Michael Bay for me personally, is a very hit and miss filmmaker, I enjoy THE ROCK and BAD BOYS quite a lot, and I am still a big fan of the first TRANSFORMERS film. However when he’s bad, it’s a disaster, with misses like PEARL HARBOR, TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN and one of 2013’s worst entries PAIN AND GAIN. He actually does have a great eye, even his not so good films do actually look great, but something just really remains off. Whether he has too much input into the script, or too much creative control, is only speculation as to why these films fail. With his latest outing TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION, a lot of issues with previous Transformers films have been fixed, but boy is this film just way too long.
This is a sequel, it does take place some time after DARK OF THE MOON, with Chicago having been almost destroyed in the battle between the Autobots and Decepticons. The government are now trying to rid the Earth of all Transformers, but claiming they are only hunting Decepticons. The remaining Autobots are in hiding, including Optimus Prime. He does get found by accident by Cade (Mark Wahlberg), who thinks he has found an truck he can salvage for parts to sell. This sets off the government coming for him and his daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz), as they form an alliance with Optimus to seek the truth.
There is so much more going on with this plot, but I cannot write an essay here. We also have a subplot involving Harold Attinger (Kelsey Grammer), who uses his hitman James (Titus Welliver) to track down Autobots, with an alien who they have struck a deal with. The reason for getting these bots, is that a scientist is working out how to create their own Transformers. All of these things do come to a head in the plot, and eventually Dinobots are even unleashed.
That said, the film’s real flaws do lie with such a convoluted plot, it really didn’t need so many subplots. I don’t mind following one group of people, in this case Cade, his daughter and her boyfriend. The normal people getting swept up in the madness, is something that is fun, and I do think out of the 4 films, this is the most successful group. We also had the government element, an alien element, then science experiments happen, also Autobots ect ect. Without so many subplots, the film that clocks in at 163 minutes, could have been trimmed to 100 minutes easy. It really is too long, and by the time the epic climax happens, I was almost asleep, and this was some of the films best action scenes. The editing really needed a lot of work, the film needed to be tighter, and paced a lot better. This is an issue that was very present with REVENGE OF THE FALLEN and also DARK OF THE MOON. These films are getting longer, but they don’t need to be. Everything is epic, yes, but it doesn’t need to be so long.
Luckily though, a lot of the really stupid elements from the previous films have been forgotten about. We don’t have the annoying Sam any more, Cade is a much easier character to be around for the film. There isn’t much of the sidekick or lacky humour, the humour overall is toned down, it is there but it isn’t insanely over the top stupid. I didn’t feel this had the apparent racism of REVENGE OF THE FALLEN, thankfully no Skidmarks or Mudflaps types here. We had a much better female lead with Tessa, she isn’t being overly oogled by the camera, and in general women don’t feel as exploited, which I really appreciated. The action really is insane, a lot of it is fun too, and well handled. It was nice to be able to see the battles, although I did get confused where one Bot ended, and one began, the ones we did have (Autobots) were very distinctive with their looks and colours.
Performance wise, Mark Wahlberg is really dreadful, but in kind of a good way. He isn’t as bas as he was in The Happening, but not far off. Cade is definitely a big step up from Sam as I mentioned, and he was easier to be around. This was Wahlberg clearly not caring and having fun, and I liked it. Nicola Peltz was a great choice, she has solid acting chops (she’s not bad in BATES MOTEL), and she did a fairly decent job here. Kelsey Grammer played the asshole perfectly, he was loving every minute of it, and I really liked the casting. I wish there was more of Titus Welliver, because let’s face it, he’s awesome! I loved every moment he was on screen, he has a lot of screen presence. The real star though is Stanley Tucci, who took a nothing role and made it into something. He brings the laughs and when things get a bit stale, he breathes new life into the film. There are other side characters, but they really didn’t have any effect on me.
This is a larger than life epic, it does not have the smarts of GODZILLA or EDGE OF TOMORROW though. It has insane action sequences, so much destruction, it gets too much and too silly, and it is difficult to take seriously, but that is not Bay’s intention. He wants to appeal to everyone’s inner 12 year old, because at heart he does seem like one. This is clearly not going to be for everyone, those who have enjoyed previous TRANSFORMERS films will likely enjoy this. If you didn’t like them, don’t bother. I enjoyed parts of it, and disliked others. This film represents how I feel about Michael Bay, hit and miss. It was nice however to see a slightly more mature film from him in some aspects, but it is still balls to the wall nuts. This probably isn’t a film I will rewatch again for awhile, I could use a much short version though.