Transformers: Age of Extinction Review

2.5 Overall Score
Screenplay : 2/10
Visuals : 4/10
Performances : 4/10

Tucci and Grammer, Some Money Shots

All of the Writing, The Runtime, The Cynicism

There comes a few certain times in our lives where we engage in a ritual, a certain rite of passage that is equivalent to suffering through growing pains. These rituals can come in various forms, whether it be as overt as a momentous ceremony (Weddings, Funerals, Graduations, etc.) or as subtle and personal as any physical/emotional experience you can name (similar to puberty). It’s a process from which boy becomes man, girl becomes woman,  puppy becomes dog, and chick becomes chicken. I’ve had plenty of these moments throughout my life; some have been fulfilling, and some have been harsh yet bittersweet. My experience watching Transformers: Age of Extinction falls in the latter category.

I have been a huge apologist for director Michael Bay’s billion dollar franchise in the past, especially during my tweenage years. The Transformers films are extremely divisive in that you either really enjoy them or detest what they stand for. In those earlier years, I was able to forgive the many faults of the original films because of Bay’s ability to choreograph bombastic action on a grand scale. In preparation for Age of Extinction, I returned to those films. While the 2007 original held up well, 2009’s Revenge of the Fallen and 2011’s Dark of the Moon were almost unwatchable. The sheen of those ambitious action setpieces was replaced with the rust of nonsensical storytelling and Bay’s in-your-face directorial style. Age of Extinction is even worse than either of those films. In fact, it’s a detestable, overlong, cynical experience that firmly ends any amicable relationship I had with this franchise. Rite of passage, I guess.

  Transformers: Age of Extinction takes place a handful of years following Dark of the Moon’s climatic Battle of Chicago, as we return to a world that has grown of weary of the titular robots in disguise. The U.S. government has tasked Harold Attinger (Kelsey Grammer) to hunt down the remaining Decepticons, but Attinger’s malicious feelings toward the Transformers force the Autobots into hiding as well. Attinger has made a pact with bounty hunter Lockdown (voiced by Mark Ryan) which involves the capture of Optimus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen), so matters are complicated when Texas inventor Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) finds a disarmed and corroded Optimus in the back of a rundown movie theater. This sends the government after Cade, his rebellious daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz), and her secret Irish boyfriend (Jack Reynor).

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That’s the best I can do at recapping the plot. The setup is admittedly interesting, and the first forty minutes of the film are not all that bad. After that mark, however, Age of Extinction is as close to incomprehensible as any film in recent memory. Bay and screenwriter Ehren Kruger have taken ideas from three separate films and compressed them into this monster of a work. The script jumps from hugely underdeveloped plot element to another, whether it be the motivations of Lockdown or the origins of Optimus. The film keeps throwing huge ideas at you throughout, randomly bringing back plot points that were introduced almost an hour and a half ago and then were promptly dropped. This would be fine if these elements were introduced organically, but even for a big budget blockbuster, Age of Extinction’s plot holes and required leaps of logic are seismic. I hate to describe any film this way, but Age of Extinction frequently makes no sense.

Slapdash as the plotting in Age of Extinction’s script is, the character work is even worse. Poor Wahlberg is trying his hardest here as the earnest and likeable single father Cade, but his character arc is so generic and his dialogue so laughable that his performance is stripped of any emotional credibility. Peltz and Reynor are equally useless to the plot following a certain point in the film, and are only there to attempt to establish a credible human element (which, once again, fails because of the dialogue). Tucci and Grammer are both as good as they can be in fairly underdeveloped roles that largely wastes their talents, and T.J. Miller is extremely grating in an early role as Wahlberg’s sidekick.

Age of Extinction is supposedly the beginning of a new trilogy, and there is a slight difference in tone between this film and the original trilogy. Gone is much (not all, but much) of the offensive stereotyping in secondary characters and the lame juvenile humor that plagued the first three films. Otherwise, this is very much a Michael Bay film, from the overabundance of American flags to the fetishization of women and cars to the millions of explosions. Bay attempts to recreate the scale he achieved at the end of Dark of the Moon throughout Age of Extinction, as once he puts his foot on the gas the film very rarely lets up with the action. In today’s age, however, it’s becoming harder and harder for action scenes to leave an impression, and to call the action in Age of Extinction less than impressive is being generous. To be less generous would be to call those scenes repetitive and nauseatingly over-the-top, which would be fine if I had any stake in what was going on in the story. On top of all that, Bay’s film runs an unfathomable 165 minutes, rendering the abuse of sound and sight even more exasperating.

I hesitate to refer to Transformers: Age of Extinction as a film, because it would be more apt to refer to it as a corporate product. This is a film that will be shown in Marketing 101 classes, specifically in the section titled “Egregious and Obvious Mass Presentation”.  It makes more and more sense as time goes on throughout the viewing experience that Bay and company had less interest in telling a fulfilling story with this property and more interest in making money. The horrible use of product placement, the attempts to pander to foreign audiences by setting the final act in China for little reason, and the attempts to sell action figures by giving the new Autobots (including the severely underutilized and unnecessary Dinobots) one discernible personality trait. As the Joker from The Dark Knight remarked, “It’s all part of the plan.”

Age of Extinction hurt my soul while I was watching it. It’s the type of experience that makes you question all your prior decisions, the kind of experience that makes you wonder how you got to this point. I wanted to be kind to Michael Bay, I wanted to be a blind supporter one more time. The longer the film went on, the worse things got, and the angrier I became. I’ve seen this trick one too many times. It’s time for this reviewer to grow up.

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Author: Andrew Auger View all posts by
Andrew Auger is a student at Marist College and is majoring in Journalism. He is a huge fan of movies, and considers the late film critic Roger Ebert his idol. He hopes to one day be a prestigious film critic just like Mr. Ebert.

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