home | index
Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014)
Loosely inspired by American toy and board game company Hasbro's articulated G.I. Joe action figure, Hasbro's Japanese licensing partner Takara toy company created the first two Transformers-like miniature action figure lines called Diaclone and MicroChange in the early 1980s. Hasbro rebranded and launched them as Transformers in 1984, hiring Marvel Comics to publish a tie-in comic book series that same year. Marvel writer Bob Budiansky and artist Frank Springer reportedly fleshed out the now-familiar story of sentient robo-hero Optimus Prime's Autobots and evil Megatron's Decepticons continuing their ancient metal world's civil war on Earth that was adapted for Hasbro's famed US animated television series for toy-craving children, Transformers (1984-1987). More than meets the eye, the comic books and cartoons and the animated feature The Transformers: The Movie (1986) were all marketing campaigns to sell toys. Promos in disguise. Be thankful Hasbro never produced a Transformers Babies TV show.
The original Marvel comic book series that ran until 1991 also introduced an early version of the Witwicky family and their connection to these giant aliens, with variations on those human characters also featured in the first TV cartoon and its subsequent animated incarnations, as well as in the franchise's hugely panned, hugely profitable first three live-action movies starring Shia LaBeouf as hilariously quirky Sam Witwicky.
Transformers: Age of Extinction picks up five years after Chicago was devastated by an epic, humanity-saving battle to stop the Decepticons' transportation of the planet Cybertron to Earth, where Optimus Prime evaded deadly exile in space and Leonard Nimoy's voice acting to kill the Autobots' archenemy, Megatron. It's all in the final scenes of the last Transformers sequel released, uh, three years ago. In the wake of that battle, Mankind's alliance with the Autobots has been severed and all the robots in disguise are now officially hunted as enemy threats by an elite CIA death squad, Cemetery Wind, headed by Harold Attinger. Unofficially, Attinger's cruel and greedy lethal force targets on-the-lam Autobots in search of Optimus Prime for a more sinister purpose fuelled in part by Joshua Joyce's lucrative work mastering control over the culled Transformers' morphic metallic skin, called Transformium.
There's a lot going on. Alien bounty hunting. New Autobots and Decepticons. Fire-breathing Dinobots. Transformers Babies (no, not really.) Too bad a lot of what goes on sees the wheels fall off fairly quickly. From Wahlberg's momentum-killing soapy single dad dramatics, to the story's curiously silly disconnects in continuity, to the amateurish chainsaw accuracy editing throughout, this feature tends to punish more than reward for paying the price of admission. Example: Long time movie goers are expected to suddenly accept these big giant robots whose various components have always mechanically retracted, folded and reconfigured them into automobiles and fighter jets are actually made of mercurial Transformium that fluidly changes form like the advanced T-1000 killer bot in Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) did. That's how Transformium is presented here, without the T-1000 reference, despite decades of the Transformers never fluidly changing form like the advanced T-1000 killer bot in Terminator 2: Judgment Day did. They don't even transform like that in this movie, so why pimp this ride with jive techno-babble? Just sayin'.
I'll admit it's been ages since I've watched any of the small screen Transformers series, but I remember they seemed slapped together and stunningly cheap compared to the older cartoons and anime TV shows I watched as a kid. Later on, checking out the first live-action Transformers movie, I was relieved its story took a different direction that capitalized on how the Transformers' never-ending conflict on Earth affected humanity. Michael Bay haters aside, I imagine fans of the TV show saw that tact as disrespectfully pushing the Transformers to the sidelines in their own movie and the first two sequels. Now, fans of the TV show seem to have been appeased with this latest sequel that puts the Transformers front and centre, but the result unfortunately seems slapped together and stunningly cheap.
To be blunt, this is a very dumb, very bad movie. Where a paying audience could at least enjoy the supporting military action and the light comedic antics of the comparably enjoyable human cast in the last three films - regardless of what ever random quest or fight or transforming the fairly rigid CG animated Transformers were questing or fighting or transforming - this latest flick fails miserably at giving a paying audience anything to care about beyond the explosions. It should have been called Transformers: Age of Explosions. It opens showing dinosaurs, then explosions. The lamely named Cemetery Wind soon finds Optimus Prime, so of course explosions blow up more stuff. The Autobots later discover Joyce's Transformium lab is seriously lacking in explosions, luckily bringing some for those scenes and throughout the next hour to save you from the scientifically proven mental anguish of overt explosion deficiency, I guess.
Unless you're a rabid connoisseur of Hollywood pyrotechnics who hates the inability to fast-forward through the annoyances of tangible storytelling and captivating on-screen performances (if they had existed here,) the title Age of Extinction just gives cruel false hope this talent-wasting salvo of stink and noise is the last sequel in the franchise. Stanley Tucci's Joshua Joyce is pretty well the only strongly memorable character here and yet he merely resembles a pale rip-off of John Turturro's Sector 7 Agent Seymour Simmons from the previous movies. Sam Witwicky and his parents are sorely missed. It's a shame.
Mark Wahlberg's starring role as Cade Yeager is dull, inconsistent and unimportant to screenwriter Ehren Kruger's ham-handed and convoluted story over-all. As mentioned, it's clear there's a shift in emphasis from the people to the Transformers, but it's unclear why the people are such dopey stock characters this time around. Sure, you get new, sometimes exotic bots. Many appear for no reason to the already vague plot, except they look cartoon cool. Optimus Prime's retooling drops those things that looked like beer kegs on his shoulders so collectables completists need to scratch that itch too, but there's nothing fresh about the Transformers that's captivating enough to carry this picture without enjoyable human sub-plots. It's really just more of the same, gutted and tweaked, and populated by Hasbro's newest Transformers toy line.
Far more blatantly a cinematic showcase for Hasbro toys, uh, Hasbro collectible action figures than seen previously, Transformers: Age of Extinction is a ridiculous, relentlessly boring misfire of ignored storytelling potential for the sake of selling product to a captive big screen audience. The screenplay is arbitrary and befuddling. The pacing and characters are numbingly exhausting. The entire production is a forgettable junk pile that makes revisiting any of the three previous films at the matinee a far better time at the movies. Awful. Reviewed 07/14, © Stephen Bourne, moviequips.ca.
Transformers: Age of Extinction
is rated PG by the Ontario Film Review Board, citing use of expletives,
scenes that may cause a child brief anxiety, or fear, embracing
and kissing, and restrained portrayals of non-graphic violence,
and is rated G by la Régie du Cinéma in Québec.
Stephen Bourne's Movie Quips © Stephen Bourne. Moviequips.ca and moviequips.com are the property of Stephen Bourne. All content of this website is owned by Stephen Bourne, unless obviously not (such as possible reference links, movie synopsis and/or posters featured under the terms of fair use) or attributed otherwise. This website is based in Ottawa, Canada.