Director: Michael Bay
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Nicola Peltz, Jack Reynor, Kelsey Grammer, T.J. Miller, and Stanley Tucci
Review Written By: Michael Dalton (Prime Minister)
In this film the world is reeling from the events in Chicago at the end of Transformers: Dark of the Moon. Consequently all Transformers, whether the good Autobots or the bad Decepticons, are being hunted by the U.S. government. However Kelsey Grammer’s shadowy government figure is being aided by a robot named Lockdown, who is part of the alien race which created the Transformers and wants to see their eradication (I think). Kelsey Grammer also has some sort of deal with Stanley Tucci’s billionaire techie who wants to harness the transforming abilities of the Transformers to make a lot of money. Meanwhile Mark Wahlberg is a down on his luck inventor in Texas who accidentally discovers the leader of the Autobots, Optimus Prime. Putting him, his daughter, and her secret boyfriend in grave danger, as they fight to save themselves, the Autobots, and the planet. And then Hong Kong and explosions.
As the above plot set-up demonstrates, there is a LOT of story in Transformers: Age of Extinction but there is also no story whatsoever. As with the other Transformers films eventually you neither know nor care about what is going on, as the story has been overstretched and incomprehensibly told. There are solid ideas within the film that in more accomplished hands could be developed into genuinely intriguing and exciting stories. However this is written by Ehren Kruger…the man who wrote Scream 3. Therefore by the time you reach this film’s climax you’re reduced to watching spectacle that has no weight, emotion, or meaning behind it whatsoever. However this screenplay is not without its achievements, and it may be the year’s most memorable as it contains some of the most bizarre and unintentionally hilarious lines of the year. In regards to moments that are intentionally trying to be comedic, someone really needs to keep a check on Michael Bay and Ehren Kruger’s sense of humour or lack thereof.
If you were to strip this film of an hour of its running time and get rid of all the dodgy and desperate jokes, it would be a much better film that would be much more well-received. However herein lies the central issue with this series and with Michael Bay. What Bay needs is a producer who truly controls him, restrains him, and brings the best out of him. Give Bay a good script, and a controlling producer, and he’ll give you a great film…he has neither here. All the producers attached to this project, including the savior Steven Spielberg, are not in the creativity business with these films…they’re in the business business. The Transformers series is nothing more than a moneymaking exercise, and therefore this film, just as its predecessors, has done exactly what it has been put on this earth to do…make money. Everybody involved is here to make money. The third act of this film (If that’s not a too generous term for this film’s structure) may as well have been somebody shouting MONEY!!!!!! for half an hour. It’s shot in Beijing and Hong Kong for the international audience (With this film now the highest grossing film of all time in China) and must be one of the most product placement laden climaxes in film history. The movie becomes a comedy as the product placement becomes gradually more unsubtle. The film is at times so overblown, so bombastic, so crassly commercialistic, and so bizarre that you feel and hope that it is us who are the fools. Michael Bay and company are secretly comedic geniuses, who are parodying rather than personifying everything that is wrong with Hollywood. Whether Bay and Kruger have a sense of irony however must be doubted, given that they lack a sense of humour, restraint, plotting, pacing, and characters.
There is however, some outstanding work done in this film. The visual effects and all the work done on a technical level is truly astonishing when you think about it. However it just goes to show how the most important effects of all are the characters, performances, and story. Michael Bay doesn’t do the work done by his technical team any favours, as there is no sense of wonder and awe in this film. In this year's Godzilla, Gareth Edwards with a lower budget and lesser scope delivers more true spectacle than Bay has in any of these films. If the recent Planet of the Apes films had been in Michael Bay’s hands, we wouldn’t be hailing an Andy Serkis performance or noting a breakthrough in film history. All the game-changing, groundbreaking leaps in cinematic technology have been accompanied by compelling stories that make us care about the effects. The most notable example in my eyes being Jurassic Park. This doesn’t mean that Michael Bay can’t still produce a good set piece from time to time. And I’m sorry but…Mark Wahlberg shooting dinosaur robots with a space gun whilst tightrope walking over to the Sears Tower is just AWESOME. And I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get a primal, teenage boy thrill out of some of this film’s action moments.
What this film proves though, is just how big of a Mark Wahlberg fan I am, and what a film star he is. He absolutely carries this film and gives it his all. He sells a lot of the ridiculousness and was the only thing that kept me remotely engaged and caring. His performance makes the film, and without it the movie would really fall apart. However he is arguably miscast as inventor Cade Yeager (This film has some wonderful names….the Brit is called Wembley) whose self-made robotic dog guards seem like they should be the product of a more goofy and timid actor. However Wahlberg was not cast for what his character does in the first act, but for the robot butt kicking he has to do in the third act. However casting a more bookish looking actor would make such a transformation more interesting and satisfying. Therefore even this film's strongest element (Literally and figuratively) was also arguably a misstep.
Overall Transformers: Age of Extinction is self-indulgent, overblown, commercialistic, and bloated Hollywood excess at its worst. However there is some legitimately good work within it from Marky Mark and the effects team. As well as some undeniable fun to be had, especially if you see it in the right mood, and with the right audience.