Transformers: Age of Extinction Review: Does it Really Matter?

Transformers: Age of Extinction Review
out of 5

Michael Bay, in four Transformers movies, has done the unthinkable. He has created the true “critic-proof” film series. No matter what I will say in the next thousand words or so won’t matter a bit. Transformers: Age of Extinction will still make $100 million dollars this weekend, and will clear half a billion before the end of summer. Is it worthy of such lofty box office totals? Hell no. Will it get there anyway? Hell yes. Why?

Because it doesn’t matter.

Transformers: Age of Extinction is long and bombastic. The film is bloated at 165 minutes–almost enough film for two separate full-length features. And you feel all of that in the seats. Explosion after explosion, bad line after bad line, terrible acting on top of terrible acting, it just never seems to end. It’s as if Bay and script writer Ehren Kruger (Arlington Road, The Ring) were afraid to cut anything out of the script. And I mean anything. If they had an idea of any kind, it got filmed and made the final cut. Two hours and forty-five minutes after the Paramount logo graces the screen, the credits roll.

It doesn’t matter.

Mark Wahlberg stars as Cade Yeager, an inventor and dabbler in robotics who lives in Texas with his daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz). Yeager buys old scrap and broken electronics and tries to rebuild it for profit, but as the script reminds us every five minutes, he’s not good at what he does. Though he is broke and losing his house, he still “employs” Lucas (T.J. Miller) to help him. Tessa is also secretly dating a young Irish race car driver named Shane (Jack Reynor) against her father’s wishes. In a film about robots that turn into vehicles and cause rampant destruction wherever they go, Mark Wahlberg as an inventor is the hardest thing to swallow here.

It doesn’t matter.

One day, Cade and Lucas find an old box cut semi-truck and they tow it to Cade’s lab. Guess what? It’s Optimus Prime, who has been hiding out since the events in Chicago in 2011’s Transformers: Dark of The Moon, as the U.S. Government, in the form of a black ops branch of the CIA called Cemetery Wind, is now actively hunting and destroying Transformers. Lucas, needing the reward money, calls the CIA and brings down the wrath of Harold Attinger (Kelsey Grammer) and Jim Savoy (Titus Welliver), who both have hidden agendas in regards to finding and killing Transformers, especially Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen).

Cade, Tessa, and Shane all get away and join up with the remaining Autobots, Hound (John Goodman), Drift (Ken Watanabe), Crosshairs (John DiMaggio) and of course, Bumblebee, who has been hiding out as a 1967 Camaro, and not a VW Beetle, which would make so much more sense. With Prime back in the mix, and with new humans to toss around, the Autobots are inspired to find out why they are being hunted, and that leads them back to Chicago–which apparently hasn’t suffered enough in this film series–and to KSI Industries, ran by a Steve Jobs-esque, Joshua Joyce (Stanley Tucci), who has discovered a way to harvest the metal–which he calls Transformium–that Cybertronians are made from, and he uses it to build his own army of Transformers, including Galvatron (Frank Welker), whom Joshua created from the discarded head of Megatron. And chaos ensues. Now, all of this would be enough for one good Transformers film, but this is only setting up one of the myriad story lines in Age of Extinction.

It doesn’t matter.

A Cybertronian bounty hunter named Lockdown (Mark Ryan) is also after Optimus Prime for reasons barely made clear. Lockdown assists the CIA on their missions, and once Prime is captured, he will give the humans–Joshua in particular–a much sought after reward, one that could change the face of our world forever.  Lockdown has a menagerie of captured Cybertronians on his ship, and an army of drone-like soldiers at his command. This too would be enough for a decent stand alone Transformers movie, but Bay, whose strength is supposedly in editing, refuses to cut anything out, and all of this is crammed into Age of Extinction as well.

It still doesn’t matter.

Notice how I haven’t mentioned the Dinobots, the stars of the commercials, posters, huge theater standees, and toy shelves? There’s a reason for that. In typical Michael Bay fashion, the Dinobots are just kinda shoved into the bloat and are mixed with all the rest of the chaos that makes up the explosive third act, set in Hong Kong.

And it too doesn’t matter.

I could go on and on, but it just doesn’t matter. Transformers: Age of Extinction is still going to entertain audiences. It will still pack movie houses all weekend long and it will still make hundreds of millions of dollars. Wahlberg and company are given terrible lines to work with and their performances match the words coming out of their mouths. I’d love to one day see the screen test that won Nicola Peltz this role, as her performance leaves much to be desired, even if she is just the latest Michael Bay pubescent sex object. Grammer and Tucci do admirable jobs for most of the film trying to add class, but Tucci goes way off the deep end by the third act, and Grammer is reduced to snarling villain whose entire motivation is his retirement savings. Seriously.

One bright spot here is in the Autobots. Finally, Bay has figured out who the real stars of the film are, and has given them their due. John Goodman is the standout as Hound, who chomps on high-caliber shells like cigars and is armed with a comical assortment of guns in every one of his nooks and crannies. Each Autobot is distinct in how they look, with Drift taking on a samurai appearance–complete with swords, and Crosshairs wearing what looks like a trench coat. On a robot. That transforms into a car.

Yep, still doesn’t matter.

Transformers: Age of Extinction is probably the best, most complete of the Transformers films, but that’s like saying that eating a sweaty sock is better than eating nothing at all. It’s way too long because of too much story (this time with actual exposition), and the action is easier to take in, even in 3D, as Michael Bay seems to be finally getting the hang of telling a visual story, some ten-plus films into his professional career. Good for him. But it’s still not enough to save this long, sometimes non-sensical film from going over the deep end. I’d like to think that the films are getting better, and if that’s the case, Michael Bay is scheduled to make a great Transformers film sometime in 2025. But by then, will it even matter?

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