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3.5 out of 5
Transformes: Age of Extinction is the fourth part in a very divided franchise. Ever since the first movie came out back in 2007, the franchise has been met with sharp criticism, occasionally at the movie’s expense but more often than not for the director. This is the epitome of a franchise that is just way too bloated for it’s own good with explosions galore, illogically long run times and dialogue that could be considered campy at best. I could very easily write about what has now become a quadrilogy but in the interest of time I will try to mostly focus on this entry. Besides, unless it’s the first movie or the last forty-five minutes of the third movie you can pretty much count me out (yes, I am that guy).
Transformers: Age of Extinction picks up several years after the big war at the end of the third film. The government has declared that all of the Transformers be considered criminal and destroyed at whatever cost necessary. Enter father and daughter duo Cade (Mark Walburg) and Tessa (Nicola Peltz) Yeager who along with their goofy business partner Lucas Flannery (TJ Miller) find what appears to be an old truck in an abandoned theater. After working on the truck overnight Cade learns that this truck might be something more than just a simple big rig. It might just be the legendary Optimus Prime! As Optimus (voiced once again by the stellar Peter Cullen) is returned to working condition he recruits the remaining Autobots Crosshairs, Drift and Hound (John DiMaggio, Ken Watanabe and John Goodman, respectively) that have somehow remained undetected and alive for all of this time to take out an evil (bounty hunter-esque) Decepticon called Lockdown who is working with corrupted government officials. Along their journey which takes them across the globe, they discover new allies and perhaps their greatest enemy yet!
In the interest of remaining spoiler free, that is about all that I can say about the movie plot. I was personally relieved to see a connection between the Autobots and humans other than the Witwickys. Optimus takes on a new role in this film as well, rather than being the savior of mankind, he is more of a beaten down and weathered warrior. His character is very sentimental in that he was sent here to protect humankind but humans place him as the enemy and violently kill and dismantle the very ones that save the planet so his disgust with the human corruption is much more evident in this movie than ever before. Unlike in earlier entries, I enjoyed the quieter moments of this one. The story that they wove for this one definitely held my interest better than in the others. The human characters were also more likeable, particularly Walburg, Miller and the perhaps slightly-miscast-but-always-a-pleasure-to-see Stanley Tucci. The story was of course second fiddle to the action but what do you expect? It is a Michael Bay movie after all.
Michael Bay is a guy with an imagination. Not always a good one, but definitely an imagination. He has become synonymous with blowing things up which has made him a bit of a laughing stock. You know, that and his constantly thin and almost insecure humor. His films ARE self-aware but not in a charming way. Where Bay hits a homerun is in action sequences. There were some moments in this particular movie that had me on the edge of my seat! His shots and directing are almost becoming so fluid, it’s getting dangerously close to CG pornography. So enticingly beautiful and precise even through all of the destruction, he holds that meticulous eye to detail. There has to be so much work that goes into these scenes and I will give him all of the praise in the world on that one. His action sequences have become progressively better since the first Transformers film which seemed blurry at fast paces.. The action sequences in part four are always clear, always crisp and always bordering on perfect. I dislike him, yes, but I would always encourage people to go into this movie or really any big dumb action movie with an open mind. Know what you’re about to see and don’t get agitated when there is very little redeeming value. Critics tend to forget this and I hope that the viewing audience never gets as jaded as most critics are when it comes to this franchise.
This is my personal favorite entry in the series. They somehow managed to bridge everything that was good about the first three films and placed them into one huge movie going experience. All of that praise aside, it is not without some major problems. The story was a little lacking, the voices of the machines were at often times hard to understand and last but certainly not least: This movie clocks in at 165 minutes. No, that is not a typo… it’s literally two hours and forty-five minutes long. They could have really cut out some of the middle parts to cut down on time and to help make it a stronger movie over-all. I would still recommend it. Mostly for the IMAX experience.
For the first time ever, I left the theater actually being somewhat excited about the future of the franchise. Sure, this movie is a sloppy big budget mess but for my money, it’s a fun sloppy big budget mess!