Rating: 2/5 Stars (Three stars)
Star cast: Mark Wahlberg, Nicola Peltz, Jack Reynor, Stanley Tucci
Director: Michael Bay
What’s Good: The hair raising first half when I couldn’t stop chewing my nails out of excitement and the mere glee that comes automatically for an Optimus Prime fan!
What’s Bad: A loose second hour, where it seemed like Bay didn’t know what to do with the film. The drooping energies and the dissipating tempo in the last 40 minutes which is primarily superfluous.
Watch or Not?:
Imagine if instead of creating new music, a recording artist kept putting out the exact same album, just playing the songs a little louder each time. That’s what it feels like watching “Transformers: Age of Extinction.”
At this point, four movies into the series, making a new Transformers film is like an arms race taking place in an 11-year-old’s imagination. The last Transformers movie blew up one city. Now we’re going to blow up two cities! Transformers used to have one head. Make a two-headed Transformer! How are we going to top the robot construction equipment in one of the previous films? Transformer dinosaurs!
This will all continue until director Michael Bay takes it too far and our universe collapses upon itself. Meanwhile, the prospect of story coherence and pacing are already long gone, swallowed up by the skyscraper-eating metal vacuum cleaner that seems to threaten the good guys in every one of Bay’s films.
If you look at the most artistically successful big-budget sequels, the characters continue to drive the narrative. Christopher Nolan’s Batman is emotionally spent and on the wrong side of the law. Han Solo is trapped in a block of carbonite and his friends are on the run. Khan wants to punish Kirk for the pain inflicted on his people.
The human characters in “Transformers: Age of Extinction” have no such motivations. After short establishing scenes sort out which of the three stereotypes they will inhabit (flawed good guy, goofball sidekick or evil mastermind), they do nothing but run and fall down, run and fall down, occasionally interrupted by a slow-motion leap away from an explosion.
The best moments are early in the film, when the live-action scenes still outnumber the CGI goulash. Mark Wahlberg replaces Shia LaBeouf as the main protagonist, a struggling Texas inventor named Cade Yeager, who stumbles into the severely wounded body of good-guy Transformer leader Optimus Prime.
We see that a secret wing of the U.S. government is hunting down and executing other Autobots, with the help of a mercenary alien man-machine. Characters actually speak full sentences to each other, until the setup ends with a very satisfying scene where Prime re-emerges to save the family farm.
The first “Transformers,” released in 2007, sustained that pace throughout the majority of the film, and it was a good movie. But with the need to visually one-up the previous film, storytelling in “Transformers” sequels always drops off a cliff in favor of spectacle. The actors become no more than action figures, growing smaller and smaller in an increasingly busy landscape. Run. Fall. Slow-motion leap. Run. Fall. Slow-motion leap. Pause at the end to set up the sequel.
There are problems from a hard-core geek’s perspective as well: namely that the Transformers no longer look like Transformers. It must seem like progress from the filmmakers’ point of view, adding much more detail to the faces and smoother transformations from robot to vehicle. As a result the good and bad guy robots – especially the newer ones – look more like Terminators than Transformers. Unlike last year’s excellent-on-all-fronts giant-robot movie “Pacific Rim,” the scale here looks all wrong.
We save the worst news for last: The new “Transformers” is a completely unnecessary and soul-crushing 165 minutes long, bloated by exposition and plot turns that sound as if they were being made up as the movie was shot. You could cut 45 minutes out of “Transformers: Age of Extinction” in completely random places; it would be a much better movie (and only slightly less coherent).
I can’t believe I’m saying this out loud. But the “Transformers” film series is in desperate need of a reboot.
BY HARSHVARDHAN SINGH.