It’s been several years since the events of Transformers: Dark of the Moon and things are looking decidedly iffy for the continued existence of Transformers on Earth. In a feeling of tension akin to District 9 , a hapless Texan family discover that they’re now the target of the government and every Transformer gone bad that you can think of. Because that’s what happens in Transformers movies.
The cast of the previous three films, except for the ‘bots, has been swept away. Instead we’re introduced to several new human characters, including a father-come-inventor played by Mark Whalberg. I will admit now that his presence in this movie is perhaps the only reason I agreed to go and see this at a cinema.
For those of you who like seeing Sparks plundered from the still shifting chests of sentient machines or the odd human being executed in cruel and unusual ways: good news, you get to see a lot of that. And even better news: you can tell who is fighting who (something I’ve never really forgiven the second film for, among its many other crimes), though this is achieved by plot points (hint: there are fewer Transformers) and three dubiously characterised Autobots who seem to have adopted human nationalities (read: stereotypes).
While Michael Bay thinks he’s trained cinema-goers to accept big explosions as a substitute for coherent plot lines, the manner in which the film progressed was ridiculous at times. Big events would happen with certain characters, the narrative focus would shift and then you’d be left wondering for twenty minutes, “What happened to so-and-so?” before they popped out of nowhere for no real good reason.
I got fed up of the lack of true downtime in the film . Everyone is on edge all the time and frequently threatened by having bits of body smashed into a pulp – the pacing was miles off, with few real moments of humour to help balance things out, as often happened in the previous films.
All I hear is noise
The way in which Ehren Kruger had written Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) fell way short of the characterisation afforded Shia LaBeouf’s Sam Witwicky, leaving me wishing that Sam was back for a fourth outing. This was in part due to a severe lack of dialogue that worked. Far too often, Cade was made to state the blimmen’ obvious (along with just about every other character). It was like Kruger had forgotten all those hints on how to write dialogue that works… y’know, like how to use subtext and not lace dialogue with exposition, and obvious exposition at that!
Cade’s daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz) wasn’t much better off. The woman with the most screen time, she spent most of it screaming and whimpering, reduced to a damsel more than Carly or Mikaela were in the last three films. She had to be protected by not only her father, but her boyfriend Shane Dyson (Jack Reynor) too. Despite it being mentioned early on that she’d become a race car navigator, which obviously puts you in life or death situations where screaming is a poor choice. Tessa was seemingly unable to take that bravery and apply it to dealing with giant robots and dodgy government agents. But hey, Shane remained cool far more, so it balances out (no it doesn’t).
And pity the characters that had changes of heart through the film: little believable plotting or dialogue was given to them in order to make their transformations feel genuine. Apparently feeling bad about a thing for several minutes will make you change your mind. Apparently
Robbed of dinos
Despite having more budget than the previous film, the effects in Age of Extinction had disappointingly poor special effects and animation in many sections of the film. So even the explosions looked cheap at times, and there was a severe over use of slow downed shots as well, along with unnecessarily low angles. But the place where things seemed the most cheated was a segment involving animated dinosaurs at the beginning of the film, which just looked like a hastily done job with no real thought put into it (I was reminded of Wolverine’s claws in X-Men Origins: Wolverine (and I know why those claws were bad)). The quality of animation here was so awful in the opening scene that it was distracting.
Later on in the film, despite their heavy presence in its trailers, the Dinobots were heavily sidelined. Characters that on the surface seemed to have rich and interesting backgrounds were marginalised to being just simple plot devices, deus ex machina there for the Autobots to get things done.
But anyway, onto some actual critical analysis. Some of the CG looked unpolished. The humans seemed to vanish when convenient (as to not get completely crushed or even have a few broken bones). The only character growth was the main father accepting the guy who is dating his daughter and the premise was actually quite bad. Let me just outline how bad exactly. The film jumped 5 years from the previous film.Major world-shattering events went on and we saw none of it. I’ve always come from a perception when filmmaking – the story you’re telling should be THE most important story of that world (sequels being an exception).So it boggles the mind that the jump in time isn’t preluded by the story of the premise that
Then there’s the whole idea of making your own robots out of the materials of the old, and manipulating the very small molecules to do this, considering that technology hasn’t even been invented for anything else yet. Even if it had, what’s to stop you building a robot that could rip the metal out of the autobots, break it down and reprogram it there and then – the technology is apparently there in the film. Heck, why would the main bad guy leave humans alive with that ability, let alone ally himself with them . Bad, bad, bad, bad, bad.
It’s not often that I would slate a film, usually I feel like they have at least one redeeming quality, but when that redeeming quality is the humans (and even then not from a character growth perspective), I just don’t understand why it got made. Out of everyone I’ve spoken to about the film, there’s only been a few die-hard transformers fans that have really enjoyed it. The rest have either found it boring or shallow. Personally, I think someone other than Michael Bay should take up the reins to Transformers (or even better, reboot the thing – and that’s not something I would say lightly).
Transformers: Age of Extinction is possibly worse than the second film. Unintelligible in a lot of places, with characters robbed of the chance to come into their own, I do not understand why Bay and co. made this film if they weren’t going to put at least the third film’s amount of effort into it. It’s messy and not enjoyable to watch, because there’s little charm to be found in the smouldering piles of dead robots that litter this film or the humans that are forced to patrol their carcasses. Avoid.
Transformers: Age of Extinction is out now in cinemas. Our reviewers bought their own tickets. And sincerely regret it.