Cade Yeager & Optimus Prime: Duo, P-P Moral, Pro (Untransformed Family Heroes)
Lockdown: Single, N-N Moral, Ant (Untransformed Pure Evil Villain)
Well, Greg, we just survived another Transformers movie.
Let’s find out if any of the heroes underwent a transformation…
The movie begins with scientists discovering that Transformers killed all life on earth 65 million years ago. We also learn that five years ago, Transformers were narrowly defeated in the ‘Battle of Chicago’, which left Transformer debris and technology scattered over North America. Then we meet Texas inventor Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg), his beautiful teenage daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz), and his friend Lucas (T.J. Miller). Cade dreams of using abandoned Transformer technology to create inventions that will make his family rich. Meanwhile, his home is being foreclosed, and his daughter is mad at him for being irresponsible and overprotective.
Lucas, unbeknownst to Yeager, has called the Feds because the Transformer they found is Optimus Prime who has a bounty on his head. The CIA is out to destroy all Transformers (both the good Autobots and the evil Decepticons) in favor of a new robotic technology built by the company KSI (assisted by galactic bounty hunter Lockdown). The CIA operatives descend on Yeager’s Texas farm and he, his daughter, and her boyfriend Shane (Jack Reynor) are on the run with Optimus Prime and what is left of the Autobots.
Greg, Age of Extinction puts the Stink in Extinction. This is easily among the worst movies of 2014. There are so many problems with the film that I don’t even know where to begin. Let’s start with the obvious: Director Michael Bay clearly worships at the altar of the “More is Better” philosophy of movie-making. It’s the idea that more action, more chase scenes, and longer movies are better. The word that comes to mind to describe this mess rhymes with “cluster-truck”. And yes, we see a lot of trucks in the movie, because of course more is better.
For me, watching this movie was an endurance contest, with millions of my brain cells, already damaged by watching past bad movies, fighting for survival. I’m shocked that Mark Wahlberg agreed to participate in this mess — he’s proven himself to be a skilled actor capable of attracting far better movie roles. In Transformers: Age of Extinction, Wahlberg is reduced to uttering one hackneyed and predictable line after another. For 160 minutes, he’s either being chased by Transformers or protecting his daughter from danger. I felt sorry for him.
I feel your pain, Scott. I was also struggling throughout the nearly 3-hour film to reconcile the multiple plot lines (father/daughter/boyfriend, CIA/alien/Transformer, entrepreneur/inventor, Autobot/alien/Decepticon) with only limited success. If it is any consolation, this is probably the best of the Transformers movies with the addition of Wahlberg over troublesome actor Shia LaBeouf. I’ve sat through all four of these films and it’s clear they appeal to a very specific audience.
The film is too intense for smaller children and a bit too childish for grown adults. It hits its sweet-spot with 13-25 year-old boys and fans of the original Transformers show. It must be a fairly big demographic because over this weekend alone, Transformers brought in about $100 million. It is also on-target to be the first movie to garner $1 Billion in worldwide revenues. There’s no doubt that Michael Bay knew what he was doing with this film. Whether you like the film or not, it reaches its audience and in a big way.
The money this movie will make pains me; it is just so undeserving. Never has a major movie relied on so many tiresome set-ups and situations. There is the damsel in distress, shown in full shameless fashion about 6 dozen times, as poor Tessa needs either her dad or her boyfriend to save her repeatedly. There is the overused idea of government higher-ups conspiring against us all and sticking it to the little guys. There is a little Jar Jar Binks character whose main role is to annoy us even further. There is a 30-second speech that Yeager gives to a bad guy, Joshua Joyce (Stanley Tucci), a speech that miraculously converts Joyce to the good guys’ side.
Let’s examine the quality of the hero’s journey. To me, this film appears to feature a couple of group ensemble heroes: The Yeagers are a family unit and the Transformer team, led by Optimus Prime, is a police/military unit. You could say that Yeager’s character does evolve, as his hatred for Mary’s boyfriend eventually turns to admiration. This change, of course, is painfully predictable and hardly convincing. Several basic elements of the hero’s journey are here, although they lack depth or interest.
