Transformers 4 Age of Extinction
by Brian Kilby
June 27, 2014
First, let me say, this is a the fourth Michael Bay Transformers movie. If you liked the first three, you’ll certainly like this one as well. If you didn’t like the first three movies, you will not like this.
“Tank’s empty, bro.” – Hound
At a cursory glance, Transformers Age of Extinction is, by Transformers movie standards, a competent film on par with the last sequel and head and shoulders above Revenge of the Fallen. Upon further inspection, its shiny digital exterior cracks and we’re left with what is the worst of the Transformers franchise underneath.
The last film, Dark of the Moon, culminated with an apocalyptic battle, in which Chicago was destroyed. That battle is probably the high point of the entire series from both a “storytelling” and technical standpoint. It was huge in scope, visually thrilling and generally well-executed (a huge compliment for a Bay movie.) The fallout from that battle serves as the lead-in to Age of Extinction which pits The Transformers versus a black ops division of the CIA, with humanity’s fate in the balance.
This film focuses on a new set of humans and their amplified domestic woes. Cade Yeager is a down and out widower / inventor / fit but nerdy former high school jock turned teen parent. Yeager’s wife died at some undefined point in the past, conveniently leaving him unattached and primed for a potential future romantic subplot. He and his hot teenage daughter Tessa own Yeager Robotics, which is headquartered in a barn on the Yeager property. Tessa’s secret boyfriend Shane is a rally car driver.
Pay attention because the movie focuses on them. A lot.
After Chicago humanity decides that The Transformers are a threat and must be eliminated.
Well, actually, humanity decides that The Decepticons are a threat and must be eliminated. Humanity seems to be pretty cool with The Autobots. Harold Attinger isn’t, however. Attinger, played by Kelsey Grammer, is the head of a super secret CIA black ops division which is in cahoots with the robotic bounty hunter Lockdown. Lockdown is looking for Optimus Prime to add to his collection and to return back to the mysterious creators of the Transformers.
Oh, and the creators of The Transformers? They actually killed all of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, because they could. Make sense?
That’s pretty much the setup for the remainder of the movie. The movie itself meanders for nearly three hours. I don’t quite understand why it goes three hours. It just does. In those three hours you see a lot of American flags, tons of lens flare, a few lifeless action sequences, forced interactions between the human cast members and other things which were, surprisingly, done way better in the first three movies.
That’s not to say that there weren’t things I liked about this sequel:
The Autobots are literally more colorful and distinctive than previous iterations.
The film’s visuals are bright and razor-sharp.
While virtually indistinct from the Decepticons, Lockdown was fairly well-executed.
Also, while probably too late, we were given a framework to base future sequels on.
Overall, though, there was just too much going against Transformers 4 Age of Extinction. There was no “wow” factor, no tentpole scene that made the movie worth the cost of admission. There was nothing that we haven’t seen before. The acting was terrible, even for a Transformers movie. Galvatron was virtually a non-entity. The promising concept of human-designed Transformers seems virtually unrealized. Overall the movie was just going through the motions. It was unimaginitive and lifeless. Worst of all, the Dinobots were neutered by their introduction. Having to prove himself to the Dinobots, Optimus Prime faces Grimlock in battle. Optimus defeats the Dinobot leader, handily. It wasn’t even close. Why do we need the Dinobots, again?
One could still argue that Revenge of the Fallen is the worst Transformers film. Technically, Revenge of the Fallen is a nightmare. ROTF is a dust devil of a film, it churns in its own filth for a long time but once it’s over it leaves nothing to show it was ever there. The one area in which Revenge of the Fallen succeeds, however, is its energy. As a director, Bay painted destruction with verve and enthusiasm in the 2009 sequel. This movie, which he didn’t originally intend to direct, is clearly just a paycheck.