Transformers: Age of Extinction
Half a star (out of four)
It’s long, it’s loud and it’s really stupid.
It’s Transformers: Age of Extinction, the regrettable fourth instalment in Michael Bay’s movie series of Hasbro’s robot alien toy franchise.
With a whole new cast of humans plus some additional robots, featuring Mark Wahlberg as lead gawker replacing the skedaddled Shia LaBeouf, director Bay has essentially rebooted his own series.
Transformers: Age of Extinction runs almost three hours this time around, with plenty of the usual explosions and clanking machinery.
But with a bloated running time of 165 minutes, neither he nor screenwriting accomplice Ehren Kruger seems to understand or care where this noise goes anymore.
This is a franchise known for huge explosions and clanking machinery, and if that’s what you want, Age of Extinction has plenty.
As for intelligence, wit and genuine thrills, not so much.
Surrounding these ear-bashing bots are a gaggle of dumbfounded and/or malevolent humans and, frankly, everyone here is as boring as a tax seminar.
It bears repeating that this film is long, loud, and really, really stupid. Anybody paying 13 bucks to see this monstrosity should get 14 bucks in change.
Having kicked evil Decepticon butt in the previous film, trashing Chicago in the process, the good-guy Autobots led by Optimus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen) are now in hiding from the humans they helped.
Government and industry moustache twirlers (Kelsey Grammer and Stanley Tucci) are in cahoots to terminate with extreme prejudice the remaining Autobots, using man-made Transformers patterned on Decepticon leader Megatron.
Wahlberg’s Cade Yeager, a widower and robot brainiac, discovers an ailing Optimus Prime disguised as an old truck and helpfully gets out the wrench and grease gun. He’s reluctantly assisted by his comely 17-year-old daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz) and her car racer boyfriend Shane (Jack Reynor), whom dad despises.
Cue another two hours of exploding and flying metal, inane and offensive dialogue (men and robots calling each other “bitch”) and a tedious sexist feud between Cade and Shane over whether Tessa is old enough to date.
There’s also a spaceship, magical apocalyptic “seeds” and some new dinosaur bots that look like they escaped from a LEGO test lab. Chances are you’ll cease caring about the story long before the last mechanical belch.
The visuals are akin to throwing garden tools at an overturned lawn mower for three hours in the midst of a massive fireworks display.
So much CGI is used, it has the effect of giving both humans and bots a cartoonish weightless effect, where all pain and destruction is like Wile E. Coyote bouncing right back after being struck by an Acme anvil.
The acoustics range from clanging and banging to a score by Steve Jablonsky that sounds as if he was twirling a knob on electronic trumpets between points marked “mournful” and “triumphal.”
Age of Extinction might have been mildly tolerable as time-wasting trash if Bay hadn’t also sunk to new lows in cynicism and exploitation. The film is rife with dire stereotypes and appalling product placement plugs, the latter ranging from Bud Lite to Victoria’s Secret to a fruit juice that’s popular in China and Hong Kong, where the film’s lengthy second half takes place, with popular local actor Li Bingbing joining the overburdened cast.
Why are the Transformers in China and Hong Kong? Money, money, and more money — the series is huge in Asia, co-financed by Chinese interests, and for Bay it don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got ka-ching.
He even seems to do a shout-out in favour of Chinese authorities, as characters speak of being protected by a benevolent “central government.”
Do you get the impression I hated this movie? I really did. I had a tooth filled on the day I saw Age of Extinction and the drilling was less painful than watching this.
This is a series far drawn out past its shelf life, and the unsubtle hints at a fifth Transformers film only underlines this movie’s many offences.
As a character says all too knowingly, something Bay should take to heart: “Tank’s empty, bro.”
Peter Howell is a syndicated Toronto Star movie critic.