Age of Extinction"
Release Date: June 27, 2014
Running Time: 145 minutes
So much for that unbreakable bond between Sam Witwicky and his loyal companion, Bumblebee the Autobot. Transformers: Age of Extinction picks up five years after 2011’s Dark of the Moon left off but Shia LaBeouf and the original trilogy’s cast are nowhere to be found. Heck, LaBeouf’s Sam Witwicky isn’t even mentioned by name. It’s as though Witwicky’s been wiped from the memories of Bumblebee and Autobots leader Optimus Prime. Instead, director Michael Bay’s soft reboot of a loud and crass franchise—that designed to sell shiny things big and small—assembles a new cast that’s led by Mark Wahlberg, Stanley Tucci, and Kelsey Grammar. With humanity suspicious of all Transformers following the Decepticon invasion of Chicago at the end of Dark of the Moon, Grammar’s CIA agent leads a covert operation to wipe out both Autobots and Decepticons. He’s also formed an uneasy alliance between the Transformer bounty hunter Lockdown and Tucci’s tech tycoon for reasons that are best not spoiled. Here in Texas, where the film was partially shot in and around Austin, Wahlberg’s inventor(!) comes to the aid of a wounded Optimus Prime at the risk of his and the lives of his 17-year-old daughter (Nicola Peltz) and her rally car driver boyfriend (Jack Reynor). It’s understandable why Bay would want to bring in a new cast to freshen up a franchise that has the potential to go stale after four films. This is not to say Wahlberg’s Cade Yeager isn’t more appealing a hero that LaBeouf’s jittery Sam Witwicky. While Wahlberg looks more comfortable in combat than LaBeouf ever did, his Cade Yeager’s just as annoying as Sam Witwicky by virtue of being too overprotective of his daughter, a high-school senior he would happily lock in her room if it meant she wouldn’t have any contact with the male species. This results in a very creep and ill-advised exchange between a father and the boyfriend of his underage daughter. Grammer growls his way through Age of Extinction, muttering nonsense about preserving the American Way. Tucci, though, knows the score. Like the self-aware John Turturro in the previous trilogy, Tucci sees through the nonsense that surrounds him and uses it as an excuse to ham it up and have some fun at the film’s expense. He’s the anecdote to the sophomoric humor that continues to mar this franchise. New faces aside, Age of Extinction is just like every other Transformers sequel before it. Bay introduces the threat—this time it’s human and Decepticons—and then slowly builds up to the showdown that all but levels Hong Kong. Bay’s appetite for destruction is only matched by his ability to destroy entire cities in breathless and spectacular fashion. The special effects are as top-notch as they were in the previous installment, more so given that the new Decepticons are made from programmable matter. When Transformers and Decepticons aren’t going at it, though, Age of Extinction drags. Character development and interaction are not among Bay’s strength. While riddled with awful dialogue, and raising some questions about Optimus Prime’s powers, Ehren Kruger’s script does take the franchise in a new direction by forcing the Transformers to consider their place in the universe. Who is their creator? This is a question that the fifth and sixth installments will likely address. Even by moving Age of Extinction from the United States to Hong Kong for no other reason than to pander to the expanding Chinese marketplace, this franchise could use a change of scenery. Taking the fight between Transformers and Decepticons off-world would be a welcome move. After all, there’s not much left of this world for Bay to destroy.
Aired: June 26, 2014
Web site: http://www.transformersmovie.com/