June 30, 2014 by Paul Curtin
As a huge fan of the original Transformers who hated the second movie and thought the third was on par with the first, it was exciting to see Michael Bay getting back on the right track by taking a step back from the metal and focusing on the iron in Pain & Gain. Unfortunately, the gains that Bay made in his last picture seem to already be gone as the controversial director has slumped back into his old ways. Age of Extinction is arguably the worst Transformers film yet.
Essentially rebooting the franchise with new characters, Shia LaBeouf is out, and Bay’s new leading man, Mark Wahlberg, is in. Wahlberg plays Cade Yeager, or rather, plays himself without even trying to pull off any form of a Texas accent. Yeager, a struggling inventor who can’t even afford to put his daughter (Nicola Peltz) through college, comes across a beat-up old truck that he buys to strip for parts so that his Daisy-Dukes-wearing daughter doesn’t have to strip herself. Of course, the truck ends up being Optimus Prime, leader of the Autobots, and Yeager who can’t invent anything successful is able to repair this piece of complex alien technology and now has Optimus in his debt.
And why has Optimus been in hiding you ask? Well, the humans are now hunting him and all of the other Transformers on Earth after they just saved everyone in the last movie. Harold Attinger (Kelsey Grammer) and his black-ops henchman, Savoy (Titus Welliver), are behind this push to wipe out the Autobots with the help of Lockdown, a bad-ass new bounty-hunting bot who isn’t on either side of the Autobots vs. Decepticons war. Stanley Tucci, who is great for the first half of the movie, plays a genius who is working with them in order to obtain more of a new element his Apple-like company has discovered and trademarked as “Transformium,” which can be used to build man-made Transformers.
Of course, there’s more to this Transformium than meets the eye, and the humans lose control of it, leading to the return of one of the franchise’s previous characters that by now you wish would just stay dead. All of this meaningless plot takes the characters around the globe and brings us right back to where we started with the original films over the course of the movie’s endurance-testing 165-minute runtime.
Age of Extinction has no shame. It’s big, loud, long, and everything that Bay gets off on being behind. It even tries to be self-aware at times and ends up just coming off as offensive when the characters themselves refer to how terrible sequels are these days. Are the writers taking shots at other movies thinking that their sequel is somehow better? Are they admitting their movie is bad now that you’re stuck watching it? Who knows… Nothing in this sequel is good enough to justify it’s existence. The entire “movie” seems to serve no real purpose other than to set up product placement shot after shot, like big-budget commercials one after another during the Super Bowl that have nothing to do with the big game.
With the entire movie focused around product placement, it becomes hard to even stay focused on anything related to the actual plot. At one point there’s a massive car crash involving a beer truck. As beer bottles scatter all over the road, Wahlberg picks one up and actually drinks a beer. Another truck accident scene clearly displays the fashion brand of a company Bay has worked closely with in the past. As Transformers crash through the bus, the company’s logo is left completely untouched for the entire slow-motion shot to make sure you get a good look and that everyone involved gets an even bigger paycheck.
For a franchise that’s all about pushing toys that transform into cars, Age of Extinction manages to outdo itself and tries its best to ridiculously get as many clear shots and close-ups of other products that you can buy as possible. Even the IMAX that helps the movie look better becomes distracting at times as the movie constantly shifts back and forth between different film ratios. Like the last film, the solid 3D and visuals are about all this has going for it and by now it’s hard to get excited watching the same old stunts.
I felt bad while watching Age of Extinction… not because I had just wasted $20 on a ticket, but because of how awesome the special effects were and how little I enjoyed them. By the time the fire-breathing T-rex, Grimlock, showed up at the end of the never-ending movie, it felt far less epic than seeing him right away in the trailer that already ruined his reveal. The $210 million budget could have gone towards making something original, yet it was wasted in order to retell the same old story in a three-hour lifeless commercial. ILM should be applauded for the effects they’ve pulled off that keep looking better and better with each movie, but without any care for what you’re watching on screen, it all just becomes one big mess of forgettable chaotic CGI with no care for why any of the craziness you’re seeing is happening.
While the special effects are spectacular, Bay should be ashamed that Age of Extinction is on the same level as Revenge of the Fallen considering he even referred to it as “crap” after it was panned by critics. And moviegoers should also be ashamed for lining his pockets and encouraging “movies” like this to make a killing at the box office while other great sci-fi action films like the recent Edge of Tomorrow get ignored despite rave reviews. With two other movies already in the works, I would say that Bay is insane for making the same movie over and over again and expecting better results from reviews, but he’d be insane not to with how much money the franchise pulls in every time he does it. Transformers: Age of Extinction gets 2 out of 5 stars (Bad).