Transformers: Age of Extinction - Review

http://invisiblekidreviews.blogspot.de/2014/07/transformers-age-of-extinction-review.html

Call Michael Bay and his Transformers franchise overly expensive and plain dumb and you will find a whole lot of people who share the exact same opinion with you, yet, there's no denying that both Bay and his movies are good in one simple thing - making a whole lot of money.
Seeing that this is a big budget Hollywood blockbuster, profit is the prime language this business speaks.
Anyway, the Transformers themselves however never have been the real problem with the movies. Instead, it's the human actors who have been topic for most of the criticism of the movie considering dumb characters, bad dialogue, stereotypes, etc.
With yet another Transformers movie released now, Bay changes things up by replacing the entire lead human cast. Lead by fairly talented Mark Wahlberg, here's hoping Transformers: Age of Extinction can focus on a more serious tone with less annoying characters to make Transformers simply fun.
Can the Transformers reclaim their former 80s glory with Transformers 4?   
 



The plot:
After the battle between the Autobots and Decepticons that leveled Chicago, humanity thinks that all alien robots are a threat. So Harold Attinger, a CIA agent, establishes a unit whose sole purpose is to hunt down all of them. But it turns out that they are aided by another alien robot who is searching for Optimus Prime. Cade Yeager, a "robotics expert", buys an old truck and upon examining it, he thinks it's a Transformer. When he powers it up, he discovers it's Optimus. Later, men from the unit show up looking for Optimus. He helps Yeager and his daughter escape but are pursued by the hunter. They escape and Yeager learns from technology he took from the men that a technology magnate and defense contractor named Joshua Joyce is part of what's going on, so they go to find out what's going on..
Source: IMDb 
 


Sure enough, Transformers 4's premise has a much grimmer premise compared to its jokier predecessors.
Except for its changed main cast, T4 seemingly has much of the apocalypse character that T3: Dark of the Moon introduced us to in  2011. Only now, unlike what viewers would assume, the extinction in T4's title "Age of Extinction" is not concerning the extinction of the human race but rather the extinction of the Transformers. With that said, T4's setting offers quite some interesting possibilities for the franchise as well as T4's story itself. Yet, the movie only partially takes full advantage of it.

T4 does a fairly good job at constructing an own franchise-related universe in which the events of the previous movies affect the premises of the sequels. With T4 it's no different. The disastrous events in Chicago at the end of T3 has people be very afraid of the Transformers race itself...and rightfully so. With the humans blaming the Transformers for being the ones responsible for the alien attack to begin with, the Autobots don't find themselves in the position of the secret heroes, but in the position of the outsiders on this planet. Making things worse, a CIA special task force strategically hunts down the Transformers to effectively destroy any possible threat the might pose.

Bad times for Optimus and friends.
 
It all sounds very apocalyptic, bleak, grim and is actually fairly well established through the beginning of the movie. The sad thing is that the movie slowly completely loses focus on the apocalyptic extinction theme as it moves on. This begins when the actual human cast of the movie is thrown into the movie's happenings. Though they are far far not as annoying as Shia Labeouf and co. were in the precedessors, the human protagonist cast, consisting of Mark Wahlberg, Nicola Peltz and Jack Reynor, the problem here is not that they are an "annoying factor" but simply an unnecessary one. Once the movie's focus shifts from the Transformers trying to survive and find out who is behind this "Transformers Holocaust", the movie instead focusses on the trivial and simply uninteresting, extremely stereotypical family problems of the Yeaeger family.

Additionally, despite a quite intriguing premise, T4 very often simply misses several chances to establish necessary links to previous events that must've happened inbetween T3 and T4, that would've essentially thickened the plot and provided necessary logic behind many of the characters' motivations. Sadly those "links" and explanations are notably missed throughout the movie. Therefore, questions like: Why do people hate ALL Transformers including the Autobots, when it was the Autobots who saved the Earth already three times!? Why do people hate the Autobots when they even formed an anti-terrorist force for the U.S. military in T3?! How did the paranoid CIA chief even contact and communicate with Lockdown, the Transformer Bounty Hunter, to begin with?! How did the Autobots even split-up making them hide in individual places?! How come Grimlock and the other Dinobots are never called by their names?! Why does the KSI/CIA only use Transformium Transformers (artifical Transformers) against other harmless Autobots instead of...well...i don't know...TERRORISTS?! Why is there a Samurai Autobot when Transformers have NOTHING to do with Asian culture?? Why is there an Autobot with a beard and a cigar in his mouth?? etc.
Questions upon questions are piling up if viewers really put thought into the movie's continuity, plot holes and events, yet Bay eagerly tries to bury all the questions with loads and loads of action sequences making the initially intriguing storyline slowly fade away until neither the extinction plot nor the bland family problems of the Yaegers play any role whatsoever.
Sounds familiar? Well, of course. Almost the exact same thing happened with Transformers 2 when the entire story of the movie was kicked aside for the big final battle in the desert that made us feel numb to Bay's explosion overkill.   

Meet the the new gang. Optimus and...wait, where did they come from?!

But even with its several plot holes, is T4 just as annoying to watch as T2 seeing that the movie is getting hit with so many incredibly negative reviews?
Well, T4's more serious tone is not flawlessly consistent but far more consistent compared the preceeding Transformers movies. Without Shia Labeouf, his friends and family, Bay more or less pulls the plug out of  most of the embarassing comedy from the previous movies, yet replaces it with less annoying yet just as thinly written characters that embody the term "cardboard stereotyping".

