As humanity picks up the pieces, following the conclusion of Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Autobots and Decepticons have all but vanished from the face of the planet. However, a group of powerful, ingenious businessman and scientists attempt to learn from past Transformer incursions and push the boundaries of technology beyond what they can control – all while an ancient, powerful Transformer menace sets Earth in his crosshairs. The epic adventure and battle between good and evil, freedom and enslavement ensues. (from MovieWeb.com)
If you've ever read any of my Transformers related reviews (and I assure you this isn't the last one), you'll already know that, as a child of the 80s, I grew up on the original cartoon show, The Transformers, and the toys that the cartoon was pretty much created to sell (knowledge that I didn't have at the time, nor would I have cared). In 2007, Michael Bay surprised audiences abroad with the realization that a live action take on the cartoons/toy line could work. It wasn't perfect--far from it in fact--but he jaw-droppingly brought robots to life in a way that was believable and tangible. The special effects were nothing short of amazing. Bay proceeded to direct and release two more sequels, upping the action and visual ante each time. Unfortunately, we're talking about Michael Bay here - the director of Bad Boys and Bad Boys II, The Rock, The Island and Pearl Harbor (although I kinda dug The Island). Sadly, a series based on cartoon robots coming to life seems to only encourage the stylistic director to tap into every shameless, immature bone in his body (which apparently is a lot). Along with news that 2011's Transformers: Dark of the Moon would be his last entry into the franchise came the hope that Bay would leave our Transformers alone for good. But that promise was dashed to bits with the announcement that he'd take on Transformers 4, AKA Transformers: Age of Extinction.
This film takes place four years after the climactic battle in Chicago in Dark of the Moon. Megatron and Starscream are dead, Ironhide is gone, and the Autobots have had to go into hiding. However, a government group is hunting all Transformers in an attempt to wipe them all out (part of the "extinction" aspect of the film's title). After a really disjointed and cheesy prehistoric flashback intro (about as bad as The Fallen one from the second movie), Age of Extinction is already off to a pretty bumpy start. We then meet Mark Wahlberg's Cade Yeager, who's an aspiring "inventor," his business partner Lucas Flannery, played by T.J. Miller (Cloverfield, How To Train Your Dragon), and soon his way-too-short-shorts-wearing 17-year-old daughter Tessa, played by Nicola Peltz (The Last Airbender). The Yeagers have fallen on hard times financially, and after they come into possession of a cheap, broken down truck for a mere $150, Cade hopes to strip it for parts. However, what he soon realizes is this isn't any ordinary truck; it's Optimus Prime.
The plot's thin at best, but judging by the sequels before it, you can't buy a ticket for one of Bay's Transformers films and expect anything remotely intelligible. And that's not me trying to defend Bay in any way; we just have to accept what we're buying into. However, it's either the fact that audiences actually like Bay's approach, or we just decide to take the bad along with any good they can find. Compared to the first trilogy, some of the most annoying content issues are surprisingly lessened, but still present nonetheless. While Tessa looks and acts a little less slutty than Megan Fox's character from the first two films, the fact that Bay keeps her dressing and looking like an Abercrombie model even when the scene hardly calls for it (like bumming around the family farm dressed like she's going out for a night on the town), is still completely needless for a movie like this. You've already got the boys filling the seats for cars and robots (and they're both simultaneously!); we really don't need every woman in the movie looking like a model--or apparently what Michael Bay thinks every woman should looke like. Wahlberg is a huge improvement as a lead over Shia LaBeouf, and it does give the film a little more of a grown up feel to it. Instead of John Turturro's irritatingly over-the-top performances, Stanley Tucci knocks it out of the park with easily the most enjoyable performance and character in the film as the head of a robotics company called KSI. Kelsey Grammer is a bit miscast as an ex-CIA agent trying to rid the world of Transformers, but he still does a decent job -- and still somehow fits into this cartoony live action world. Jack Reynor is passable as a "professional driver" (huh?) who has been secretly dating Cade's daughter behind his back. Of course, this opens the door for implications that the 20-year-old is sleeping with a 17-year-old, but both Shane and Tessa are more secondary characters to Wahlberg's Cade, and that's a good thing.
