Rugger Review – Transformers: Age Of Extinction
Summary: Five Years after the battle of Chicago the Autobots are in hiding, hunted down by the very humans they protected. After discovering an old truck (Optimus Prime) that he hopes to mine for parts, inventor Cade Yaeger finds himself trying to save the Autobots from a new, more dangerous breed of Transformer.
Age of Extinction was meant to be a new start for the Transformers franchise. Shedding the old human cast completely, AOE feels fresher for it right from the off.
The whining, childish antics of Shia LaBeouf have been replaced with the goofy machismo of Mark Wahlberg, and I’m grateful to say it is a vast improvement.
Gone too are the N.E.S.T. team of Josh Duhamel and Tyrese Gibson. As all Transformers are now in hiding, hunted down by a shady black ops team called Cemetary Wind, the Autobots no longer have human allies.
In fact, in a rather brutal early scene we watch in horror as a fan favourite from previous films finds himself torn apart by Lockdown, a transformer bounty hunter working for Cemetary Wind.
The tone throughout the first hour suggests Michael Bay has been true to his word, delivering a rather tense, on-the-run film, with Optimus and Cade, his daughter and her secret boyfriend in tow, doing their best to avoid capture whilst working to unearth the conspiracy as to why they are being hunted.
That conspiracy is what leads Bay back into his old ways, with the last hour having some serious script issues which he seems to ignore in favour of the usual bombastic action sequences commonly referred to as “Bay-hem”.
The plot, without giving too much away, involves hunting down Transformers in order to mine their precious metal, called Transformium, so that a defence company can create their own Transformer army.
Even the use of the word ‘Transformium’ shows that Bay hasn’t really learnt his lesson, employing Ehren Kruger (writer of the previous two) once again, who seems to borrow ideas from other films. Transformium does sound conveniently like Avatar’s ‘unobtainium’.
And yet it all starts so well. The first hour is solid story-telling wise, even Wahlberg’s relationship with his daughter feels ten times more realistic that any human relationships in the previous trilogy.
It’s just unfortunate that Bay settles into old ways very quickly. At least he still knows how to direct an action scene. The new Autobots are more distinctive that before, which helps when it comes to telling them apart.
The final hour sees Chicago almost destroyed once again, followed by the same destruction in China. It’s only here, over two hours into the film, that the much-marketed Dinobots finally make their appearance.
It’s a shame too, because there aren’t too many directors that can instill a child-like glee in audiences like Bay, and seeing Optimus Prime riding a robot dinosaur into battle suddenly makes you wonder why it didn’t happen sooner.
As has been the case with each previous film, the script is what lets AOE down. There are only so many times you can defend these films with a ‘leave your brain at the door’ excuse. The scripts deserve to be better, as the action scenes cannot carry a three hour film on their own.
Thankfully there are much more interesting actors this time around, with Wahlberg, Stanley Tucci and Kelsey Grammar adding some serious weight to the cast, not to mention the added voice casting of John Goodman and Ken Watanabe doing more with the script than they should really need to given the premise.
Making a Transformers film was always more about selling toys than giving a high caliber film, but the success of the franchise (over 3 Billion Dollars to date) means that more care really should be taken with given us something more than just a toy commercial.
Final Verdict: After all the talk of a fresh start, we really only get it for the first half of the film, before the silly-ness of the previous films return for the climax. Bay cannot be faulted for his handling of the action sequences which are once again fantastic to watch. But the script just isn’t up to scratch for a much loved franchise and if this happens to be the start of a new trilogy as has long been mooted, you have to wonder if maybe it’s time for Bay to step aside and let someone else have a shot.
Star Rating: 3/5
* Review by Stephen Connolly