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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, July 4 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 27
Latest Transformers shows series veering towards extinction
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Latest Transformers shows series veering towards extinction

by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN A&E Writer

TRANSFORMERS
Now playing

It's been five years since the events in Chicago. The CIA, under the shadowy leadership of the mysterious Harold Attinger (Kelsey Grammer), has been covertly hunting down all the remaining Decepticons, secretively delivering their remains to weapons expert and billionaire inventor Joshua Joyce (Stanley Tucci). But unknown to the agency, and for that matter the White House, he's been hunting Autobots as well, forcing Optimus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen) himself to go into hiding, ordering his surviving compatriots to do the same.

Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) is a Texas farmer who fancies himself a robotics pioneer, trying to raise only child Tessa (Nicola Peltz) as a single father, as best he can. When a group of mercenaries led by the coldhearted James Savoy (Titus Welliver) ends up on his doorstep, the close-knit family suddenly finds themselves in the middle of a conflict they barely understand, let alone thought they'd become a part of. It turns out that old truck in the barn is none other than Optimus Prime, and unbeknownst to both the Yeagers and to Attinger, he's the key to stopping a new evil from rising, that if allowed to blossom will result in the extinction of the entire human race.

Thus begins Transformers: Age of Extinction, the fourth film in the based-on-Hasbro-toys franchise, all of them directed by The Rock and Bad Boys auteur Michael Bay. Introducing an entire new set of human characters into the mix and jettisoning every single last one of the actors who appeared in the previous trilogy (voice actors excluded, of course) - even with all this change going on, there's not a heck of a lot different about this effort than any of the previous ones. The plot makes little to no sense. Character development is minimal. The volume is turned all the way up to 11, explosions are frequent and rampant bouts of blatant misogyny lurk inside every frame.

If we're being honest, and where it comes to this series, or Bay's recent filmography in general (I know this isn't exactly easy to do, but if we're at least trying to make the attempt) - as far as the world of Transformers is concerned this latest effort is arguably the most successful one in the franchise since the 2007 original. Even at a mind-numbing 165-minutes, even with Bay working somewhat on autopilot, there is some imaginative visual razzle-dazzle inside the picture that's undeniable. On top of that, some of the action sequences are impressively staged; and even though most of them feel like they've been pulled from the director's previous flicks (most notably The Island, Armageddon and Bad Boys II) that doesn't make them anything to scoff at.

Same time, as far as good news goes, that's about it. These films have never been designed for critics, this goes without saying; but what's most glaring at this point is that, for all intents and purposes, they're no longer even designed for domestic audiences. Dialogue and plot, never important to the franchise in the first place, are even more minimal and nonsensical this time, while story and character beats are dispensed with in order to stage another gunfight, another car chase, another near miss and another breathless escape. The excess on display is undeniable (the Dinobots are added to the chaos for no reason whatsoever), everything engineered for international audiences, specifically those who speak little to no English and just want to see things blow up with spectacular aplomb.

I have nothing more to say. I didn't like Transformers: Age of Extinction, have no wish whatsoever to ever watch it again, but I can't say I hated it in the same breath, either. I understood immediately what it was and why it existed, and while that doesn't excuse it for being as stupid and as vapid as it is, that doesn't mean I should be throwing a tantrum or raining down obscenities on its head, either. It's not a good movie, true, one made for far more money than it should have been and with so little care you wonder why the majority of the players (filmmakers and cast) bothered in the first place. Be that as it may, the film does exist and people are going to see it, and as much as I think that's a decidedly bad idea, there are far worse flicks out there other than this for me to get my dander up about and urge potential viewers to steer away from.

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