It was a big surprise, however, to find that the Transformers robots seemed to have a lot more screen time in this entry. That's always been a major complaint of fans and it seems like someone finally listened. The original bots from the first film barely had any development or screen time, and sadly, except for Prime and Bumblebee, that doesn't change here (meaning, all of the robots from the very first film have little or no screen time except for those two). But for the first time, the new Autobots are given celebrity voice talents and so we do hear them speak more often. John Goodman steps in as a new character (a G1 character, though) named Hound, while Ken Watanabe voices a Samurai character named Drift. Hound barely resembles his original conception, but Goodman makes this new version a fun addition. And I love Watanabe in pretty much any role he's in, so it's fun to hear him here as Drift. He isn't given a ton to do, but when he gets down to wielding his sword in battle, it's pretty sweet. The main villain this time is Lockdown, a mercenary with deadly force, and he ends up being responsible for the destruction of many of the Autobots. And then there's the manmade Galvatron, who was meant to be a copy of Optimus but, with using tech from Megatron's severed head, ends up looking more like the fallen Decepticon than the leader of the Autobots (and ultimately ends up being a hearty nod to the original Galvatron...even though I missed the large orange arm cannon). Through more screen time for the Transformers, there are some really great moments with the new characters, as well as more for Optimus and Bumblee to do (one of the best of these moments is Bee's reactions to seeing the manmade robots).
But there is still oh so much wrong with Age of Extinction. For one, Bay still tends to drop characters from a scene altogether. You'll see all of the Autobots riding along into battle and then something happens which sort of separates one of them, and then the rest of the bots are totally MIA for an unreasonable amount of time, allowing something bad to happen to that one isolated character. They only seem to show up again "conveniently" after the damage has been done. Bay has done that through all of the films and still continues to do this. Then there's any sense of logic being scattered to the wind. When we meet Optimus again, for example, he's badly wounded from battle, so Cade insists he can fix him. Cade has Lucas run to the store for parts and then return with a couple items that are somehow going to be able to fix wartorn Prime. We don't see the actual "fixing" and it seems that just as soon as Lucas returns with the items, an action scene unfolds and Prime is battle-ready again? Furthermore, it isn't long before he scans a passing truck and adapts to a newer truck model and looks 100% fixed. He then gets wounded time and time again, and while we don't see him getting fixed, he seems fine shortly afterwards. Oh, and by the end of the film, he can fly. Yup, fly. He suddenly has boosters in his legs that allow him to fly. When he got that, how he got that, where he got that from? We never find out. It just happens. At least when he flew that one time in Revenge of the Fallen, it made some sense. Finally, there's the gross product placement. Before seeing the film, I read a passing gripe about the film that mentioned that. However, it really is despicable. It makes sense for Hasbro to drop in a nonsensical visual reference to My Little Pony since it's their film, but when part of and alien craft crashes onto a car next to a truck of Bud Light, spilling bottles all over the street, the camera deliberately pans and LINGERS on the bottles on the street. As if that weren't obvious enough, Cade gets harassed (comically) by a driver peeved about the fallen craft on his car, so he grabs one of the Bud Lights, opens it with the man's car door frame, drinks from it and throws it down. Yup. We just watched the most indiscreet product placement since the Reeses Pieces in E.T. (It probably would only have been worse if the sip of Bud Light turned Mark into a Transformer or something incredible like that.) We won't even mention the Victoria's Secret bus ad dead center in the middle of the screen at one point. Lastly, Bay seems to break Optimus Prime from character yet again. He's angrier and more violent this time around, which is very different from the cartoon version. However, one could justify that his friends are being executed despite all the Autobots have done to protect them. Still, we hear Prime say that he'd never hurt a human, but when he finds out who's been killing Autobots, he will kill them. On top of that, we hear Prime say several times (usually being sort of disoriented), "I'll kill you!!" which is just odd to hear coming out of the mouth (and voice) of that character.
So what's at all redeemable about Age of Extinction? Why not just rate this half a star and call it a day? It's Transformers, after all. The script was weak and oftentimes forced, the acting nothing to write home about, but while I would LOVE to see a great script and characters in this franchise some day, let's address something very obvious: Transformers: Age of Extinction is a live action cartoon. Quite literally. Only a couple hours after watching the film, I revisited a couple episodes from the original 80s cartoon. While they're fun to watch still, the dialog they speak is some of the absolute worst you'll hear. Example? Take this insult uttered by an Autobot to a Decepticon from one of the season 2 episodes, "Come get me, you metal-headed dumb dumb!" Yup, that's word for word from the cartoon. And that's just one example. So, really, to get dialog on par with that for a live action movie, we shouldn't be too surprised (still, one day, I want to see something much better in one of these films). The action scenes and destruction are easily as exhausting--if not more so--than the finale for Man of Steel (which is funny since I think I commented in that review that that film gave Bay a run for his money), but Bay still delivers some impressive visuals. The added screen time for the bots and some really fun character moments make this movie a shoo-in for guilty pleasure viewing. However, I must disclose that each time I revisit the previous three films, aspects of each of them annoy me more and more (the last time I rewatched the first film, I just skipped over most of the scenes with the teenage characters). Overall, Age is an entertaining film for Transformers fans, and even though we don't get to see the dinobots until the end of the movie (the other part of the "extinction" title), it's still exciting to get to see them on the big screen--with hopes we'll see them again in future films. (But we never hear them talk, and I was itching to hear "Me Grimlock..." well... say anything.) Finally, with the death of Megatron in the first trilogy, and the murmurs that Galvatron would make an appearance this time, it's fun to see Galvatron enter Bay's Transformers world. In the original, animated 80s film, Optimus and Megatron fight to the death, leaving both mortally wounded. In that film, Optimus dies, passing his spark on to Hot Rod (making him Rodimus Prime) and Megatron confronts a planet-sized Transformer called Unicron who remakes Megatron as Galvatron. Even more fun here is that, for the first time in Bay's series, the original voice of Megatron and Galvatron from the cartoon TV series, Frank Welker, appears here to voice Galvatron. So it'll be exciting to see more of his character in the coming sequels (with the fifth one already announced for 2016).
