Transformers: Age of Extinction – Review



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Welcome to the best drinking game of the summer

Writer’s Note: Do not attempt if you suffered blood-alcohol poisoning while playing the “Twilight: Long Blank Stares Till Breaking Dawn” Drinking Game.

Bigger is not better. Bigger is not better. Bigger is not better. Keep repeating this phrase over and over again as you click your heels together wishing you were home instead of watching the monstrosity that is Transformers: Age of Extinction. How bad is this fourth installment of the Hasbro toy movie franchise? Put it like this: One critic friend got up and left during the promotional screening at around the one hour, 45 minute mark (there was still two more hours to go!), and another in his critique got tired of writing out the title so he just went with calling it “F— YOU” instead. Can’t say I disagree. This movie is a complete waste. It’s not just the story, which contains plot holes big enough for Optimus Prime to drive straight through, or the worthless characters, or the repetitive and dull action – it’s that all of this goes on and on for close to three hours. It would be one thing if it had a plot to go along with its excruciatingly long run time, but Trans4mers is not The Godfather.

I don’t have any camp affiliation. I’m not a Transformers fanboy, and my appreciation of Michael Bay as a director extends mostly to his visual style. I just wish he’d get away from playing with these toys and move to a different sandbox. In the last seven years, his filmmaking resume has been nothing but Transformers movies, except for last year’s Pain & Gain, arguably his best feature in terms of narrative since The Rock.

Some directors have trademarks and callbacks. Brian De Palma, though an admirer of the works of Alfred Hitchcock, famously staged The Untouchables train station shootout in the style of Sergei M. Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin. For Bay, it’s all about constant movement in shots, particularly slow motion with an explosion (or several) involved. 

Look, I get it – Transformers were fun to play with when I was growing up. Bay wants the movies to be for big kids, particularly those who have no malice when it comes to leaving their brains at the door. I never quite understood this justification. I like my brain – it has served me well most of my life. My brain allows me to have a strong attention span; unlike most who would rather have theirs pounded into submission. The child that exists in me can enjoy the banality of cinema that pushes loud and silly movies to the masses. I try to keep an open mind about most movies with the hope that they will be good or at the very least entertaining, while also keeping my enthusiasm in check by trying to avoid being too hyperbolic.

Sadly, avoiding hyperbole here can’t be helped: this Transformers is pure shit.

So, instead of trying to break it down for you rationally, the better alternative is to make this into a drinking game.

Okay, here it goes.

If you stay around for the credits and see Ehren Kruger’s name take a shot. He shares no writing credit, so he’s solely responsible for constructing this skeleton plot, though it’s more like an outline. Kruger was also the one who wrote the last two installments, plus Reindeer Games – for those who remember Ben Affleck crapping out in that poorly constructed casino heist. At this point, Freddy Krueger would be a better substitute in the writer’s chair.

With the story taking place five years after the events of the what-should-have-been-the-last-Transformers-but-wasn’t-because-it-made-so-much-damn-money predecessor, Shia LaBeouf, Tyrese Gibson, and “Mr. Fergie” Josh Duhamel are gone and in their places are a new crop of actors, including Mark Wahlberg as Cade Yeager (Jesus, where do they come up with these hero names?), who is a Texas-born tinkerer/inventor that sounds at times like he’s from South Boston. (Any time he lets his Boston twang impede take a shot.)

Wahlberg is a considerable upgrade over Shia, who has relegated himself to becoming a public spectacle post-Transformers, though his character is a buff, Calvin Klein underwear model version of Randall Peltzer (Gremlins), whose inventions failed to work as he had envisioned. Once it is established that Cade is an inventor, expect him to MacGuyver a way out of a tight spot. When this happens take a shot. (Spoiler: He so seldom uses his skill set that he might as well have been an underwear model.)

After Chicago was decimated by robot-on-robot explosion porn in Transformers: Dark of the Moon, a secret Black Ops project was initiated to basically scorch the Earth of any remaining Transformers, including friendlies (Autobots). This is all spearheaded by Harold Attinger (Kelsey Grammer, looking as is if Roz stuck something up Frasier Crane’s cornhole). To help cleanse the Transformer vermin, Attinger has help from another Transformer called “Lockdown” (voice of Mark Ryan). He’s never referred to as a Decepticon but he may very well be. Lockdown’s goal is to find Optimus Prime (voice of Peter Cullen) for reasons that aren’t abundantly clear until we get to about the two hour and twenty minute mark. Adding to the rogue’s gallery, sort of, is billionaire inventor-cum-comic relief Joshua Joyce (Stanley Tucci), who has figured out how to build Transformers. He’s in cahoots with Attinger. So they’re killing Transformers to make Transformers? Okay, take another shot as you analyze that rhetorical question.

Cade, who finds himself in the middle of another misadventure involving surviving Autobots defending humanity even as humans hunt them down, isn’t alone. He’s got his daughter, Tessa (Nicola Peltz), and Tessa’s boyfriend, Shane (Jack Reynor). If you thought Megan Fox was bad and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley worse in the eye candy that lacks acting chops department, get those shot glasses ready. In overall annoyance she tops them both. Whenever she initiates something stupid take a shot.

By the time we reach day three – that’s in viewing the movie, not days that have elapsed in the story – you have alliances starting to teeter as Stanley Tucci decides that he’d rather take humanity over innovation. Not surprisingly, by sheer luck Tucci is the only impressionable one in the cast. He even delivers the best one-liner in a moment that purposefully uses up the movie’s single “f-word” allowance. I’ll drink to that.

Oh, I forgot the best part. Product placement. Transformers: Age of Extinction is littered with tie-ins. Beats by Dre Beatbox. Victoria Secret. Lamborghini. Bud Light. If you spot a product, take a swig. It’s rather amazing at how unabashed the products are forced. But then again this is Michael Bay after all. His approach is all style, bludgeoning the viewer with his director’s playbook all worthy of drinking shots: gratuitous low angle of Tessa in cutoff shorts, sunset images blocking out the characters, and scene-ending explosions.

I get that Transformers has a following worldwide, I just don’t understand why people continuously pay to see inferior sequels as the franchise chugs forward. Is it all on account of the cool explosions and special effects? And here I thought Transformers were supposed to be more than meets the eye.

My advice: If you have survived this drinking game, sober up and watch Edge of Tomorrow instead.

Director: Michael Bay
Writer(s): Ehren Kruger
Notable Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Nicola Peltz, Stanley Tucci, Jack Reynor, Kelsey Grammer, T.J. Miller

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