Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Transformers: Age of Extinction

Four years after the Battle of Chicago, the Autobots are being hunted down and destroyed by the U.S. government in order to prevent any future wars taking place. However, when struggling mechanic/inventor Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) unintentionally comes into the possession of a broken down Optimus Prime, the government soon begin invading his home to find leads to the remaining Transformers. The government themselves have been creating their own Transformers out of a new material, and soon a new war begins.

If you thought the previous three films were too "Michael Bay"ish, then this fourth installment might make you suffer a coronary heart attack. The thing about the Transformers films is that you know what you're in for before you sit down to watch them. I personally thought Bay's original Transformers film was adequate, followed by a sequel so horrific I'd rather not even talk about it. But, somehow, Dark of the Moon wound up as a fairly inventive action flick with a story I was actually interested in. Which makes it a shame that this fourth installment shares more resemblance with the second film than any other. It's a Michael Bay film, and a Transformers film, sure. But did it really have to be this ridiculous? I mean, really?

I was going to talk about the story here, but I'm not really sure there is enough of it to last a paragraph. The entire plot summary could be told in a matter of seconds, which wouldn't be such a bad thing if it wasn't spread over 165 minutes. It takes forty minutes for anything to happen, and even once it does it only lasts a few minutes before we resort to a long period of nothingness all over again. Some of the set pieces are pretty interesting, but there are so many gaps between it that you spend more of the film waiting than watching. Bay also still hasn't worked out to write characters without stereotypes yet, either. The teenage daughter's first line of the film is "Two more weeks until we can get tanned and get wasted". Is that all she's good for then? And of course, we have the Chinese factory owner. How could we have a female Chinese character and not have her suddenly reveal herself as an expert at some kind of martial art. If Bay treats his employees the way he treats his characters, it's no wonder the cast changes so much, really.

Thankfully we no longer have to suffer the walking nightmares that are Sam Witwicky, his family and whatever girlfriend he can find. Instead we're treated to a whole new cast, whose characters are pretty much as thinly sketched as those of the original trilogy. Granted, they aren't quite as annoying and the acting is a noteworthy improvement (especially Nicola Peltz, who makes for a far more convincing actress than any of her female counterparts), but they're hardly the most interesting bunch of people you've ever seen, either. Bay fans (if there are any left..) are likely to spout the whole "You don't go to a Michael Bay film for the characters" defence, but let's face it, it would just be nice to care about a character for once, right? Even the Transformers now are as two-dimensional as the human characters. Age of Extinction actually makes you long for the likes of Ironhide and Jazz. They were annoying, but at least they were memorable.

But, as always, you can't fault the special effects, of which there are many. In this day and age it's pretty rare to find an action film with weak special effects, but the Transformers films are undeniably pretty extraordinary in that respect alone. However, here Bay has actually treated us to a few smart set pieces. Some kind of high-wire sequence is pretty common in action films now, but the (very literal) high wire scene here was pretty tense throughout. Towards the film's final moments, there is a sequence involving a giant ship (which is also a magnet..) sucking up all kinds of metal and dropping it back down to the ground again. It didn't make a whole lot of sense, but it was well done and made for a fairly exhilarating few minutes. Annoyingly, though, the final stand-off felt mundane in comparison to what came before. But this might also have been due to Bay slapping some pop-rock song over the top. I mean, seriously?

This isn't quite the monstrosity some have made it out to be, but it's hardly a good film either. It isn't much compared to the first and third installments, but it's still a miracle in comparison to Revenge of the Fallen. The Transformers franchise will always be a strange one. It's taken to a whole new level of weird here, but for those who don't care about an interesting story, likable characters or any form of normality and only seek explosions and the sound of metal, these films will always be a blast. But for anyone with any sense of what makes a film decent besides the post-production, Transformers will always feel like a 165 minute headache. Bay has promised two more installments, and if they all wind up like this, Paracetamol sales are going to go through the roof.

To Summarise: The visual effects and action sequences remain as impressive as ever, but Transformers: Age of Extinction's overall lack of any other form of coherency make it another weak entry in Michael Bay's tiresome franchise.

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