First you got Mark Wahlberg who plays Cade Yeager. He poses as a character that one cannot completely hate but also not completely like. He is a mix of several personalities that don't quite fit into one. For one, Cade is the ever anxious and overly protective father of his daughter Tessa (extremely reminiscent of Bruce Willis' character from Armageddon) yet also somehow poses as a nerdy inventor capable and eager to pull off building robot dogs etc. (no joke). Lastly the typical assault rifle wielding action hero is also thrown into his character mix. Topped off with overly stereotypical lines like "You are only going on dates when you are 21!", Mark Wahlberg is the right actor playing a horribly inconsistent character.

"I can transform into a trucker, a nerd, an overly-protective father, a hero,..."

Tessa Yeager (played by Nicola Peltz) and her boyfriend Shane (player by Jack Reynor) pose as Mark Wahlberg's just as stereotypical and thinly written sidekicks. While they are not exactly annoying characters, they happen to feel extremely unnecessary to the point that the viewer completely ignores to care a single bit for them. Especially Shane, Tessa's boyfriend, happens to get into various clichee boyfriend-daughter arguments with her dad, which only grow tiresome instead of being comedic.
It all comes down to T4's cast, as already mentioned, being far not as annoying as Shia and friends, despite featuring some bad comedy lines here and there. It only goes to show that if you want audiences to care for your characters, you not only have to make them not annoying, but also likable and charismatic. Stereotype characters are nothing new to Bay movies, yet it's amazing how much one does not care if the human characters live or die in T4.

Lastly, Stanley Tucci has to be mentioned as the single charismatic actor in the movie.
Although Michael Bay obviously tries to force Stanley Tucci into the same embarassing character model as John Turturro from the previous movies, Tucci interestingly enough manages to dodge said attempts by still providing just enough style and actor-related charisma.
By far not a perfect role or performance with many cheesy lines, yet still somewhat entertaining enough to watch with joy.

"Who am I again?...Nevermind, 'MURICA!"

Regaring the action, it's hard to even judge whether Transformers movies are even capable to surpass each other considering the onslaught of explosions and "apocalypse porn" that happens during every single movie.
Expectedly, T4 features tons of action sequences with an overload of explosions. Yet, unlike previous entries like T2 and T3, this time around, action sequences from the first half of the movie are build up to with more care. It gets considerably more intense when a hiding Optimus Prime has to bust out of an old shack to shoot his way through the CIA/KSI agents when the innocent Yeager family is about to get killed. With the action scenes themselves, there is nothing too noteworthy about them. They are expectedly very CGI- and explosion heavy. While some rightfully might argue that every action scene is extremely "been there done that" material, Transformers fans who know what they are in for will get exactly what they expect.

Nevertheless, there are some aspects about the action scenes that really negatively stick out.

Firstly, some of the CGI effects in T4 look horribly fake and cheap. While the Autobots and other Transformers look pretty good, it's especially the transforming effect of the artificially created substance "Transformium" (yeah...that's really what it's called) that looks absolutely horrendous.
It's not an effect that looks bad in itself but rather it's an effect that clearly sticks out as "not real and simply fake", even among the other CGI Transformers in the movie.

Wow! Fake looking CGI in its rawest form!

Additionally, the character of the Transformers bounty hunter named Lockdown is more or less wasted. Not only because the movie is strongly guilty of serving an inconclusive sequel-bait ending, Lockdown has first been presented as an unkillable bounty hunter force who mercilessly hunts down, kills and disassembles other Transformers. Sadly, right after his character is starting to speak and is revealed to be co-operating with the CIA special forces, his character is losing a whole lot of menace and mystery.

Next, the Dinobots...practically THE advertising Transformers for this movie, that have been heavily build up to through several trailers, only have a very very small role and only appear right at the last 20-15 minutes of the movie. They are given practically no character, their names (Grimlock, Slug, Swoop, etc.) are never mentioned and their screentime is extremely limited.
Therefore, sadly, fans will undeniably feel pretty let down by what little they are getting from the Dinobots in T4, seeing that they practically only serve as things for Optimus Prime to ride on and look cool without any real narrative purpose whatsoever.

Lastly, just as many other reviews mentioned, Michael Bay's action scene overload towards the end of the movie is truely sensory numbing to a point where none of the action or explosions awaken any excitement in any way. It results in the already excessively long 2,5 hour long movie feeling very boring, especially during its last hour which (like the showdown from T2) just drags on, and on, and on...

Dinobots - get ready for unexplained 7 minutes of awesome.

Unlike many other review sites say, Transformers 4: Age of Extinction is not really the absolute worst movie of Michael Bay's franchise (that title goes to Transformers 2). With a more consistent serious tone, a quite intriguing premise and a far less annoying human cast, Transformers 4, in its own right, is too enjoyable to be given such an extremely negative title.
Still, Transformers 4 nevertheless is neither exactly what one might call a great Transformers movie nor a great movie in general. With that said, despite seeming like a fresh new start for the franchise, Transformers 4 suffers from plenty of problems that heavily drag the movie down.
Featuring new yet very stereotypical, thinly written and uninteresting human protagonists, several plot holes making story aspects and character motivations lack necessary logic, inconsistent CGI quality, badly handeled characters like Lockdown and the Dinobots and an excessive action overload that tends to bore rather than excite, with a running time of 2,5 hours, its amazing how much time the movie wastes on routine, dull action fare instead of good writing.

Transformers 4 is not the worst of the franchise, yet also quite far away from being the best. Hardcore Bay-Transformers fans will exactly get what they are probably loving and expecting from the franchise, yet viewers who wanted a new positive start for the series will be left disappointed by the movie's primary focus on the exact same dull, action routine, which once again obviously shows that story and characters sadly still play second fiddle in the franchise.
Transformers 4 is the standard Bay action-fare and a huge missed chance for Michael Bay as well as the Transformers movie franchise itself.




Final Verdict: 3 out of 10 



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