as of late. “Scream 4” was the weakest film and undid a lot of the mystique of the original three. “Spy Kids” went for a spinoff and turned up dead on arrival. Don’t even mention Captain Jack’s fourth outing across the Caribbean. With so many retreads and sequels to established ideas, it’s surprising how more franchises don’t become stale. By stepping away from the franchise long enough to make “Pain and Gain,” Michael Bay returns with one of the better stories in his “Transformers” universe.
“Transformers: Age of Extinction” picks up ten years after the destruction of the Chicago, all Autobots and Decepticons are being hunted and killed. The human race, especially the U. S. government, wants to avoid and eliminate any further risk caused by the extraterrestrial robotic life forms. With the remaining Autobots in hiding, an inventor named Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) discovers Optimus Prime. With his only daughter Tessa graduating high school and bills piling up, Tessa attempts to persuade her father to turn in Optimus for the reward money. But when word gets out, the government puts Cade and his daughter on their wanted list. As the Autobots scramble to defeat a new enemy, Cade tries to save the only family he has left and help stop global destruction.
Mark Wahlberg seems right at home in the world of living machines. His character and storyline feel so much more relatable and believable than Shia Labeouf’s. Despite having a run time that is longer than all previous “Transformer” films, the story felt more human and realized that the previous two installments. The sense of character and honor are more visible, even if the film is one big popcorn blockbuster. Even with the big budget and the heavy CGI, the story is grounded and retains Bay’s signature bigness and comic timing.
This film is the movie to beat for top grossing movie of the summer (and year). The quality may not be, but this is a step closer to recapturing the excitement and freshness of the original. 3 out of 5 stars.