There’s a particular itch that the bombastic summer blockbuster scratches. A simple formula of guns, explosion and destruction can tap into a primal space in our minds that audiences don’t think about too much… and for good reason. It’s a space where suspension of disbelief, logic and plot consistency simply aren’t important. All that matters is ‘Did you have fun?’. If so, even the dumbest of popcorn flicks can grab and hold your attention.
To give Transformers: Age of Extinction credit, it’s certainly very dumb.
The fourth film in the series based on a Hasbro line of toys, Age of Extinction is the longest entry in the Transformers franchise so far and it is obvious when viewing. Clocking in at two hours and forty-five minutes it feels like what could have been an entertaining ride dragged down by at least an hour of filler material. Although this latest Autobot outing starts off reasonably distracting, the longer the movie goes on the more the interest dissipates. Nearly two hours into the movie, with no climax or conclusion in sight, clearly impressive stunts and action cease to occupy attention and begin coming off as simply boring. To put it bluntly, the back half of this picture is an out and out slog.
This is a genuine shame because, although not particularly strong, the opening does show potential. Longtime director Michael Bay has dispelled his entire previous live-action cast and brought in Pain & Gain alumni Mark Wahlberg to spearhead this latest installment. Wahlberg shows that the informal adage that he has demonstrated for years still holds true: as long as the movie in question doesn’t rest squarely on his shoulders, he generally puts in admirable performances; thankfully, against this backdrop of CGI lunacy he’s in equal parts charming and aloof. Similarly, Stanley Tucci, another newcomer to the franchise, clearly exults in getting to play against such an over the top environment.
As far as that elaborate action goes it is handled reasonably well. Humans are at the forefront of the lens with their plight front and centre as the robo-terrestrials do battle around them, acting as incidental instigators of the human risk. This gives the action a gravitas that has arguably not been felt since the first movie as humans generally just try to get on by and survive. But again, the fighting is so frequent and so much that any appreciation for the craft is sapped by boredom long before the movie lives up to its marketing hype and puts Autobot leader Optimus Prime atop a Dinobot. What should have been a moment of rejoice for longtime fans everywhere is ultimately forgettable by proxy.
Transformers: Age of Extinction will undoubtedly find its own fans (Box Office returns from previous installments all but confirm it) but for anyone looking for a concise, taut or even generally engaging summer experience, this is a franchise that should consider embracing its own title and letting itself die out.
For all but the most stalwart of fans, a revisit to the first movie will provide more excitement than the latest bloated sequel.