Marky Mark has inherited the reins from former leading man Shia LaBeouf. And we are beyond thankful that Wahlberg’s established career will not be defined by his role in Transformers: Age of Extinction.
Because, if it did, he would need more than a team of Autobots to save him from the stain on his resume that is this exhausting sci-fi flick.
The signs are screaming that the franchise is possibly past its expiry date.
MINI-SPOILERS MARK: Minor plot details discussed without major spoilers
Four years after Autobots and Decepticons battled for the umpteenth time and destroyed Chicago in the process, Americans have turned hostile to the alien species. Autobots are being hunted down by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Transformer bounty hunter Lockdown, which prompts leader Optimus Prime to go into hiding. Optimus soon crosses paths with struggling Texas inventor Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg), a loving single father trying to make ends meet for him and his 17-year-old daughter, Tessa (Nicola Peltz).
When Cade fixes Optimus, he, Tessa and her racer boyfriend Shane Dyson (Jack Reynor) end up caught in the battle between the Autobots and Lockdown. A new threat also emerges in the form of CIA-controlled man-manufactured (and made in China) Transformers, developed by KSI head Joshua Joyce (Stanley Tucci) through his acquisition of “Transformium”, the metal from which Transformers are made of, as its name so obviously indicates.
In one word, Transformers: Age of Extinction is bigger; a bigger special effects achievement, and a bigger mess of a movie.
To describe the movie as “stuffed to its brim” would be putting it midly. For, despite the size of its giant mechanical stars, Age of Extinction is too big for its own good. The film is overloaded with too much of whatever it attempts to deliver.
Just 15 minutes shy of being three hours long, the movie is, at certain points, unbearable, and the culprit is terrible pacing. The first half suffers from action deficit, and the second half is essentially nothing but exhausting battle scenes pieced back-to-back. Whether viewers enjoy more action and less talk, or more plot with fewer explosions, they find themselves begging for release at one half or the other.
Further bloating the film is the confusing alternation between its two villains. Viewers will be too bewildered with the onscreen mess to register any real threat from either baddie, which makes the action-stuffed quest more of a drag. There is also a shameless overload of cameos of none other than the film’s sponsors. The series of amateurish (and lame) product placement, clearly lacking the subtle effort of its predecessors, reduces Age of Extinction to a large and very long commercial, Autobots and Decepticons aside.
Cade and Tessa’s relationship is endearing, and the audience quickly warms up to this in the early minutes of the film. Enter Shane Dyson, and the flavour has gone sour. Reynor’s Shane is downright disrespectful and an irritant to an otherwise potentially successful father-daughter pairing. To rub salt in the wound, Shane’s presence brings out the worst in Peltz’s really-not-an-ingenue; with him, Tessa is less appreciative of her father. If anything, Wahlberg effectively portrays the only truly likeable human character in the entire film.
But that does not change the fact that director Michael Bay has placed at centre stage three very expendable characters. Beyond their basic function of giving the audience something to relate to, the central father-daughter-boyfriend trio find themselves completely irrelevant to the main issues that take place in Age of Extinction. Remove the three characters and substitute them with minor alternative courses of action, and the main plot would, by and large, remain unscathed. But, to be honest, there is not much of a plot at all.
Truth be told, the storyline and action belongs solely to the Autobots. Humans would be nothing but by-watchers if not for the intimidating but flat CIA boss Harold Attinger (Kelsey Grammar) and Joshua Joyce, who is actually the film’s most relevant human being. But Stanley Tucci’s character is far from the ideal protagonist and would certainly be unable to carry the film on his own.
As virtually all international corporations do, Joshua Joyce’s KSI outsources its manufacture of human-controlled Transformers to, you guessed it, China. This is where Li Bingbing‘s character conveniently comes in, and the Chinese actress has more than her fair share of awkwardly executed scenes. But we know that the actress has effectively fulfilled her purpose of being eye candy, and giving Transformers easy access to the large Asian market.
To round up this behemoth of a tech film’s short circuits, the sheer absurdity of the movie is worthy of plenty of eye-rolling on the audience’s part. Surely, three films had taught us by now to avoid purchasing seemingly abandoned old vehicles with great potential that no one in the area seems to know about; it’s likely a Transformer. But alas, that is precisely how Cade Yeager meets Optimus Prime, in a scene too reminiscent of when Sam Witwicky first purchased Bumblebee during the nostalgic Megan Fox era.
Cade also rubs off as too much of an adrenaline junkie for a father seemingly concerned for his daughter’s safety. Why he hops on a race (pun intended) for his life alongside wanted Autobots when he is trying to protect Tessa at all costs is beyond understanding. The film tosses up plenty of baffling scenarios, and viewers will question the logic behind an alien Autobot having a Japanese accent, or why fugitive Optimus Prime refuses to transform into anything other than a truck, which is essentially his ostentatious trademark and equivalent to wearing a gigantic name tag. It appears that the Autobot leader, or the film’s scriptwriters, might not fully understand the concept of hiding.
But, to give credit where credit is due, Age of Extinction is spectacular on the action front. When it comes to perfecting the art of showing off, Michael Bay is your man. Unlike many other films, Bay does not cheat on special effects by hiding the action in dark settings; Michael Bay’s Transformers battles are ensured sufficient lighting for the viewers to see every minute detail that the special effects team diligently brought to life. And whether it be cars or sultry ladies in high heels and short skirts, Bay knows how to sell the product with just a few seconds of screen time.
Transformers: Age of Extinction is really nothing more than a Hollywood money-making machine with a talented director and groundbreaking special effects team dragged down by scriptwriters that are in desperate need of “Story Writing 1o1”.
But one should definitely still pay good money to catch this scrap metal in the cinema, but only in IMAX 3D. After all, this is the first feature film to be shot using digital IMAX 3D cameras, and it delivers on the crystal-clear images and in-depth 3D.
But Transformers: Age of Extinction is very shallow material, and certainly not more than meets the eye.
Rating: 1.5/5 (TALK-o-meter: “That was such an epic fail.”)