Before last night’s Dublin Premiere of Transformers: Age of Extinction those in attendance were “treated” to live footage of an Imagine Dragons concert at the launch of the film in Hong Kong. An awkward looking Mark Wahlberg was paraded in front of the hysterical fans as they encouraged the audience to see the film. The event was a nice metaphor for the film itself, stylish, no real substance and basically one big advertisement.
Back in Dublin: Local lad – although he was born in America – Jack Reynor was introduced to the crowd. He spoke of walking past the Savoy Cinema where the event was held as a student and dreaming of one day having a film, any film, open there. He confessed to “shi@#ing himself” with anxiety over his friends and family in attendance seeing the film. You sensed that, as proud as he is of his incredible rise, where less than two years ago he was trying to find an audience for What Richard Did to now having people tripping over themselves to get tickets. That this is not the type of film best suited to his talents. The upcoming Macbeth where he co-stars with Michael Fassbender seems to be his more favoured career path. With the formalities over, it was time to start the film.
Transformers: Age of Extinction (12)
Directed by: Michael Bay
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Nicola Peltz & Jack Reynor
Running time: 165 min
“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Albert Einstein
Much of your enjoyment of the new Transformers film will be based on how you react when you hear that Mark Wahlberg plays an inventor called Cade Yeager. If that doesn’t immediately raise concerns then you are probably in the right frame of mind to enjoy this film.
The tone is set during a pre-credit sequence where Micheal Bay, who has never met an explosion he wouldn’t take credit for, shows that it was terraforming Transformers, not an asteroid, which caused the extinction of the dinosaurs. Presumably the next film will show the big bang itself was actually caused by giant robots and asteroids crashing into each other. Set a few years on from the Battle of Chicago in the previous Dark Side of the Pink Floyd Transformers movie, we find the Transformers – Autobots and Decepticons alike – being hunted down by Kelsey Grammar’s black ops team, which includes a Transformer bounty hunter called Lockdown.
Yeager finds an abandoned truck in an old movie theatre, where Bay is given the chance to steal the line from 21 Jump St about movies being all remakes and sequels. Yeager and his Employee, Lucas, played by TJ Miller, who is one of the better things in the film, discover that they have in fact stumbled upon Optimus Prime. Much to the dismay of Yeager’s jailbait daughter who is introduced in a dune buggy with her other hot friends talking about going to the beach and getting wasted. I am not even sure her “character” had a name as she is only every referred to as “baby” or “sweetie” which doesn’t matter as her job in the film is wear hot pants and lean over things in much the same way as Megan Fox and what’s her name Victoria’s secret model from the last movie. Women in Micheal Bay movies are there to serve as caricatures, not characters. They are objects who exist purely to be lusted over or if you are an Asian woman to be lusted over and of course know Kung Fu.
After escaping an attack from Frasier Crane’s assassins with the help of Barbie’s race car driver boyfriend (Reynor), which includes a brilliant shot of one of the attackers taking a car wheel smack in the face. Up to this point the film is actually pretty good, the action scenes are well done, Millar’s slacker charm is a welcome addition and Reynor is infinitely better than Shia LaBeouf. It starts to fall apart when we are introduced to the remaining Autobots. Bumblebee (seems to have lost all the charm he had in the first film), Hound (Voiced by John Goodman in Big Lebowski mode, which is nowhere near as fun as it sounds), Crosshairs (trench coat wearing, English, pointless), and Drift (a borderline racist caricature samurai robot who seems to have been put in just to appeal to the Asian market).
After learning that a company called KSI, run by Stanley Tucci who is in evil Steve Jobs mode, is responsible for helping Grammar’s CIA team hunt and harvest the Transformers for *sigh* transformium. The Autobots and their human allies set out to destroy the facility. What follows is essentially a two and half hour assault on the senses with nothing in-between to differentiate one explosion from the next. The action moves from Texas to Chicago to spaceship to China with a dull numbness that a film featuring giant robots fighting each other shouldn’t have.
The spaceship scene is notable only for the appearance of what appears to be a robot version of the Hyenas from The Lion King and apparently a hair and make-up department as when Barbie emerges from the ship she has had a nice new pink lipstick shade applied. The film is unfathomably long at three hours, the children in the audience who, to be fair, seemed to be enjoying the film, started to get restless at the two hour mark and a lot of them were led out of the cinema by grateful looking parents.
The frustrating thing is that there is a great film in there somewhere. The opening 20 minutes are promising and build up hope that the new sense of direction to the series that Bay promised may come to fruition. The storyline of man-made Transformers is an interesting one but is sloppy in its execution. There is a Bourne-like foot chase across a Chinese tenement that is wonderfully done. Stanley Tucci and Kelsey Grammar bring a depth to their roles that you sense where not on the page. Reynor does the most with what he is given and is undoubtedly talented and one gets the feeling that a few years from now Transformers will be a footnote in a brilliant career.
For a film called Transformers once again the titular characters are supporting roles in their own film, which at times feels like it should be renamed Marky Mark and the Auto Bunch. Speaking of Wahlberg, every moment of the film seems to catch him by surprise, he appears to be playing a cross between his character in The Happening and Andy Samberg’s impression of him; surely a “Mark Wahlberg talks to Autobots” skit can’t be too far off?
The film is essentially a copy and paste of the third movie, adding nothing to the franchise that hasn’t been seen before, explosions, humans running on rooftops with a comic cube/alien weapon, endless sunsets, explosions. The awkward shoehorning of advertisements is almost funny as at more than one point the film literally stops so a character can sell us a beer… or speakers. The villains are woeful, lacking anything memorable or distinguishing from the previous three, it’s less a reboot or sequel then a remake. And the much anticipated Dinobots come and go with little impact.
During a meeting for the first film, Michael Bay was asked how he was going to the portray the characters of the Transformers. He sniggered and replied “characters? They are robots,” failing to tap into the heart and soul that is so wonderfully conveyed in both the cartoons and the comics is Bay’s biggest crime in these movies.
He fails to grasp that, just because you are not human, does not mean you don’t have humanity. He needs only look to the producer of these films, Steven Spielberg, to see how this can be done – E.T captured all of our hearts (and tears) and despite being a shark, Jaws had more character development than Bay has allowed any of his metal stars. Bay has said that he had not intended to make a fourth film, but it was only after visiting a theme park to see the Transformers ride and seeing the enjoyment of the people of the park that he was on board. The clue for Bay should have been that it was not the films that people were enjoying.
Now, with the box office success of this movie, this will now form part of a new trilogy where we will no doubt see more of the same. I am not expecting high art from these films but I expect to be entertained. The film doesn’t even fall into the ‘so bad it’s good’ category, it commits a worse crime. It is just dull, a nothing movie much like the second and third movies (I quite enjoyed the first) which will be forgotten about before you leave the lobby.