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Movie review: ‘Transformers: Age of Extinction’

846011 KS_New_transformersBy this point, the “Transformers” franchise seems pretty much bulletproof. Despite harsh critical reviews (the latest has a particularly scathing score of 16 percent on Rotten Tomatoes), the movies always pull in large amounts of money at the box office. “Transformers: Age of Extinction” easily beat the competition this weekend, earning $100 million so far.

And yes, I must confess, I contributed to that $100 million this weekend. I’m not a “Transformers” apologist — I have issues with all the films in the franchise, even the first one, which actually came relatively close to a “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes. While I think you can make an argument that sometimes it’s fun to have movies that are just pure, mindless escapism, the “Transformers” movies have always felt a little too indulgent. There are enough other action movies to choose from that make more of an effort to have a decent plot and characters.

However, I gave in and went to see “Age of Extinction,” mostly out of curiosity to see the Dinobots. And I have to admit (don’t judge me!) that I enjoyed this one. Can I defend it as a great movie? No — but it was fun.

The plot is admittedly rather convoluted. The main character is Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg), an inventor and salvager who discovers a Transformer that turns out to be Optimus Prime. Both Transformers (the “good” robots) and Decepticons (the “bad” robots) are treated as enemies who must be hunted down and destroyed, but Yeager decides to protect Optimus. What follows is a rather complicated adventure that involves the CIA, an intergalactic Transformer bounty hunter named Lockdown, the (sort-of) return of Decepticon leader Megatron, and the arrival of the much-publicized dinosaur Transformers, the “Dinobots” (trust me, you’ll enjoy the movie much more if you don’t try to think about it too much).

The film does run too long, clocking in at almost three hours, and it takes too long for the Dinobots to show up (they don’t appear until the film’s final third). All the issues that director Michael Bay regularly takes flak for show up again here: more effort spent on special effects than plot, too many characters that aren’t fully realized, and a major requirement for suspension of disbelief.

But Bay is helped in this installment by Mark Wahlberg, as well as Stanley Tucci as Joshua Joyce, a Steve Jobs-esque ruler of a tech empire. Wahlberg is a much more likable lead (sorry, Shia LaBeouf!) and the film benefits from his charisma. Tucci is also obviously having a great time chewing scenery as the arrogant, eccentric Joyce. The film has some genuinely funny moments, and no matter how cynical you are, watching Optimus Prime ride into battle on a T-Rex Dinobot is all kinds of awesome.

This movie won’t end up on my “best of 2014″ list, but for a $5 summer matinee movie, I felt I got my money’s worth.

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14 responses

  1. Mel

    I can’t watch the Transformer movies in the theater. That metal screeching sound, that Michael Bay is so fond of, gives me a headache. I own the first one though… on BluRay.

    July 1, 2014 at 9:08 pm

    • Transformers movies are really loud; Michael Bay never does anything halfway. ;) When I went to see the third one, my cell phone accidentally went off in the middle (I had forgotten to switch it to silent) but the movie was so loud I could barely even hear it.

      July 2, 2014 at 1:49 am

      • Mel

        I used to like Michael Bay. The Rock, Bad Boys, Armageddon… but now he just goes big because people expect it. He’s like a caricature of himself. He should do a low budget indie just to see if he could. That’s hysterical you phone went off and you couldn’t even hear it.

        July 2, 2014 at 2:17 am

      • Armageddon is such a fun movie. But you’re right, Michael Bay is almost like a caricature of himself at this point. It would be interesting to see what he would do with a low budget indie.

        July 7, 2014 at 12:09 am

  2. The ‘turn your mind off” argument only extends so far. There are plenty of movies where you can do that which are much better. You don’t have to result to poor film-making in order to “shut your brain off”, whatever that means.

    July 3, 2014 at 3:45 pm

    • Agreed, there are plenty of fun, big budget action movies that still have good characters, good humor, etc.

      July 7, 2014 at 12:10 am

  3. I’ll wait for VOD :D

    July 3, 2014 at 4:06 pm

    • Hope you enjoy! I won’t argue it’s an instant classic, but it does have fun moments. ;)

      July 7, 2014 at 12:11 am

  4. The part in the trailer that gets me a little excited is when Optimus rides a dinobot. I haven’t watched any of the sequels and will probably pass on this one too.

    July 5, 2014 at 10:37 pm

    • Optimus riding a Dinobot is pretty awesome. ;) The movie has some fun moments, if you decide to catch it on DVD.

      July 7, 2014 at 12:13 am

  5. Glad you had fun with this one. We all enjoy some “popcorn” movies sometimes! : )

    July 13, 2014 at 9:51 am

    • Yep, this one was definitely a “guilty pleasure” for me. ;)

      July 14, 2014 at 5:22 pm

  6. This is an interesting read!
    U might like to take a look at this:

    http://bradscribe.wordpress.com/2014/07/23/killdozer-rage-machines/

    Cheers!

    July 29, 2014 at 2:19 pm

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