But the content. Oh, Michael Bay... the content is definitely as flawed as the first three movies. While the sexual humor is a little lessened (including the slutty visuals, but they're still there a bit), the profanity is still frequent, with Tucci uttering the film's sole obvious "F" word near the end of the film for a laugh (and I would not be surprised if another "F" word or two is hidden in the loudness of the action. Lucas says, literally, "No effing way!" at one point and Bumblebee uses a sound clip with a bleep in it once). For a movie with toys aimed at kids and the whole robot thing aimed at boys, the movie still sends the wrong messages for the children of discerning parents. When we first see Shane's character in the film, it's via webcam on a laptop with Tessa and they exchange banter about seeing each other shirtless, which is interrupted by her dad coming back home. We don't know if the 17-year-old girl and her boyfriend were going to do anything questionable over their respective webcams, but that interaction would make the skin of any worrisome parent crawl. Bay of course throws in an exchange between Cade and Shane where he asks him if the "noises" he heard in the house recently were him, and he gets Shane to admit they were (which, especially in a Bay film, implies the 20-year-old slept with the minor). When Cade and Shane first talk, Cade flips out over Tessa being a minor, to which Shane says is covered by the "Romeo & Juliet" law (which is still a little creepy). Add in that Hound is always smoking a cigar or that the main characters make light of having to steal to get by as the story progresses, or the blatant beer commercial hidden within the movie, and one really has to wonder who signs off on this stuff. It's an adult film made for the child within the 80s babies (who are in their late 20s and early 30s now) but marketed towards families and teens. If you've seen any of the other three movies, let your hopes be dashed that Age of Extinction really is more of the same, content-wise. The action is intense, and some of the main human characters are threatened at gunpoint by other characters (even being seconds away from being executed with a gun to their heads while their heads are held to the ground). Cade has a rough one-on-one fight with a human character that ends with the bad guy being thrown out of a window, and an Autobot blasts another human villain to death. While the movie goes no gorier than a little blood on some characters' hands and faces throughout the movie, one scene early on shows a human getting immersed in a ball of fire and being left as a metallic, charred skeleton. It's a little gross, but Bay keeps showing us new and different camera angles of it before finally moving on. Just when you think a second view was enough, he passes over it again for no apparent reason other than to drive home the fact that the character was fried alive.
Transformers: Age of Extinction is kind of a mess, but it's still a fun one. While I still hate Michael Bay's content choices for the series, I still get a little giddy seeing Optimus Prime come to life, as well as some of the other Transformers characters and lore become realized in live action form. The effects are still impressive, but I can't help but watch these movies and just wonder how much better the story and content and characters would be with a different director and writer behind them. If you liked the first three movies, you'll like this one, but anyone disgusted with Bay's treatment shouldn't be fooled this fourth time. So please, Hasbro, give another director the chance to save this franchise with the next film. Keep it awesome but more family-friendly. We're ready... and have been for three films now.- John DiBiase (reviewed: 6/27/14)
Transformers: Age of Extinction 3D (2 hours, 45 minutes) - Transformers 4 in 3D is a pretty visually impressive production. It's the very first film ever to use the new IMAX® 3D Digital Camera and it looks pretty amazing. The specially-marked 3D Blu-Ray release includes the IMAX 3D scenes and the aspect ratio changes constantly throughout the entire film (sometimes within the same basic scene and shot). It's a little jarring at times, especially when there doesn't seem to be a need for any aspect ration changes (like a scene that's JUST talking), but the 3D in the IMAX scenes does look better than the non-IMAX-filmed ones. Overall, if you're a 3D junkie, this is a great movie to see in 3D.
However, this was my second viewing of the film, and its faults stuck out so much more the second time around. The dialog is just plain awful most of the time--laughable when it's not supposed to be funny--and Bay manages to make his human characters annoying once again. The Transformers don't speak the best lines either, and it's still a little weird to hear Optimus yelling angry words and saying "I'll kill you! I'll kill you!" more than just a couple times in the movie. Also, the film is just ridiculously long. There's no reason for it to drag on to almost 3 hours in length. It's almost the equivalent of binge-watching about four 45-minute TV episodes. It's got its moments of some pretty cool-looking action, but that doesn't make it a great movie by any stretch of the imagination.
