Age of Extinction (Wired UK)

Industrial Light

Transformers: Age of Extinction — the
fourth installment in Michael Bay’s quest to turn Hasbro toys into
VFX piggy banks — is about what happens when we as a people fear
the “other” so much we’re willing to turn on each other to extract
it from our lives. No, wait, it’s about American exceptionalism and
intergalactic jingoism. It might also be about terrorism. Well, not
really. It’s definitely about people being filmed from the ground
up getting out of cars in slow motion, and Mark Wahlberg in a
really tight T-shirt. Probably.

Actually, I have no idea what Transformers: Age of
was supposed to be about — I don’t think it
did either — but by the end Optimus Prime had ridden a
fire-breathing Dinobot like he was President Obama on a unicorn in
an internet meme, so I guess it wasn’t all bad.

Here’s the thing: no one is going into the latest
Transformers installment without the ability to suspend disbelief.
Like its predecessors, it’s a movie about alien robots that turn
into automobiles and get into massive fights. Plus it’s a Michael
Bay movie; he’s sticking to his flashy, well-shot guns, so
expecting Martin Scorsese is ridiculous. But in Age of
, the movie’s multitude of inexplicable plots go
nowhere and, in addition to being largely incoherent, put the movie
at a runtime — 165 minutes — that means it stays way past its

Age, which opens 5 July, starts
somewhere in the Arctic, where a metallic dinosaur skeleton has
been located. We’re told, through some unwieldy exposition, that
this space-metal-Sue
discovery is a big deal that changes the course of history. (Guys,
what if the catastrophic event that killed the dinosaurs was
aliens?!) Anyway, that immediately stops mattering until the last
third of the film because now we’re zapped to “Texas, USA” where
Cade Yaeger (Wahlberg stepping in for a blessedly absent Shia
LaBeouf) has discovered a tractor-trailer in an abandoned theatre
and brought it home to strip it for parts. However, Yaeger is an
“inventor” (at least when he has his glasses on), so when he starts
digging around in under the hood he discovers that this is no
average truck, it’s a Transformer. (This is after Transformers:
Dark of the Moon
destroyed Chicago, so now everyone knows
Transformers are a thing.)

However, Transformers, be they the Autobots (good) or
Decepticons (bad), are now “enemy combatants,” according to some
dude at the CIA named Harold Attinger (Kelsey Grammer). So as soon
as the spooks find out Cade has a Transformer — it’s Optimus
Prime, duh — they descend on his home and threaten to kill his
daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz) if he doesn’t tell them where Prime
is. (This is how the CIA smokes out terrorists, obvs.) Optimus
comes roaring out of hiding to save the family, and the Yaegers,
along with their friend Lucas (an underused TJ Miller), escape with
Tessa’s boyfriend Shane (Jack Reynor), who just happens to be
driving by in the field nearby.

From this point forward Shane, the Yaegers, and a
rag-tag team of Autobots who survived the CIA crack-down are on the
lam. It’s hard to explain, but basically the feds, who were just
supposed to be rooting out Decepticons, are capturing all the
Transformers they can and selling them to a company run by a Steve
Jobs-ian guy named Joshua Joyce (Stanley Tucci, bless his slumming
heart). That company, KSI, is then in turn building its own ‘bots
out of “Transformium” — including the Prime kinda-clone Galvatron,
which was made using Megatron’s intelligence (long story).
Meanwhile, Attinger has made a deal with a whole other band of
Transformers — lead by bounty hunter Lockdown — who want to bring
Optimus back to his creators and have offered the CIA, and by
extension Joyce, a “Seed” (aka MacGuffin) that will turn a whole
city into Transformium in exchange for the Autobot leader. If this
movie is starting to feel like an elaborate childhood Transformers
play-date where you and your friends started to tell a cool story
and then it devolved into just crashing a lot of toys into each
other, you’re right. 

Honest Trailers – Transformers: Revenge of the FallenScreen Junkies

There are plenty of moments in Age of
that are bound to make you ask “Wait, why would
they do that when they can do X?” And that’s to be expected;
they’re in nearly every Transformers movie (see Honest Trailer).
But the head-scratching really begins when the movie tries to make
a point — or at least an allegory. You see, in this world
Transformers are “alien terrorists” and in the interest of saving
“freedom” it’s necessary that “innocent people die all the time”.
(This is actually something someone says.) It’s also OK, in this
scenario, to imprison Transformers for information. So much so that
Brains, who has been captured and forced to translate Megatron’s
brain for KSI, says “this is waterboarding”. By the time Attinger
threatens Cade Yaeger because now “it’s just us and them and you
chose them,” it’s all a bit too much, especially for a movie about
alien robots.

(It’s also probably worth noting that Tessa, being
the only female in Age with much screentime, is largely a
cute/scared girl trope whose father and boyfriend spend more than a
few beats bickering about who gets to protect her while she never
chimes in to say she might be able to look out for herself. But
that’s a whole other piece.)

Shortcomings aside, there is one thing
Transformers: Age of Extinction —  and really every
Transformers movie — gets right. And that’s awesome transforming
robots that have amazingly choreographed fights, for a spectacle
that verges on the hyperreal. Once again, the geniuses at
Industrial Light & Magic have upped the bar for physics-defying
metal transformations. I’m an avowed Transformers
, and if the nearly three hours of this film could be boiled
down to 30 minutes of transforming and fights, it would be on
repeat in my livingroom at all times. It might even make a good
screensaver. So, if you are going to see Age of Extinction
and why not? — go ahead and see it in IMAX and/or
3D. It’ll at least look cool, especially that part where, I repeat,
Optimus Prime rides a Dinobot. And it’ll make those product
placement/ads for Beats by Dre, Bud Light, and Victoria’s Secret
(lest we forget about Bay’s side hustle) really pop.

That’s what Transformers movies do best: pop. (And
make tens of millions of dollars.) They’re still more than meets
the eye, even when they-re attacking your retinas — in good ways
and bad.

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