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REVIEW: Transformers: Age of Extinction

Monday, 14 July, 2014

Transformers: Age of Extinction – the perfect Hollywood blockbuster (but only if you’re into casual sexism, stories with zero emotional centre and do not value your time) 

I’ll admit, I loved the first Transformers movie when it came out in 2007. It was funny, entertaining and quite surprising. Since then, maybe I’ve just grown up (or maybe they have just been awful) but the sequels Revenge of the Fallen and Dark of the Moon have been complete and utter wastes of time. In film criticism, it is my belief that movies should be assessed as they are, for what they are and what they intend to do. Transformers is Bay’s baby- its audience goes in wanting and expecting to see a lot of robot action and explosions. Going in to Age of Extinction with these expectations, you could say I was looking forward to the experience but sadly, the product Michael Bay has made is a ridiculous, over the top, nonsensical robot war movie with absolutely no emotional core that clocks in at just over two and a half hours.

Set four years after the battle of Chicago from the franchise’s third instalment (if you can remember anything about that movie other than the fact it starred a Victoria’s Secret model), Age of Extinction puts single father Cade Yaeger (Mark Wahlberg) and his daughter, Tessa (Nicola Peltz) at the centre. Cade is a down on his luck robotics engineer who happens to find a Transformer in an old movie theatre which he quickly, and excitedly fixes. However, since the famous Chicago Battle, the paranoid government and the CIA, led by none other than Dr Frasier Crane (aka Kelsey Grammar), are hell bent on destroying any and allTransformers and Yager’s new toy ends up putting his family in grave danger. One thing leads to another and then to more things that don’t really make sense (punctuated by robot fights, of course) and Cade, Tessa and her secret boyfriend end up on the run from just about everyone, the Autobots serving as their guards and companions.

Mark Wahlberg is pleasant to watch on screen but none of the main characters are written with any complexity or depth that makes the audience care about whether they live or die. Nicola Peltz, daughter of billionaire Nelson Peltz, is wooden as Wahlberg’s daughter and spends most of the movie with her mouth half open for no apparent reason. Not that Peltz has much to do other than stand there in very little clothing, looking attractive. This is what we have come to expect from these films but when movies like this have the cultural power to change the message through crafting headstrong, intelligent female characters, it’s sad to see another young lady on screen that is so completely lost without a boyfriend.

The film’s visual effects are stunning and the wonderful camera work is elevated by its immaculate presentation on the IMAX screen. The initial action sequences are impressive and exciting but their role as filler quickly becomes apparent. There is so much action in this that it begins to feel like they have put in sequences to distract you from the fact that everything else about this movie is dull. This means initially mesmerising sequences quickly become tedious and boring. The only relief in the 157 minutes of sensory overload is Stanley Tucci as the head of a technology company. Tucci is the only actor in the ensemble that manages to give his character any real life. He delivers his lines with great comedic timing and sincerity where required, a performance that strikes an emotional chord making the audience care about whether or not a giant robot steps on him. However, I am uncertain as to whether this is enough to warrant sitting through two and a half hours of nonsense.

Transformers: The Age of Extinction will play perfectly to an audience only interested in robot fights, Mark Wahlerg’s biceps and his on-screen daughter’s denim underwear. If this is what you want from the experience, Age of Extinction will not disappoint but if you head to the cinema with the desire to be entertained and moved by your film-going experience, do not waste your money on this.