The advertising tagline for “Transformers: Age of Extinction” is “This is not war, it’s extinction,” which is catchy enough, I suppose, but having seen it I couldn’t help but think that “Cum on Feel the Noize,” a song lyric by either Slade or Quiet Riot, depending on your age, would have been more appropriate.
Michael Bay’s latest is eardrum shatteringly loud, guaranteed to leave you with ringing ears and a rumbling theatre seat. Visually, expect scorched eyes. Bay has made a movie for three of your five senses—only smell and taste are exempt—but will it entertain your brain while launching an all out assault on your senses?
Picking up four years after the invasion of Chicago seen in the last Transformers film, “Dark of the Moon,” the action begins when unemployed robotic engineer Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) and daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz) uncover deactivated Autobot, Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen) hidden under a pile of junk. Their discovery puts them in the crosshairs of CIA agent Harold Attinger (Kelsey Grammer) and tech tycoon Joshua Joyce (Stanley Tucci). The two are hatching a plan, fueled by equal parts paranoia and genius, to build man made second generation Transformers to seek out and destroy the Autobots. “A new era has begun,” says Attinger, “and the age of Transformers is over.”
Everybody loves spectacle. The Romans had the Coliseum and we have the “Transformers” movies. Like the gladiatorial shows of yore, in Michael Bay’s movies it doesn’t matter who lives or dies—the films don’t care about their human characters and neither do we—all that matters is the spectacle of the whole thing and at almost frenetic three hours “Age of Extinction” certainly delivers on that score. Like the old Roman emperors many moviegoers will give this movie a thumbs up simply because of the value per minute the film offers.
No one can accuse Bay of skimping on… well anything. “Age of Extinction” is a wide ranging action orgy that plays off of Bush era Homeland Security paranoia and also explains why dinosaurs became extinct. It comments on the ethics of unarmed warfare and blows up most of Hong Kong.
Bay doesn’t do anything by half measures but I found myself wishing the movie was about half as long as it is with half the bombast. It’s stylish—“Why run when you can run in slow motion,” Bay seems to be asking—not unlike a car commercial, but is excessive on almost every level. I don’t expect or want “My Dinner with Optimus Prime,” but in this case I think less would have been more.
Wahlberg brings loads of personality and humor with his over-protective father routine, Tucci is reliable as ever and Grammer is in full-on Dick Cheney mode but who cares? We’re not paying to see them, we’re paying to see Optimus Prime play bucking bronco with a giant dinobot.
Is “Transformers: Age of Extinction” a good movie? Not really. Does it deliver on its promise? Yes, but almost too much so. Either way I doubt Michael Bay much cares what the critics think. He’s built a joke into the movie suggesting that if you don’t like sequels you’re senile.