Sunday, July 20, 2014

Movie Review: Transformers: Age of Extinction

Directed by Michael Bay. 2014.

The first of Michael Bay's Transformer movies is the only movie I ever turned off with the intention of never seeing the rest. I couldn't understand what was happening and visually it was a complete mess. The 2007 progenitor of this series, though, was buoyed by some hilarious sitcom-style humor, namely from the much-maligned Shia LeBeouf and his screen dad, Kevin Dunn. That Transformers: Age of Extinction shares the same virtues and vices as its predecessor tells me two things. First, Michael Bay is satisfied with his work. Second, he missed his calling as a director of sitcoms. Now I don't dislike this franchise or Bay himself and I won't pile on more disdain for the man's cinematic malefactions. What I am is disappointed, because this whole series could have been a blast.

The franchise should have been an unapologetically loud, patriotic, macho, and fun series, grounded in simple, traditional, American values, and held up by classic American hero archetypes. Even this weak installment could have been pulled together into something worthwhile. Extinction features Mark Wahlberg as Texan inventor, brilliant but down on his luck, who upon finding head Transformer Optimus Prime is embroiled in national political intrigue, interstellar assassination, and internecine robot warfare. A talented screenwriter could have had a ball with that setup, but this script is utterly indifferent to anything resembling theme, plot, and characterization. There are threads of interest, but they're nearly invisible burdened as they are under layers of cliche and action.

Still we imagine what could have been with even the slightest effort. Mark Wahlberg's struggling inventor Cade Yeager could have been a hero with whom we identified as a dad, patriot, and intellect. Too Optimus Prime as a leader struggling to protect his separated troops could have been an interesting parallel character. Kelsey Grammer's CIA bigwig hunting down the Autobots could have introduced questions about political alliances and reflected a little on the debate about America's role in the world. The CEO-inventor played by Stanley Tucci works only because two-thirds through the movie Tucci hams up his performance into some genuine comedy as he is chased around Shanghai, but he could have been a meaningful foil for the lead.

Yet without ideas Transformers 4 is just a $200,000,000 jumble in which a transforming truck rides a robotic fire-breathing dinosaur around Shanghai to protect Stanley Tucci from an alien searching for him with a big magnet.

No comments:

Post a Comment