Michael Bay returns to the tired and stale Transformers series with a fresh set of stars, a larger budget and an even longer running time to ensure the most amount of explosions on screen this summer. Transformers: Age of Extinction is Michael Bay‘s second best Transformers film and a return to summer blockbuster form for a director that shocked us all with last year’s impressive dark comedy Pain & Gain. That isn’t to say that this fourth outing doesn’t feel like a giant waste of time and a repeat to most, but at least they’ve finally rid themselves of Shia LaBeouf.
Transformers: Age of Extinction picks up a few years after the disasters of Dark of the Moon, this time focusing on a whole new batch of characters, while rarely mentioning anyone from the previous trilogy. This is what the industry likes to call a soft reboot, which means that Bay has swapped out the human counterparts for new stars that might breathe some fresh air into the series that keeps making boatloads of money, but is quickly becoming one of the most tired and stale franchises of the modern era.
Bay also spices up the Transformers, giving almost every single bot a new paint job and look, while keeping the same voices and general plot outline that falls in place with the three previous films.
The best thing about Age of Extinction is that it’s slightly different and gives us audience members a few humans to root for, while the biggest complaint of the film is that it revisits the same problems that were present in the last three films and since it introduces new characters it feels the need to spend way too much time establishing them, which is never a Bay strong point when it comes to the Transformers films.
Bay does move forward as a visual filmmaker, again expressing his talents and appreciation for blending practical effects and cutting edge CGI. Seriously, Age of Extinction looks absolutely amazing and the special effects have never felt so real before. For that, Bay gets a slight pass, because no one makes big budget spectacles quite like he does, even if they’re mostly lifeless and dull when it comes to structuring the plot around anything that doesn’t involve an explosion or terrorizing a complete city from the ground up.
Age of Extinction doesn’t move all that quickly either, despite the film shifting global locations on the drop of a dime and without any actual reasoning whatsoever. Bay just does what he wants and when he wants and the script either catches up in a very loose manner or it doesn’t bother at all and if that sort of thing offends you as a cinema-goer then perhaps you’ll want to turn down for this one, because Age of Extinction firmly reminds us that Bay isn’t going to be changing his ways anytime soon, despite last year’s Pain & Gain being a comedic masterpiece.
And that’s okay to an extent. Bay has gotten by on big budget blockbusters for his entire career and if he only wants to take short breaks to make passion projects then so be it. That just means that we as movie-goers are going to have to pay a little bit more attention if we don’t want to see Bay blowing up half the world with each new movie.
I personally enjoyed Age of Extinction and think that Bay’s finally started to get a hold of his Transformers series. The first film was pretty damn good, while the second one was a complete piece of shit and the third one stumbled past the victory line, mostly due to the stunning and impressive 3D, if nothing else.
Age of Extinction actually boasts some real potential, thanks to swapping out crybaby Shia LaBeouf for Mark Wahlberg. Wahlberg approaches the film with his usual level of confused hilarity, which worked wonders in Pain & Gain and to certain degrees in Age of Extinction. I’m still not sure if he gets that he’s a joke too or if he and Bay just have some sort of mutual understanding that they both love it when Wahlberg smiles and acts as awkward as possible.
Wahlberg brings the film back to its slightly more serious roots, despite himself being a funny man. Gone are the films of stupid kiddish robot jokes and in comes the film that is still kind of stupid, but also funny for some adults over the age of thirteen. And that’s a giant step forward for Bay, who mostly farted on the second two films of the series without even giving a piss.
Now, the Transformers series stands a chance at becoming that bi-yearly piece of mindless explosion cinema that some (but not most) still enjoy. Sure, Bay could use a good lesson in editing and appreciating a film’s running time, but aside from the length and repetitive nature of Bay exploding things again and again and again; Age of Extinction works as a giant slice of over-stuffed, calorie-heavy summer blockbuster pie. It’s loaded to the max with impressive action sequences and spectacular special effects and there’s a handful of jokes that actually work.
Those of you looking for another excuse to shit on the Transformers series will have one after Age of Extinction. It’s mostly Bay doing the same thing, only this time with new characters and a smarter use of IMAX 3D technology. That alone is enough for me to purchase an over-priced ticket to the local IMAX, but most will want to skip this one completely, because Bay is Bay and he’s going to keep doing what he’s doing until the last penny rolls across his desk. I’m alright with contributing to his paychecks as long as he still takes the time in between these explosion-fests to make something a little more personal and unique.
Transformers: Age of Extinction – 7.5/10