Bay In Action (10:45) is the first featurette on the bonus disc (there are NO special features on the 2D Blu-Ray disc that has the feature film on it). Here, Bay talks about doing some of his action sequences, namely the moment where a government agent catches a car tire to the face in mid-air. Unfortunately, right off the bat, Bay has an air of conceit to the way he talks and it's certainly going to put off some viewers. (It makes the annoying aspects of his films all the more irritating.) He talks about the different, deliberate pace of this movie, shooting in Hong Kong (and how they don't close off any streets there, which posed quite a challenge), filming the Dinobots with absolutely nothing there, etc. He sort of defends his productions here, too, adding that he just wants to make big fun action movies with this franchise.
Evolution Within Extinction (2:02:50) is the main behind-the-scenes feature. There's a play-all option that clocks in at over 2 hours, but it's also broken down into 8 different parts. It starts out with a focus on the new cast, new characters, the actors individually, and the comedy of the film. The next part focuses on the new cars in the film--whether as set dressing or the actual, main characters. They also show us how they customized new vehicles for characters like Optimus and Bumblebee. This segment concludes with a focus on the driving in the film and related stunts. Part three takes us to the filming at Cade's house. It's a real house, so they had to be careful with how they treated it. For the scene where part of it blows up, the crew built an outer facade that exploded and shouldn't have affected the house behind it. Still, the house did sustain some minor damage that the crew had to repair. Part four focuses on all-new territory covered in the movie, like the prison ship that Lockdown uses, and how the production crafted really large sets and weapons for the actors to interact with. They then showed a little about how they had integrated the live action with the CG world. They also show the filming with the big explosion that the cast runs away from in real time and how they even brought a production expert out of retirement to make sure it all went smoothly and safely. The featurette then moves to Chicago where they did quite a bit of shooting there, and shows how they dropped real debris (ships, vehicles, etc) in front of the cast instead of using CG to create it all. It ends with the shooting of the film's final showdown, and how they actually blew up part of a cement building for Lockdown to ride a walkway to the ground. Part five takes the cast and crew to Detroit where they made part of it look like Hong Kong. They built their own set in a big open space so that they had the freedom to totally demolish it for the movie. Part six has them moving to the real China, filming on the Great Wall and introducing the Dinobots. Part eight focuses on the editing process and Bay interacting with ILM to give input on and approve many of the movie's effects. We also see some of the voice actors recording their parts and get to hear from longtime Optimus Prime voice actor Peter Cullen about returning to the character once again. It all then shifts to the movie's music involving composer Steve Jablonsky and how Skrillex was brought in to add different effects and sounds to the score. Linkin Park, from the other trilogy was replaced, this time, by Imagine Dragons, and we also see how the band's vocalist ended up providing some vocals for different parts of the film's background score as well. It all ends with the film's premiere in Hong Kong where Imagine Dragons performed. Overall, it's a pretty thorough and entertaining behind-the-scenes feature. With how much detail and passion went into the production, it's actually surprising that it isn't a better movie as a whole. (At least 4 "a" words, 2 "S" words, 1 "d*mn," 2 "Oh my G-d," and some bleeped out "F" words)
Just Another Giant Effin' Movie (10:03) is a fun highlight reel of silly and lighthearted moments on the set. It's not a gag reel, but just a montage of fun moments. It also features Michael Bay's mom talking about his childhood and what he was like growing up.
A Spark of Design (15:24) is an interesting featurette all about the Hasbro toys and the current team of designers who grew up on Transformers being excited to work on the franchise. They focus on the design of a big, new toy called the "Stomp and Chomp Grimlock" and we see it from the concept stage on down to it coming off the assembly line.
TJ Miller: Farm Hippie (19:43) is a silly, mock video of TJ Miller trying to visit Michael Bay, Kelsey Grammer and Mark Wahlberg to thank them for letting him do the movie. They all act like Miller was a nuisance and don't act too thrilled to see him. It's a pretty pointless featurette, but it's kind of amusing. You'll get to see Michael Bay return to acting as he pretends like Miller's role was cut down entirely to just one line of dialog and credited as the "farm hippie."
Trailers - To wrap things up, there are 2 movie trailers for Age of Extinction, 1 for the KRE-O Transformers building blocks, and one for Transformers Angry Birds.- John DiBiase, (reviewed: 9/27/14)
Disclaimer: All reviews are based solely on the opinions of the reviewer. Most reviews are rated on how the reviewer enjoyed the film overall, not exclusively on content. However, if the content really affects the reviewer's opinion and experience of the film, it will definitely affect the reviewer's overall rating.
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