[pullquote cite=”” type=”left, right”][amazon text=Amazon&template=carousel&chan=That Film Guy&asin=B00LA8H82E][/pullquote] Following in the footsteps of its commercial success juggernauts comes Michael Bay’s latest blockbuster Transformers: Age of Extinction. Acting as a sort of reboot for the human cast, we lose Shia Labouef’s Sam Whitwicky and gain Mark Wahlberg brilliantly named Cade Yeager.
Cade is an inventor (as he insists on screaming to anyone who will listen) who stumbles upon the wreck of a big rig that turns out to be the autobot leader Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen) who went into hiding following the events in Chicago at the end of Transformers: Dark of the Moon. Humanity it seems is tired of the Transformers destroying their planet and have taken to hunting both sides using human-made Transformers, inspired by the brain of dead Decepticon leader Megatron. The company responsible are headed by anti-Transfomers executive Harold Attinger (Kelsey Grammar) who has also made a deal with Lockdown (Mark Ryan) a transformer from off world who collects the rarest and most powerful of his kind on behalf of a mysterious race called the Ancients.
As you can tell from that brief yet convoluted synopsis there’s a lot going on in Age of Extinction. The film flits between family drama, to action spectacular through political thriller with a dose of science fiction epic. In the hands of a talented director this could be hailed as the most bombastic, ambitious blockbuster in years. In the hands of Michael Bay it’s a loud mess. The characters run around with little actual basis for their actions, sometimes to inadvertently hilarious effect. When Mark Wahlberg is shouting I’m an inventor to anyone that will listen, you know you’re in sketchy territory.
Despite promises to the contrary Transformers: Age of Extinction is the longest instalment of the mega-franchise to date, clocking in at an unwieldy 168 minutes. Long films are of course no problem, and the right pacing, setting, drama and action can combine to make the time fly by. In Michael Bay’s case what it means is you have a perfectly acceptably paced 90-minute film with a big action scene come advert at the end.
A note on the advertising too. While it is now common knowledge that advertisers will pay big money to be mentioned in blockbuster films, Age of Extinction doesn’t even have the good grace to properly integrate it into the story. In one unbearably dreadful scene Stanley Tucci’s Joshua Joyce is showing off the properties of ˜Transformium’ he mentions a specific brand of music entertainment system, before holding it up to the camera in classic infomercial style. There’s subtle advertising in film like the use of certain brand cars as Transformers, and then there’s this, which is a literal break in the story to highlight how impressive a product is and name it for the audience. Then there’s the final act set in China that is specifically aimed at the Chinese cinema market, complete with Chinese energy drinks. If you’re a director with the reputation of Michael Bay you don’t care about artistic integrity, because you have the backing of the public and endless commercial success.
There comes a point when highlighting the deficiancies of Michael Bay becomes almost pointless. We already know the strokes, the films will be too long, base-level content, advertising and action heavy, with little care taken for things like framing, pacing, dialogue and overall narrative cohesion. This is clearly a director who likes the toys and the money and the fame. In a strange way he so steadfastly refuses to adapt or evolve that you can’t help but admire his honesty to his own brand of film-making.
It would be obtuse at this stage to think that you’re going to get anything other than the standard loud, aggressive nonsense from him. With that in mind, Transformers: Age of Extinction is not his worst, which is as high praise as you’re likely to get.