I uttered that exact question to a passing critic upon walking out of the latest screening of Michael Bay‘s Transformers: Age of Extinction. He shook his head in dismay. The director, who has made his mark on films like Pearl Harbor and The Island, has hit a new low with his latest installment in the Hasbro franchise. Not only does the film inhabit some of the worst dialogue spoken in years, which led many audiences to laugh outrageously loud, but it has the audacity to clock in at over two and a half hours. 165 minutes to be exact. Also, this is the same studio that supposedly argued a three-hour run time for Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street.
If you thought Bay had a signature style that has been mocked in many pop culture shows and online honest trailers, you haven’t seen anything yet. Talk about indulging in your own perverted and simplistic style that offers no value to an already crumbling franchise. If you thought Megan Fox spread out against a car was out of line, wait until you see newcomer Nicole Peltz rock booty shorts and deliver an acting range reminiscent of a post-American Pie Tara Reid.
Let’s sandwich this review with three nice things followed by the inevitable truth that will plague this film for all time. Michael Bay managed to tone down and clear up his visual spectacles that haven’t worked consistently in the other Transformer films. Much better choreography, layered with clarity, makes the action sequences much more fun to enjoy. The sound design is still some of the best seen in film this year. The entire team, which includes Oscar’s most overdue craftsman Greg P. Russell, is superb. You can’t find a more dedicated and audibly creative team working in the business. Finally, in a film that is the first to be shot in full IMAX Digital 3D cameras, wearing those glasses hasn’t felt that cool in quite some time. It’s worth the extra cash, IF you want to pay. It’s a definite contender for one or both of the Sound categories with a decent shot at Visual Effects.
Now, let’s get on with the fundamental issues.
Mark Wahlberg is a fine actor. Also, he’s someone that I can only assume is very smart and capable of many different things outside of his normal acting deliveries however, he needs to learn his limitations as an actor and learn them fast. In a Michael Bay film, you expect cheesy dialogue delivery, and even worse cheap moments at laughter or tears. In no normal universe does the general public accept Wahlberg as an intellectual. He plays Cade Yeager, a farmhand who also happens to be an inventor. An inventor? When’s the last time you looked at Marky Mark and said, “I bet Mark could create a really cool robot if he wanted to.” This is also one of the things he exhibited in M. Night Shymalan’s The Happening a few years back and he’s doing it again. Stick to your tough guy roles and producing outstanding films like Lone Survivor and The Fighter. Stay away from being the “smart guy” in a movie. Also, utilizing the same joke like “lucky charms” barely worked the first time. Get ready to hear that one half a dozen times throughout. Oh and guess what? The aforementioned Peltz plays Wahlberg’s daughter. One of the worst interpretations of a father-child relationship I’ve seen since Will Smith attempted to play Jaden Smith’s father in After Earth, and they were REALLY related. Poor Mark Wahlberg.
Stanley Tucci is one of my favorite character actors working in the business. Loved him in films like Julie & Julia, The Devil Wears Prada, and even manages to be the best part of a bad thing like in The Lovely Bones. As Joshua Joyce, Tucci takes over the “hole” left by John Turturro from the previous films. Short of getting peed on by a giant robot, Tucci’s character is completely unbelievable and completely obnoxious. It was as if Bay let Tucci off his leash and told him to run a muck and say and do things a 14-year-old would do.
Just in case you didn’t know, the sub name of this film is “Age of Extinction.” The trailers have displayed “bad ass dinobots,” roaring and gearing up to kick some Decepticon butt. Just over the two-hour mark I say to myself, “Self”, because that’s what I call myself, “Self…this movie is suppose to have Dinobots in it, isn’t it?” And low and behold, enter the wackest and most disappointing Dinobots imaginable. Their infusion into the story is lazy, they barely rally up any excitement, and they’re barely on-screen in a 165 minute robot epic. What the hell? The nine-year-old boy inside me calls bullshit.
I like you Kelsey Grammar but you are a non-threatening bad-ish guy and I never want to see you in something like this again. Newcomer Jack Reynor, let me give you some life advice. I didn’t realize until the movie was over that you played the lead role in the independent film What Richard Did from last year. I liked you quite a bit in that film. As the token hot-guy with an Irish accent, who sort of looks like he’s in the Hemsworth family, I need you to seek out other action vehicles for yourself to become a household name. And if they’re trying to get you into the house talk by having Mark Wahlberg call you “lucky charms” a dozen times, and never get a chuckle from the audience, talk to your agent. I give you permission to enter the Marvel or even TV superhero universe. But hey, you’re going to be in MacBeth by Justin Kurzel so maybe you already got this advice.
And now the bottom of the barrel: writer Ehren Kruger, who penned a film that is nearly three hours and has the nerve to leave us on a semi-cliffhanger, when I just invested my time into something when I could have been buying Q-Tips or playing Ker Plunk, is a slap in the face. And you’re the guy who wrote Arlington Road and The Ring, two films with cliffhangers that worked and were EARNED. You did not earn a single moment, whether it was laughing at the serious moments or not laughing at the funny moments. Please do better. And not just for me, think about humanity in general. This is science fiction with giant fighting robots, and it was completely unrealistic in more moments than not. Oh, and your total Man of Steel rip off was completely noticed and I’d appreciate it if you did things a little more discreet.
And let’s not forget about the blatant racism. Ken Watanabe, an Academy Award nominated actor voicing a robot, dressed like a Japanese samurai is pretty offensive. Well, let’s look on the bright side, John Goodman voices the chubby, bearded autobot. Yeah, I didn’t think so either.
Transformers: Age of Extinction is quite the failure. It’s fun at times, and still has some of the best artistic crew behind the camera in the action genre. If you feel inclined to have the most fun in a bad movie since Troll 2, then don’t let me stop you.