Transformers: Age of Extinction

Transformers - Age of Extinction - posterDirector: Michael Bay

Writer: Ehren Kruger

Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Stanley Tucci, Kelsey Grammer, Nicola Peltz, Jack Reynor, Titus Welliver

Cert: 12A

Running Time: 165mins

Year: 2014

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The lowdown: Michael Bay and his metal minions return to give eardrums and brain cells another battering in the fourth instalment of the action figure-inspired ode to excess. A haemorrhoid-busting running time boasts extra-terrestrial bounty hunters, fire-breathing Dinobots, photorealistic Autobots, an enthusiastically ineffectual Mark Wahlberg and pretty, pouty Nicole Peltz. There should be something for everyone but with any spark of humanity extinguished this is an empty, mean-spirited mess, fit only for the scrap heap.

Transformers - Age of Extinction - Dinobot, Optimus PrimeTRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION

The verdict: 65 million years ago, alien ‘Creators’ arrived on earth, annihilating most intelligent life and encasing it in an inescapable metal prison. After enduring this migraine of a movie you’ll have a fair idea how that feels.

Set five years after Dark of The Moon, the ‘Battle of Chicago’ has not been forgotten but Shia LaBeouf’s Sam ‘twitchy’ Witwicky and his family certainly have.

Returning screenwriter Ehren Kruger has wiped the previous cast from memory and started afresh, introducing inventor Cade Yeager (Wahlberg) and his teenage daughter Tessa (Bates Motel, The Last Airbender), down home Texan folk fighting to save their home from foreclosure.

When Cade’s search for spare parts takes him to a derelict movie theatre he discovers a disguised, dormant Optimus Prime. Cheeky references to ‘crap sequels and remakes’ and fears regarding advances in technology prematurely suggest this outing could take a more interesting turn.

Only the ham-fisted politicising and omnipresent stars and stripes remind you who’s really in the driving seat.

When Optimus wakes up, Michael Bay does too and from here on it’s our place to sit-tight and marvel at the spectacle rather than scrutinise the content, as he proudly spends the next two hours showcasing the SFX department’s advances in the past three years.

These achievements have mainly been in the field of spinning.

Shooting and spinning. Exploding and spinning. Transformers fragmenting, then reforming…while spinning. There’s more spinning here than in a Terrence Malick film.

And it’s long. Painfully, pointlessly long. Most of the plot is shoehorned into the first hour, cramming the nefarious actions of a government taskforce, the discovery of unstable, hilariously monikered molecule ‘Transformium’ and a bomb-like device called the ‘seed’, into your unsuspecting cranium.

Small wonder the cast are lost amid the noise and nonsense.

TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTIONTransformers - Age of Extinction - parachuting robot

Wahlberg struggles to make any impact; his slack-jawed confused look totally at odds with his later hip-thrusting heroics and earlier concerned parental sermons.

Despite her mini-shorted introduction, rising star Peltz escapes the fate of the franchise’s previous female leads by remaining modestly attired (yes, a hot chick wearing a jacket can be considered progressive in Bay’s World). Unfortunately she’s allowed to do little more than run, squeal and presumably reapply her maquillage at every available opportunity.

Of the supporting cast, only Stanley Tucci registers as a self-satisfied corporate cheese, relishing every brainless bon mot he’s paid to utter.

With Megatron gone there’s initial confusion as to the identity of Extinction’s ‘big bad’: Kelsey Grammer’s speech-loving government agent? Titus Welliver’s trench coated thug? Trash-talking alien bounty hunter Lockdown? New-bot-on-the-block Galvatron?

An argument could even be made for the Autobots themselves. They display character traits throughout that border on psychopathy: narcissism, apathy, cruelty and at times a complete disregard for life, human or otherwise. With allies like these, who needs enemies?

Characters communicate in soundbites which consist of violent threats and/or shouting their names at top volume: “I am OPTIMUS PRIIIIIME!” “I am GALVATRON!” “I am a fat ballerina who takes names and slits throats!” Eh?

Along with the declarations of death and destruction, the uncomfortable stereotypes return: Tessa’s Irish boyfriend Shane (Jack Reynor) is nicknamed ‘Lucky Charms’, an Asian business woman is unfeasibly good at martial arts and Samurai-styled Transformer ‘Drift’ (voiced by Ken Watanabe) spouts cod Art of War-isms that sound more like Sarah McLachlan lyrics.

For its final climax, the action cynically moves to commercially viable China and what could be dubbed ‘Product Placement Plaza’. Each explosion highlights another big name brand to briefly catch the eye and enter the brain before something else blows up. When a carton of Shuhua milk gets almost as much screen time as the shot of a fire-breathing robot dinosaur, you know something, somewhere has gone horribly wrong.

Tucci’s billionaire bad boy at one point describes a plan as ‘A fiasco, a farrago, an embarrassment…a total failure’.

Sadly, only the first three statements apply to this money-making monstrosity.

Transformers 5 is already in development.

Angela Britten