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Thursday, July 10, 2014
Maybe I was suffering from a kind of Stockholm syndrome, the condition where hostages after a long period of captivity begin to side and empathise with their captors, but I really liked the last Transformers movie.
While the first two films seemed to really go out of their way to insult your intelligence, Transformers: Dark of the Moon seemed to be gently ribbing your intelligence, subjecting it to a bit of light teasing that reflected well on both parties.
So, I went into the fourth Transformersfilm with some sense of anticipation. There was a whole new cast to look forward to, with Marky Wahlberg replacing Shia Labeouf, and the belief that Michael Bay would only have signed on for a fourth film if he had some dramatic, thrilling new tricks to show us.
Five years have passed since the Battle Of Chicago, which provided the pyrotechnic-laden climax to Transformers: Dark Of The Moon. The alliance between humans and the robots has been broken and an elite CIA unit named Cemetery Wind, under the control of Harold Attinger (Kelsey Grammer), now hunts the Transformers without mercy.
On a family ranch, struggling inventor Cade Yeager (Wahlberg) discovers that the rusty truck he has just purchased is in fact Optimus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen).
He attempts to keep the discovery secret but agents from Cemetery Wind descend on the homestead. In the ensuing gun fight, Optimus protects Cade, his daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz), her secret boyfriend Shane (Jack Reynor) and Cade’s mechanic sidekick Lucas (TJ Miller). The humans join forces with Optimus to reunite the surviving Autobots and they head into the desert to reconvene with Bumblebee, Crosshairs (John DiMaggio), Drift (Ken Watanabe) and Hound (John Goodman).
Together, the rebels must prevent fellow inventor Joshua Joyce (Stanley Tucci) from creating his own Transformer army led by the mighty Galvatron (Frank Welker).
I’m assuming that director Michael Bay doesn’t have children but if he did their bedtime stories would be rubbish. All that connecting stuff up and explaining why people are doing things doesn’t appeal to him. The first hour of Age of Extinction plays broadly like a normal film with characters and narrative and some genuine humour, but after that it’s all just high-tech gibberish with layers of explosions and mayhem and chaos being flytipped on top of each other, in a form of CGI stream of consciousness.
Bay is the Leni Riefenstahl of American consumerism and there is a certain giddy majesty in the way his camera is never allowed a moment’s rest in the entire three hours; it is always charging in on, pulling away from or sweeping across its protagonists.
So, of course, there are moments of incredible spectacle but fewer than you’d expect and nothing that hasn’t been done just as well in previous Transformersfilms.
The Chicago-set climactic battle in Dark of the Moonwas one of the most thrilling action sequences to come out of Hollywood in years.
Age of Extinctionhas a middle section set in a spaceship over Chicago which couldn’t be any more dull and uninvolving if it were in black and white with subtitles. We need a new vocabulary to describe the tedium of such films: bawesome.
** (2 Stars)