Sometimes, movies come along that are just meant to be fun, a chance to escape from the often mundane day-to-day life that we often finds ourselves. We shouldn’t expect these movies to be good, and if we do, we will probably be disappointed. Not every movie will be worthy of praise from those that love movies, but just because we watch a movie that some “film snob” views as beneath their perfect film taste. All of the Transformers movies have been like this, and Transformers: Age of Extinction is no different.
Michael Bay has become a cliche in Hollywood, known for his explosions and slow-motion shots of scantily clad young women. But the thing about cliches is that they help you to know what to expect when you walk up to the fancy ticket buying machine and sign up for nearly three hours of CGI robots fighting each other. Pity the poor professional reviewer, and not amateurs like me, that can’t just wait to deride a movie, even though Bay and others never claimed that the movie is anything but a summer popcorn movie. The Bay-produced Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles will probably bear this out as well in a little over a month.
This movie has been mentioned as the start of another Transformers trilogy, and if so, it was a great place to start. Gone is Shia LeBeouf’s Sam Witwicky from the first trilogy, replaced by Mark Wahlberg* in all his glory as Cade Yeager, single father and failed inventor/handyman. Being a Bay movie, there has to be the sexy girl too, played here by Nicola Peltz as Tessa, Cade’s high school senior of a daughter looking to get the hell out of dodge and away from her broke but loving father.
*I personally think that Wahlberg has been underused for the last decade or so. Yeah, some of his movies and characters haven’t been well-formed, but there are some roles – The Fighter, Shooter, and The Departed come to mind. He’s come a long way from his Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch days.
The triumvirate of protagonists is completed by Tessa’s Irish car racer/mechanic Shane, played by Jack Reynor. The relationship between Tessa and Shane was full of movie tropes – the overprotective dad, Romeo & Juliet – and tried to force a lot of drama that didn’t feel organic to the story. Nevertheless, these three were much better than LeBeouf and his respective female lead in his three movies.
If you watched the trailer above, the movie really gets started when Yeager finds a beat up semi truck in a theater as he’s scrounging for parts for his robots. The truck turns out to be “more than meets the eye” and is actually Autobot leader Optimus Prime, who is in exile and hiding from CIA operative Harold Attinger (Kelsey Grammer) and his team of Transformer assassins.
Apparently, after the destruction of Chicago that was the centerpiece of Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Transformers are viewed as bad guys, and unfortunately for the Autobots, who like to hide in plain sight to protect the humans, they are being hunted down in order to locate Prime. Apparently, the Creators of all Transformers wants Prime for something, so they sent their bounty hunter Lockdown to track him down. Meanwhile, Attinger has made a deal with the head of a robotics company (Stanley Tucci) to produce an army of reverse engineered Transformers out of Transformium, and will need the Seed, a bomb that will destroy all organic life in a large area and replace it with the needed material. If Lockdown gets Prime, they get the Seed and everything is hunky dory.
Obviously, it ends up being a lot more complicated than that, and Dinobots show up and (SPOILER ALERT) Megatron comes back as Galvetron and whatnot, but I’ll let you go watch it for what happens in the last hour of the movie. And why I admit that the movie has a lot of flaws, most of all its length, it ultimately is a great start to a future trilogy. We weren’t overwhelmed by a lot of new robots that were hard to track (mainly just Prime, Lockdown, Bumblebee, and the other Autobots), and a lot of the “drama” features the Transformers and them trying to find their place in a world that no longer appreciates them. The humans have their fair share of drama, and a lot of it feels forced or misplaced, but I felt the focus of the movie was the Transformers. Future installments, especially if Prime ends up meeting the cartoon canon version of the Creators, might just be a bunch of robots in space, which is very promising.
By far, my favorite part of the movie was the use of John Goodman as Hound, the “fat” Autobot that had so many guns it was bordering on ridiculous. It was a great choice, and once I placed the voice, it made the performance much more enjoyable. Ken Watanabe and John DiMaggio (the voice of Bender from Futurama and Jake from Adventuretime) were a little under-utilized, but maybe they’ll show up again in future installments with more to do. Throw in Peter Cullen and Frank Welker reprising Prime and Megatron, respectively and it was a stellar voice cast.
This is not to say that this movie is the best movie of the year nor will it be, though it might be the first this year to go over a billion dollars world wide. It was an enjoyable movie experience, despite its numerous flaws, and I encourage everyone to see it, especially if you can in IMAX 3D. Just don’t expect the second coming of <INSERT GREATEST FILM OF ALL TIME>.
Until next time…