I’m not a fan of Michael Bay‘s Transformers movies. In fact I’ve hated every single one. Transformers: Age of Extinction is not an exception, but on the sliding scale of horrific awfulness that is the Bay Transformers franchise it’s the least objectionable of the lot. Lazy, inane, and almost completely without merit, the latest Transformers film didn’t so much anger me as leave me increasingly confused and apathetic to the “storytelling” that was unfolding before my eyes.
The first film ruined a beloved childhood toy and cartoon franchise by centering the film not on the transforming robots themselves but a lazy 80s teenage sex comedy between Shia LaBeouf and Megan Fox and lots of (pointless) robot porn. The sequel lowered the bar with a plot that makes Highlander 2: The Quickening sound plausible involving Transformer reincarnation and various inanity including a sexbot, racist robots, more American flag waving, and even more (pointless) robot porn.
Transformers: Dark of the Moon, which should have mercifully ended the series forever, was no better replacing Fox with Rosie Huntington-Whiteley as the eye candy (or Michael Bay’s idea of a “female lead”), a nonsensical plot, more American flag waving, and even more (and still pointless) robot porn. Things haven’t changed all that much, although I will give screenwriter Ehren Kruger some credit for attempting to make other Autobots rather than just Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen) and Bumblebee stand-out. Sadly none of the new characters are all that memorable (at least not in a positive way) and even the prolonged torture and death of Ratchet means nothing as the previous movies made no effort to make him an actual character rather than just a special effect.
The new film casts Mark Wahlberg as failed robotics investor Cade Yeager. (Yeager? Oh, isn’t that clever? No, no it isn’t.) About to be evicted from his farm, Yeager is more concerned with his hot daughter (Nicola Peltz, stepping into Megan Fox’s cutoff jean shorts) and her idiot of a boyfriend (Jack Reynor). When a broken-down Optimus Prime falls into Yeager’s possession his friends and family become targets. How Optimus gets repaired by a guy who can’t get anything to work properly and a simple scan of another truck is but one of the many, many huge plot holes the film refuses deal with.
Following the events of the last film the United States Government has begun targeting Autobots as well as Decepticons. A super-secret CIA hit squad commanded by Harold Attinger (Kelsey Grammer) targets, destroys, and harvests the technology of the robots for the slightly less-evil tech genius (Stanley Tucci) who strips the robots of their magic metal called “Transformium” (your groans here) while reversing engineering the technology to create his own robot army. The trouble is the businessman’s main robot, designed after Optimus Prime but looking a hell of a lot like the main Yeager in Pacific Rim, was built off of Megatron‘s (Frank Welker) collected knowledge. Renamed Galvatron, I’m guessing you can figure out where things go from there.
Yeager and his family also must deal with a Transformer bounty hunter (Mark Ryan) hired by the creators of the Autobots and Decepticons (who are also responsible for the extinction of Earth’s dinosaurs? Um yeah…) to capture Optimus Prime (but not the rest of the robots?) who he plans to add to his private collection (the other members of which will play a role in the final action sequence of the film). For some reason the bounty hunter also has a partnership with Attinger which is only slightly more plausible than a giant ball of evil hurtling through space befriending a corporate douchebag.
With the first two-thirds of the film taking place in America, Bay doesn’t miss a single opportunity to throw in an American flag or turn yet another redundant scene re-explaining plot points for the third or fourth time into a music video. Eventually giving up on plot, the film becomes a mishmash of music and action which only blissfully comes to an end after offering us the lamest versions of the Dinobots possible (none of whom even earn a single line of dialogue) ruining yet another of my favorite Transformers characters.
Transformers: Age of Extinction is like a like a Toby Keith concert. It’s loud, annoying, incredibly predictable and stupid (while under the misguided idea that it’s actually clever), shoves cliched versions of Americana down your thrown ad nauseam, all without doing much to fulfill its main job to entertain. Sure the light show might be well managed and there could be a hot girl in the audience who might distract your gaze at times, but that’s not much of a selling point. Is it marginally better than the previous three entries to the series? Yes. Is it worth seeing. Hell no.