Friday, July 18, 2014

Review 281: "Transformers: Age of Extinction"

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      Transformers: Age of Extinction is a 2014 action film and the fourth film in the Transformers franchise after 2011's Transformers: Dark of the Moon. The film is once again directed by Michael Bay (Transformers) and is written by Ehren Kruger, who wrote the last two films and the american Ring movies. The film follows Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg), an inventor who brings home a broken-down truck, only to discover it's Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen), on the run after the US government, lead by Attinger (Kelsey Grammer), brings to hunt all Transformers down. Now, dragging Cade, his daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz) and her boyfriend Shane (Jack Raynor) along, Optimus reunited the remaining Transformers and lead the charge against Attinger, his right-hand man Savoy (Titus Welliver) and Joshua Joyce (Stanley Tucci), who making fake Transformers. On top of that, they also must contend with some rouge Faux-formers and transformer bounty hunter Lockdown (Mark Ryan). John Goodman, Reno Williams, Ken Watanabe and John DiMaggio also star as other Autobots, T.J. Miller as a business partner of Cade's and Sophia Miles and Bingbing Li as business partners of Joyce.

Yup. That's pretty good.

Best Bay

      I've never been a huge fan of the Transformers series, movies or otherwise. I've never been able to get into the show, nor have I found any of the films, save for the first one slightly, to be all that good. The last one, Dark of the Moon, especially was by far the worst and should have probably been the final over-bloated nail in the series' coffin. But I'll admit I found myself surprisingly interested in the idea of a fourth film. Director Michael Bay had found a small bit of success after Pain & Gain turned out to be a flawed, yet overall really fun film and the idea of dinosaur Transformers and Mark Wahlberg being too cool to screw up. 
      And ultimately, though it might not be saying much, Trans4mers is easily the best film in the series thus far. Mostly, it comes from a surprising new-found energy in the series. For the first time in the entire franchise, it feels like everyone involved actually wanted to make the movie and weren't just in it for the paychecks. Bay does some of his best work yet here. The film's editing is slowed way down and the action scenes are the best in the series. It's easy to follow this time around and Bay does a great job showcasing the fighting and carnage, making the film an entertaining ride throughout. However, Bay's newfound energy isn't just shown in the awesome action, but also in the quiet (Well, quieter) moments of the film. The use of sunsets and american flags may be a bit much, but there are some particularly gorgeous shots of the scenery. The film actually does have a far bit of breathing room and it shows that, despite the popular opinion, Bay seems to care a bit more this time.

Parts One and Two

      However, that also might have been a part of this film's biggest problem, both literally and figuratively. Clocking in at nearly three hours long, the longest of the franchise, the film is probably a little over-stuffed in some places. There are times in which the film struggles to actually pin down what it's story is and what the big problem the Autobots are fighting. In fact, the film almost feels like they could have expanded a bit more more on the story and characters, bring things better into focus. If they had actually made the film closer to 4 hours, then split it into two parts, this might have worked better. Or they could have cut at the business with the Seed (Heh) and focused more on the Faux-formers. Either way, while the film is very overlong, I still found that I was, for the first time in the series, invested in what was going on and wanted to see it through to the end. Hell, even if they had split the film into two parts, I would have be first in line for part two.
      As I said earlier, a lot of that is from Bay's seeming increased interest in the series and the step-up in the action. But the fact that the film boasts a surprisingly high-caliber cast helps too. Tucci is great in a fun role that he thankfully never lets be over the top. The voice-actors for the Transformers are as good as they've ever been, which is to say pretty damn good. Hell, I didn't even mind Peltz or Rayner as the teenagers the series apparently needs to survive. The only character that did get on the nerves was T.J. Miller is a pretty poorly written comic relief role. Wahlberg though earns the movie a few points all on his own. He makes for a hell of a good pairing with Optimus especially and thanks to him, many scenes are a lot of fun where another actors might have let them flop.

Really Though

      I will say this though. From a writing standpoint, this might easily be the dumbest the series has ever gotten. I mean, this film has it all. Ancient aliens, mysterious God-like creators, terraforming bombs, dinosaur robots. The best of all? The dead Transformers are being melted down and turned into, you ready... transformium. Yes, seriously. And yes, it can turn into anything you want it to. And yes, it's mostly a way to fit in some horribly blatant product placement. That said though, as dumb as it way, the series has dropped it's pretence and has accepted it's stupidity full-on. And through that, the film suddenly is in on the same joke that the audience has been in on for the last three films. And that made for a much more fun film than I was expecting.

Yup. That's good too.
The Verdict

      Ultimately, while it's still not exactly good, Transformers: Age of Extinction is easily the best film in the series by far. While the film does get dragged down by a stupid and unfocused script, a very over-long length and a few bad characters, the film is still great fun at times. That can be attributed to a new-founded energy, from both Bay, who does a solid job here and from the cast, who do a pretty good job themselves. Transformers: Age of Extinction gets 4 and a half stars out of 6.

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