TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION
Unevenly paced, unnecessarily long, and poorly written.
Film Review © 2014 by Trip Reynolds
Directed by Michael Bay; Screenplay by Ehren Kruger; Produced by Ian Bryce, Tom DeSanto, Lorenzo di Bonaventura, and Don Murphy; Co-produced by Matthew Cohan, K.C. Hodenfield, Michael Kase; and Executive Produced by Michael Bay, Brian Goldner, Steven Spielberg, and Mark Vahradian.
Starring: Mark Wahlberg (as pseudo-inventor, Cade Yeager), Stanley Tucci (as corporate opportunist, Joshua Joyce), Kelsey Grammer (as bad guy, Harold Attinger); Nicola Peltz (as Cade's daughter, Tessa), Jack Reynor (as Tessa's boyfriend, Shane Duyson), Titus Welliver (as James Savoy); Sophia Myles (as Darcy Tirrel), Bingbing Li (as Su Yueming), T.J. Miller (as Lucas Flannery), James Bachman (as Gill Wembley); Thomas Lennon (as Chief of Staff), Charles Parnell (as CIA Director), and the voice talents of Peter Cullen (as Optimus Prime), Frank Welker (as Galvatron); John Goodman (as Hound), Ken Watanabe (as Drift), Robert Foxworth (as Ratchet), John DiMaggio (as Crosshairs), Mark Ryan (as Lockdown), and Reno Wilson (as Brains).
The good thing: Michael Bay directed this film. He has a flare for action, explosions, etc.
The bad thing: Michael Bay directed this film! He doesn't know how to convey anything other than action, explosions, etc.
Bay knows how to direct "action," but Bay does not know how to tell a "story" via his direction. Consequently, with a Bay film you're guaranted to get hours and hours of prolonged action scenes (nearly 3 hours worth this time!), and the extremely old and clichéd "life and death" scenario pushed down your throat and thrown at you constantly. Yuck.
Oh, it's great to seen the robots change from and to any number of mechanical objects and vehicles, but we've seen this before in Transformers 1, Transformers 2, and Transformers 3, and yes, we'll see it again in Transformers 5. Again, yuck.
For my money, the absolutely best robot, the most menacing, the most lethal "film" robot is Gort from the legendary 1951 film, "The Day the Earth Stood Still." Why? Unlike the Transformers, Gort had absolutely no need to fight, because Gort's singular purpose is to act as the ultimate deterrent to violence and war. Gort's mission is extremely simple, Gort does not negotiate, Gort does not fight, Gort stoicly fixes his laser beam on any subject to completely disintegrate it. Obviously, Gort would be a challenge to Micheal Bay's endless fight scenes and his ramped-up and unnecessarily loud soundtrack. Storytelling is nearly absent in a Michael Bay film, so leave your intellect at home.
So, what is Transformers 4: Age of Extinction about? I imagine here's the pitch someone gave to the production companies (Paramount Pictures, Hasbro, Di Bonaventura Pictures, Tom DeSanto/Don Murphy Production, and Ian Bryce Productions): "Okays, dudes, it's gonna be like cool, man, like the good Transformers defeated all the bad Transformers from the last film; so we introduce these mysterious new Transformers from outer space who are collecting all the old Transformers for unknown reasons. Oh, and to keep it "fresh" we get rid of Shia LaBeouf, we continue to ban Megan Fox, and we cast a group of new humans, and the Chinese, to mix things up." Eureka! And this is how you conceive and execute a Michael Bay production!
Gort, "Klaatu barada nikto!"
How ridiculous is this script? This time out Optimus Prime is riding a mechanized T-Rex dinosaur. Yeah, they really went there; absent any original inspiration they had to go "Jurassic Park" on us. It was just sad.
T4 boasts several excellent actors, but their talents are wasted with this piece of crap. Kelsey Grammer consistently brings intensity and believability to his work, but it's lost here. Stanley Tucci is an extremely versatile actor ("Hunger Games" to "Big Night" to "Prizzi's Honor"), but the intelligence he resinates is lost in the buffoonery his character exudes. Frankly, it seems Mark Wahlberg, as pseudo-inventor, Cade Yeager, was chosen more for his physical stature, like Shia LaBeouf, and not for his acting ability. Bay would never cast someone tall like Liam Neeson (6'4"), or tall and muscular and of color like Dwayne (The Rock) Johnson because it would completely eliminate the necessity for the "leading" male actor to whine and complain about nothing of importance; plus, as with the 2014 release of "Godzilla" a person of color like Ken Watanabe (as Dr. Ishiro Serizawa) can never wield a superior level of intellectual prowess over technology, and especially over White men. Like Tucci, instead of Wahlberg's character being truly inventive and intellectual, his character dabbled in technology solely as a means to transition the script from one scene to another. Nicola Peltz as Cade's daughter, Tessa, is only in the film as "eye candy" and serves no other purpose. The real connecting force of T4 is the voice of Peter Cullen as Optimus Prime. We can simply ignore everything and everyone else when Cullen speaks because his voice is the strongest "narrative" in the film, stronger than all of the special effects, and more interesting than any aspect of the poorly written script. The good news: Optimus Prime will be back!
Of course, the special effects, visual and audio effects are first class, because that's what this film is really about. At a slow and unevenly paced 165 minutes, to keep from being bored you'll need candy, popcorn, and your cell phone to quietly send text messages to warn your friends to stay away. Budgeted at $210,000,000 this film needs to be a box office hit, but it's definitely not worthy of such recognition.
Recommendation: Wait for it . . . wait for it . . . wait for it . . . at the $5.00 bin at Walmart.