65%Overall Score
Reader Rating: (2 Votes)
18%

An acceptable franchise story makes up for a lot of the cinematic flaws.

Optimus Prime and the Autobots come out of hiding once again to unite against the forces of evil. But this time, the orchestrators are the humans they once swore to protect.

Taking place five years after the events of 2011’s Transformers: Dark of the Moon, an extreme change of scenery shows the title robots fleeing into seclusion while being hunted by humans. If captured, they are taken to a laboratory facility where they are studied and stripped down to their most basic metal components. Spoiler alert: a character from the first three movies is killed in the beginning.

An overzealous CEO (Stanley Tucci) plans to use the Cybertronian technology to advance human weaponry for better defenses against another alien invasion like the one that ruined Chicago. He is also using it to manufacture his own transforming vehicles, complete with a leader built in the likeness of a fallen Decepticon commander, and is aptly named Galvatron.

In a joint alliance with the CIA and a rogue Transformer named Lockdown, the Cybertronian bounty hunt is on.

Elsewhere in the world (rural Texas to be exact), a familiar truck is extracted from an old theatre by Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg, hot off Pain & Gain, his last collaborative project with Bay). He spends his days dealing with the growing pains of a being a single father to a daughter about to finish high school. Scrapping for parts and using the leftovers for his own tinkering, the humans bite off more than they can chew when an accidental informant reveals the location of the Prime target (pun absolutely intended).

The story takes us around the world from Chicago to Beijing, Hong Kong, and even the North Pole. Writer Ehren Krugen sticks to the same method of storytelling prevalent in Transformers films since 2009’s Revenge of the Fallen, the second in the film series. The story mainly focuses on the human experience of the events, but delves into the history of mankind with relation to Cybertronian life as well (so far, we have seen a sun destroyer in a pyramid and an Autobot ship on the Moon). Wait until the film’s climax for the revelation of the Dinobots, another piece of Earth history affected by a visit from the distant world.

While the human element is nevertheless present, the script does its best to balance the focus of the movie on both species, revealing (however poorly) that our personal struggles are no different. In one scene, Optimus Prime compares raising a child to being Bumblebee’s commanding officer. Some army! But at least there is effort to keep a rapport on screen between the robots in disguise and their human counterparts.

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A definite improvement over the two previous outings (though that isn’t saying much). There are fewer major characters of which to keep track, making the movie easier to enjoy. It’s certainly not for cinematic masterpiece seekers, that is for sure. The target audience here is strictly for fans of the franchise. They are sure to get a lot of entertainment value out of this overlong yarn of a Saturday morning cartoon.

However, the film does not drag nearly as much as its predecessors did. Although the acting is purposefully over-the-top, it’s at least performed with much more gusto by an entirely new (and much needed) cast of human characters. Several jokes are made deliberately to prove the movie’s self-awareness. Richard Riehle makes a cameo as a landlord who describes the movie business as a merchandising mess of “sequels and remakes, with nothing original.” And, cheesy though it might be, the film does its best to have heart (or spark if you want to get technical).

There is no doubt that parents already spent at least double the admission price to buy their kids several of the toys already available. The release of Age of Extinction ties in nicely with the 30th anniversary of the Transformers cartoon and toy franchise through Hasbro. They, along with most non-followers of the franchise, might be bored at the 162 minute foray into a story filled with far too many product placements and a not so happy message about humanity’s fear for survival.

Ultimately, Transformers: Age of Extinction has a terrific story written specifically for the franchise’s characters to be seen by the franchise’s fans. With video games, apparel, and plenty of automobile endorsements to go around, Michael Bay has proven yet again that a feature-length toy commercial can serve its purpose while entertaining its fans.

About The Author

Contributing Writer

Herbert M. Shaw began writing movie reviews for his high school newspaper and hasn't stopped since. In 2005, his radio program "The Shaw Report" was started with WCDB Albany 90.9 FM in Albany, New York, and lives on with online streaming at www.wcdbfm.com. In addition to film and TV reviews, Herbert also covers a variety of pop culture events surrounding technology, gaming, and the arts. He has covered every single New York Comic Con since 2006, and writes an annual Oscar prediction guide.