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Making Sense out of Transformers: Age of Extinction, A Movie Review

Transformers Age of Extinction Movie PosterSpoiler Alert

The only real reason for anyone to go see Transformers: Age of Extinction is to see the Dinobots kick some major behind. Heaven help us for what Michael Bay and his team of writers has done to the beloved franchise we all grew up with. Whether that is Generation One (G1), Transformers Animated or Transformers Prime, to wonder what the Autobots or Deceptions can look like in a realistic sense requires producers with a solid vision to make a film work. In this film’s case, it’s an improvement with Cybertronians being featured in their battle colours.

Audiences can make out who is whom in a screen that’s crowded with a lot of explosions and fast camera movements. The film begins with a nod to Ridley Scott’s Prometheus — perhaps a quick hint as to the origin of the Dinobot species — before jumping to the modern-day, where the narrative explains four years have passed since the huge battle between the Autobots and Decepticons left Chicago in ruins. The US government has no love for either Cybertronian faction and every mech is branded as fugitives. They are all marked for termination, whether they like it or not.

An elite unit known as Cemetery Wind does the dirty work with CIA agent Harold Attinger (nicely played by Kelsey Grammar) running the show. James Savoy (Titus Welliver) leads the military unit, and he looks like he can give Silas from Transformers Prime a run for the money in both their similarly built character profiles. Both are agents not interested in following humanitarian laws when Joshua Joyce (Stanley Tucci), the CEO of tech firm KSI, says its okay to salvage Decepticon carcases in the name of science.

Where that goes is a crazy idea that, in the States at least, humanity does not need any help in defending themselves against any alien threat. Once Cybertronian tech is understood, KSI can make their own defenders. Surprisingly, this back story is decent, even though its core concept is stolen from Transformers Prime.

The main story, however thin that it is, centers on how overprotective Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) is towards his almost adult daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz), especially when she’s about to graduate. He believes it’s his responsibility to help pay for her college tuition. But when he’s an inventor with barely a penny to his name, just how he is going to be able to support her is in question. When he discovers a dilapidated semi-truck, both their worlds will soon be turned upside down.

When the Transformers finally reveal themselves, a few old faces return, namely Bumblebee, along with a few new ones. Drift (voiced by Ken Watanabe) looks like he should belong in the later issues from Marvel Comic’s Transformers 80 issue run. Hound (John Goodman) is designed to be a spitting image of the voice actor with a beard and Crosshairs (John DiMaggio) gets the best action to root for.

With this strange mish-mash of mechs not really getting along, that’s when this movie takes a nose-dive. In typical Michael Bay style, the action is loud and extravagant. The human protagonists serve no function other than to start fleeing from men in black and giant robot battles.

There are attempts to reconcile the main plot with Tess’s boyfriend Shane Dyson (Jack Reynor), an Irish rally racer, tossed into the tale. He seems interesting, but the only character that has any merit, Lucas (T. J. Miller) is unceremoniously written out of the script. He’s killed off in a rather gruesome way that alludes to the film’s mysterious introduction.

Just like the previous films, robot death is gruesomely executed. When their spark is crushed, all that’s left are their shells. If any of that essence is still lingering, just how they affect the metal gets a terrible explanation by way of how George Lucas explained how “The Force” works. Apparently the technology of being able to morph is encoded on a molecular level. The name given to it is just as ridiculous as calling them Midi-chlorians.

With a few concepts aside, the wait to get to the best action is long. The Dinobots do not get enough screen time and they behave more like predatory creatures than anything viewers fondly remember them from either the G1 or Transformers Animated series.

Age of Extinction clocks in at a lengthy 165 minutes and it’s by far the longest from this series. It’s slightly better than Transformers 2 and 3 combined, and to have a new cast of characters somewhat redeems this live-action franchise. Cade has the potential to be useful once when he gets up to speed in how to repair Cybertronian tech. By some unknown means, he’s managed to somehow fix some essential systems in Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen) so he can regenerate. If he had not, there would be no movie.

There’s plenty of problems and plot holes to be found with this film if viewers want to start dissecting Transformers Age of Extinction. No explanation is needed to tell viewers where Sam Witwicky or girlfriend Carly Spencer went. As for members of NEST, some astute fans may wonder why Robert Epps or William Lennox did not at least make a cameo. When this movie is more about the Autobots dealing with a paranoid government, the Decepticons are no longer needed. They were wiped out in the Revenge of the Fallen. If there were any survivors, they were systematically hunted down in between films.

Because of this, a new threat is introduced to pull this new set of films together. That may not necessarily be from the newly remade Megatron aka Galvatron. Even he does not get the screen time that’s needed to make him a viable threat. He’s also suspiciously low-key (quite unlike his cartoon counterpart) in some of the key action. This character is no doubt going to be a force to watch out for in later films.

As for whether or not the writers can create a tale that does not involve the humans, that remains to be seen. This franchise looks like it may steer in that direction. Ever since the first film, not many of them are very useful in a story that’s simply about the Cybertronian’s quest for survival. With the home world gone, the Autobots really have nowhere else to go. Unless they are able to terraform another planet to become a New Cybertron, there’s not a lot of room to pull inspiration from in what the future films will entail.

All some viewers can hope is that the Headmasters is not on the chopping block to find inspiration from.

2 Stars out of 5

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