Review: New 'Transformers' is lavishly overblown

By Fred Hawson

Posted at Jun 26 2014 11:32 AM

Director Michael Bay sets "Transformers: Age of Extinction," the fourth installment of the Transformers film franchise, further into the future after the Battle of Chicago from the last film.

At this time, man is waging a war against all alien robots, including our friendly Autobots. In fact, all the Autobots have been destroyed except for five: the ever-dependable Bumblebee, the green paratrooper Crosshairs, the cigar-chomping and bearded Hound, the blue samurai-like Drift, and, of course, everybody's all-time favorite, Optimus Prime.

For the human characters, gone are the Witwickys and enter the Yeagers. Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) is a down-on-his-luck engineer and frustrated inventor of household robots. He has a pretty (and irritatingly petty) 17-year old daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz), whom he guards like a hawk. But, of course, she has a secret boyfriend Shane (Jack Raynor), who is a race car driver.

When Cade bought a rundown trailer truck for $150 to fix up, little did he know that he was buying the damaged Optimus Prime himself, putting him and his family right in the path of the government people, led by the double-dealing Harold Attinger (Kelsey Grammar). Attinger seeks to destroy all Transformers for good, but has ironically connived with the ruthless mercenary robot Lockdown to do the job.

The action brings the Yeagers and the Autobots from Texas to Beijing, then Hong Kong, battling not only human soldiers, but also fantastic new robots created by the arrogant Joshua Joyce (Stanley Tucci) and his company. These were made from a new programmable element called "Transformium" obtained from remnants of destroyed Transformers, including Megatron, whose evil "spirit" has somehow entered the new leader robot Galvatron.

You can see from the lengthy synopsis that there are many new characters, both human and robot, that go in and out of this story. It can get difficult to remember and follow all of them. The filmmakers themselves seemed to have difficulty taking inventory of all the characters at the end. I have not even mentioned the robot T- Rex Grimlock and the other Dinobots, which also make their spectacular debut in this film.

The film runs more than two hours and a half. The story telling is very uneven, with a pace that was off-putting and even strangely boring at times. The introductory scenes at the Yaeger farm went on for so long. The lines were generally corny clichés with lame humor or sappy sentiment, like before. There were a lot of blatant product placement ads, most memorably Bud Light. Only when the Transformers come out and actually fight with explosive flair does the movie truly come alive.

The film is generally entertaining with lavish special visual and sound effects, done Michael Bay-style. The Transformers remain to be awesome robots which transform into the sleekest models of cars and trucks. It was fun to see OP act like Voltes V and fight with a sword and see Grimlock breathe fire. There are some very exciting car chase scenes and martial arts fight scenes (of course, they were in China!) for the human characters as well, not that they were all that necessary for the story. Stanley Tucci steals his scenes in his humorous take on an annoying character.

However, "Age of Extinction" simply tried to stuff in too much that it already felt bloated and tedious at several points. Even with all his physical ability, Mark Wahlberg did not seem to be a right fit to be the main human protagonist of this franchise. I can't believe I am saying this, but I think I actually enjoyed the messy Shia Lebeouf films more than I did this one. 6/10

This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."