The lead heroes are Yeager and Optimus Prime. Prime is feeling let down by the human race as he came to Earth to save us from the evil Decepticons. Now, he is hunted by humans and he has lost the urge to keep humans safe from their own stupidity. He undergoes a transformation as Yeager pleads with him to help his family and all of mankind. Admittedly, this is a pretty weak story arc. Still it is stronger than what we’ve been fed in previous incarnations of the Transformers cinematic universe.
The villains aren’t much better. We are treated to a good performance by Kelsey Grammer (who, by the way, also appears in Think Like a Man, Too released last week). Grammer’s character is a typical bad guy government bureaucrat who is running the CIA. Like other villains of this type, we don’t get much backstory, only that he is evil. He stereotypically does not get his hands dirty and enlists henchmen to perform his evil-do.
And on the Transformer side of the aisle, there is the evil Lockdown who is an intergalactic bounty hunter. He is also of the pure-evil cast and offers no real counterpoint to Optimus Prime except for an extended robot battle in the climax.
I’m fascinated by the way movies portray the head villain. Grammer’s character, Harold Attinger, plays a stereotypical head mastermind who rarely gets his hands dirty and spends most of his time telling his henchmen what to do. We’ve seen this villainous structure in many other movies. For some reason, filmmakers have decided that while the main hero is going to take bullets, fall from buildings, and get physically battered, the main villain is a central command figure who only strains himself making all those tough evil decisions.
One other word about the Transformers themselves. They are imposing mechanical beasts that serve as yet another example of the movie industry’s fetish for size, especially when it comes to villains. How many behemoths have we seen in the movies this past couple of years? I was struck by the shape of these manly, macho mechanical beasts — they sport massive biceps and pecs and teeny, tiny, almost Barbie Doll waists. Do robots really need to show bulging muscles to do their dirty work?
Scott, you called Transformers the worst movie of the year. You may have forgotten the travesty and complete waste of time that was Transcendence. Or the painfully unfunny Ride Along. Or completely misguided Labor Day. Still, I have to admit Transformers: Age of Extinction certainly does rate down there with them. For an excruciatingly long overdose of robotic chaos I give this film 2 out of 5 Reels.
The heroes are very plain-brown-wrapper and do not stretch our imaginations very far. Wahlberg does a good job of playing the father-who-cares and Optimus Prime “transforms” a bit too. I give them just 2 out of 5 Heroes.
There is no new ground with the villains in this story. The Stanley Tucci character is a Steve Jobs inspired head of corporation who is turned from evil to good. Grammer’s character is right out of the evil government playbook. And Lockdown was not even entertaining. I give these poor sketches of characters just 1 out of 5 Villains.
Greg, you began this review by pondering whether there was a transformation in the movie. Yes, this is a Transformers movie and so of course there were plenty of transforming events. Chief among them was my transformation from a happy man at the start of the film to a bitter curmudgeon who felt robbed of two and a half hours of his life at the end. A more apt name for this movie is Skunkformers or Trashformers. This movie is borderline Hall of Shame material and barely manages 1 Reel out of 5.
The heroes were wafer-thin, predictable, and uninteresting. Wait, I take that back. There is one interesting character, Lucas Flannery, but he’s killed off early in the film. His quick exit was a portend of things to come. There are elements of the hero journey in this film but they are completely overwhelmed by the relentless onslaught of senseless chase scenes, explosions, and CGI chaos. Your rating of 2 Heroes out of 5 seems about right.
The villains were familiar retreads of villains we’ve seen a thousand times before. I thought Kelsey Grammer did a nice job in his role, but he and Wahlberg were both good actors trapped in a cinematic mess. I’ll agree with you that 1 Villain out of 5 is an accurate rating here.