John Hanlon Reviews

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Transformers Age of Extinction Poster

Transformers: Age of Extinction

Genre: Action and Adventure

Director: Michael Bay

Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Stanley Tucci, Kelsey Grammer, Jack Reynor, Nicola Peltz, Sophia Myles, Bingbing Li, Titus Welliver, TJ Miller

MPAA-Rating: PG-13

Release Date: June 27th, 2014

Transformers: Age of Extinction opens up with an endless number of possibilities. The days of Shia LaBeouf dominating the franchise are over and now a new main character, check played by the charismatic Mark Wahlberg, ampoule is in charge. Most of the characters are new, in fact, and some of the transformers are too– with dinosaur transformers entering the fray.

But with so many fresh elements, why– after twenty minutes–  does this fantasy feel as stale as the two Transformers films that preceded it?

Wahlberg, an everyman action star, does everything he can to enliven the proceedings, especially early on. Sure, he’s playing himself to an extent in the form of a character named Cade Yeager but it’s fun to watch his antic energy onscreen as he tries to keep his teenage daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz) from growing up too quickly. Cade is an amateur inventor and the early scenes showing his excitement for his “work space” are goofy, carefree and escapist (just what this movie should be.)

But then the Transformers arrive, bloating this wannabe epic.

Cade unknowingly awakens Optimus Prime and soon enough, a war between the Transformers and an evil government agency that is trying to destroy them begins. “The age of the Transformers is over,” states the  Transformers-hating operative Harold Attinger (Kelsey Grammer) and it’s easy to believe him. The cinematic Transformers franchise started out with potential in 2007 but quickly lost all its mojo. Here, director Michael Bay tries to bring new life into the story but only ends up making many of the same mistakes.

The script from Ehren Krueger is packed with cheesy lines of dialogue, which only further reveal the superficiality of this production. “My face is my warrant,” states a government agent (Titus Welliver) who invades Yeager’s farm looking for the Tranformers. But the robots themselves don’t have anything better to say. When Optimus rises again, the other Transformers fall into cliched traps. “At least, there’s hope after all,” one says.

Of course, that Transformer isn’t stuck in the theater for nearly three hours when he utters the line.

Yes, this Transformers adventure clocks in a few minutes short of three hours. In those 186 minutes, only Wahlberg’s true-blue character stands out. Attinger is simply another one-dimensional villain while the love story between Tessa and her cocky boyfriend Shane (Jack Reynor) serves little function. Shane himself is one of the year’s most obnoxious characters. When Tessa is eventually put in danger by the villains (no surprise there!), Shane turns to Cade noting “I’m not here to help you get your daughter. You’re here to help me get my girlfriend.” Shakespeare, this is not. And is takes a big man like Cade  to not to immediately punch Shane out right there with dialogue like that.

It’s a great disappointment to see Wahlberg get lost here with an inferior script and a director who knows how to stage good shots but who doesn’t know when to stop blowing things up. This feature would’ve worked with a shorter length and with a more humorous tone, which could’ve partially been improved with more unique and stronger characters.  Wahlberg does his best, especially with his great early scenes, but other strong actors– like Grammer and Stanley Tucci, who appears as a corporate egomaniac– are wasted with a script that never lets its story flow naturally.

It may be a great hope to believe that loud and obnoxious summer blockbusters will eventually become extinct but in the short term, can filmmakers just try to make a good product rather than an overstuffed mess that masquerades as a feature film? That would help.

Review by: John Hanlon