Following the events of Transformers: Dark Of The Moon (2011), a government black-ops campaign directed by the CIA (Kelsey Grammer) is implemented to hunt down and exterminate all remaining Transformers on Earth, including Autobots. Meanwhile, Cade Yaeger (Mark Wahlberg) a Texas inventor unknowingly makes a discovery that endangers him and his daughter (Nicola Peltz), and Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen) re-emerges out of hiding and on the run with his newfound human allies and other surviving Autobots.
Soon, they uncover a conspiracy that implicates an A.I. research facility bent on using alien robot technology for Earth’s own ill-gotten purposes; Galvatron (Frank Welker) is created, forcing Prime to question his sworn oath to protect Earth. With the odds stacked against them and time running out, will Yaeger, Prime and our heroes be able to unite against a common threat on both fronts? Or will the Autobots and mankind be doomed to extinction?
Transformers: Age Of Extinction was my first theatrical experience watching any of the films within the Michael Bay-directed franchise. But also, it was mostly an excellent one, for the great CGI, the 3D and the overall tone of the story telling. And considering that it was a really late showing, I was surprisingly awake to catch all of it, which for me is an achievement in and of itself. But more importantly, having not been able to go to the movies since Godzilla, it felt nice to treat myself to a Transformers film on the big screen, especially one that kicks off a trilogy that aims for just a little more seriousness in almost all the right places.
The film starts off exploring a new history illustrating what “really” happened with the dinosaurs. It was a little convoluting to me at first since I’m not too knowledgeable of Transformers lore, but I wasn’t too worried and chose not to overthink it, especially since it we’re going for a new story and developments will happen along the way. Later, we meet our principal human characters for the first time, with Mark Wahlberg starring as an Texas inventor struggling to make ends meet for himself and his daughter, played by Nicola Peltz, in addition to T.J. Miller, the somewhat-annoying comedy relief of the first act.
Usually, the Transformers films are pretty long, so the exposition takes time to finish. Fortunately, it wasn’t too long before the film starts re-introducing the audience to the very heart of the the franchise: all the crazy robot action, in addition to some fresh new good and bad guys. We see Autobot Ratchet opposite Decepticon, Lockdown, we see Optimus Prime reunited with Bumblebee and other Autobots, and we also meet actor Jack Reynor who plays the boyfriend of Peltz‘s character; it’s worth pointing out how awesome it is to see a European-American actor like Reynor play a role that doesn’t force him to hide his Irish accent; Granted, I understand why some studios require speech training for actors to play certain roles and I respect that. But for my own introduction to him as an actor, I was left pleased, especially when exchanging dialogue with Wahlberg.
The film also introduces a few other new characters that aren’t as black-and-white as they seem, but I won’t say who – I’ll leave that for you to learn about when you see the movie. However, the human villains were great in this one as well, with actors Titus Welliver and Kelsey Grammer leading the black ops that ultimately threaten to become the Autobots’, as well as mankind’s own undoing, in conjunction with the birth of Galvatron. His creation does several things to the story pertaining to themes of faith and family in between some of the more “bromantic” moments between Wahlberg and Prime, which I didn’t mind while some in the audience with me chuckled at how silly it felt to them (hell, some of them probably never saw any of the Short Circuit movies from the 1980’s or T2: Judgement Day, or even any of the Picard-era Star Trek shows or films for that matter. So it’s understandable that they wouldn’t get it… Freaking noobs.)
One other important factor I want to point out is how sharp and visible the battle sequences are. While folks complained about the frenetic animation of the robots in the first two films made it difficult to see what was happening and differentiate between the robots sometimes, there were definitely some improvements between this and Dark Of The Moon – many of the shots are wider and clearer, and you can make out who is who; Prime and Bumblebee are given a sleeker look this time around, and the “Knights” were a little crazy to make out at first, but you can start to tell them apart a little while after when they go into Dinobot mode.
The action was exciting to watch, both between the humans and the robots in their respective sequences, and several robot characters do get their moment when it comes to character development and drama, mainly Prime, Hound, Lockdown and Galvatron. Bumblebee also shares the stage as the inaudible Autobot without a voice, providing some particularly charming, as well as improvisational moments of action in the film.
Ehren Kruger’s script does an exceptional job at alleviating any of the overdone silliness of the previous films, even though there were some moments that were meant to be funny but didn’t really induce any laughter from me because I’ve become a bit used to Bay‘s formula by now. But I love the transition the new trilogy is taking this one with the new cast, including supporting cast members Stanley Tucci and Li Bing Bing, and I can’t wait to see what lies ahead for Transformers 5.
There’s something good happening here with this formula, and as long as they continue to abstain from trying too hard to be funny while establishing that near-perfect balance between drama and laughs, this augmentation will continue to get much better. That is the challenge they now face for parts five and six – keep evolving the story and maintain that very balance that makes these films less cringeworthy in their Bay-flavored PG-13 nature, and more watchable and relatable with each film.
Let’s keep it going!
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Native New Yorker. Lover of all things pizza, chocolate, pets, and good friends. Karaoke hero. Left of center. Survivor. Fond supporter of cult, obscure and independent cinema - especially fond of Asian movies and global action cinema. Author of the bi-weekly Hit List. Founder and editor of Film Combat Syndicate. Still, very much, only human.