Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014) ☆1/2(1.5/4) : The Unbearable Loudness of Being

Transformers406 “Transformer: Age of Extinction” should be re-titled as “Transformers: The Unbearable Loudness of Being”. The movie relentlessly pummels us with tons of big explosions and loud noises on the screen during its burdensome 165-minute, and you may be at a loss as struggling to comprehend what the hell is going on in its lazy, incoherent plot which is no more than a belt conveyor to dole out bloated, pointless CGI action scenes to its audiences one after another. I began to feel numb and bored even when there were more than 2 hours to go, and, as I feared even before watching the movie, that unbearable loudness of being on the screen was continued during the rest of my screening in the early morning.

Although the first movie released in 2007 was mildly enjoyable, the series has been going down since “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen”(2009), which was one of the most depressing experiences at my local theater during 2009. “Transformers: Dark of the Moon”(2011) did not exactly hit another bottom, but it is an equally awful mix of messy CGI actions and lousy plot, and “Transformers: Age of Extinction” continues this tiresome trend while nothing much is changed except its extended running time. Those big robots are back again, and there will be lots of crashes and bangs around various places, and, sadly, that is all for us.

The movie begins not long after that disastrous attack on Chicago during the climax of “Transformers: Dark of the Moon”. Although it seems Chicago has been restored well when we see its downtown area later in the film, the American society becomes hostile to not only Decepticons but also Autobots, who have defended humans against Decepticons but now suddenly find themselves becoming the fugitives chased by the US government agency.

Autobots have been ruthlessly hunted and destroyed by Harold Attinger(Kelsey Grammer), a shady government official determined to exterminate all of them for his own purpose. It turns out that Attinger made a deal with the other alien robot named Lockdown(voiced by Mark Ryan) for accomplishing his mission, and Lockdown will give Attinger some valuable thing in exchange for the capture of Optimus Prime(voiced by Peter Cullen). Attinger is also connected with Joshua Joyce(Stanley Tucci, who looks like only actor having a little fun in the film), an influential company CEO with abrasive confidence reminiscent of Steve Jobs, and Joyce wants that object for moving onto the next step of his secret project.

Transformers402 Meanwhile, we meet Cade Yeager(Mark Wahlberg), a struggling inventor living in Texas. While looking for anything fixable or useful, he comes across a shabby broken truck at a local movie theater which is about to be closed, and, what do you know, that truck turns out to be Optimus Prime, and the government agents and Lockdown soon chase after them and others including Yeager’s daughter Tessa(Nicola Peltz) and Tessa’s boyfriend Shane(Jack Reynor).

The rest of the movie is occupied by a number of big action sequences, and they are barely connected to each other by the disposable scenes involved with human cardboard characters, whose main job is running away while surrounded by many crashes and explosions on the screen. The movie does try inject some drama into its story through the strained relationships between Yeager and his daughter and her boyfriend, but their scenes feel bland and contrived while packaged with usual clichés expected from these stereotype characters, and its occasional moments of cheap humor do not help much either.

In case of those big robots in the film, well, they are not that interesting because they are usually big chunks of metal which look big and ugly – especially when they are fighting with each other. Some robots are a little more recognizable because they are colorfully painted or decorated with some amusing features. One of them, voiced by John Goodman, is a chubby robot usually chomping a sort of metallic cigar in its mouth, and I became a little curious about whether it has the same mechanism applied to electronic cigarette – or where he got it from.

There are also more robots including the freakish ones who look like dinosaurs, and they prominently appear during the overlong climax sequence unfolded in Hong Kong, but I already lost my interest around that part while feeling disoriented a lot about who was attacking whom or where the characters were going or what was exactly happening. I especially remember a brief shot featuring the Chinese government officials trying to handle their emergent situation during the climax part, but I do not remember well how they respond to their situation, except several patrol cars around the ending.

Transformers403And the action scenes in the film are choppy and discontinuous while creating no clear sense of direction and movement. For instance, a car chase sequence during its first half feels disjointed as jumping from one shot to another one without building any momentum, and this gets only worse as it also begins to show the other action which happens around the main action. Many action shots strangely feel distant to their backgrounds with no particular feeling of urgency, and we are supposed to be excited just because of loud, booming sound effects on the soundtrack – and that goes on and on with no elementary understanding of plot or character at all.

Mark Wahlberg, who took a baton from Shia LaBeouf, did as much as he could do with his colorless character, but I cannot help but think of the better moments in his acting career after witnessing him stuck in such an epic dreck like this, and you may recall that he was much better in the director Michael Bay’s flawed but funny film “Pain & Gain”(2013). Nicola Peltz and Jack Reynor do not leave much impression except their good-looking appearances, but I must point out that Peltz is a little better than Rosie Huntington-Whiteley when she looks at somewhere in the distance during a couple of shots. While Kelsey Grammer and Stanley Tucci willingly chew their scenes, Sophia Myles, Bingbing Li, and T.J. Miller play other accessory supporting characters, and John Goodman and Ken Watanabe somehow manage to prevent their distinctive personalities from being suppressed by anonymously metallic voice effects(but I came to wish desperately that they will be cast for any parts in “The Lego Movie 2”).

“Transformers: Age of Extinction” is an awful waste of time and money, and I just looked at the screen with accumulating boredom while amused a bit by a few things including a trivial and ridiculous reference to “2001: A Space Odyssey”(1968). As depressed by this very unpleasant experience, my mind went back to “Edge of Tomorrow”(2014), and I appreciated again how it surprisingly demonstrated to us that action film can be both exciting and interesting even when it is mixed with bombastic actions. While that movie cared about story and characters, this film does not even have a shred of intelligence for that from the beginning, and it makes me sadder to see that, as reflected by its ending as well as its guaranteed box office success, we will have to endure another ordeal sooner or later.

 

Sidenote:

1. Maybe I can accept its unconvincing change of mind around the middle of the film, but I noted one illogic choice done by Optimus Prime at the end of the film. Why do you waste your energy when an easier way is available to you?

2. The movie is also shown in 3D, but you don’t have to waste your extra money on that.

3. My acquaintance Kevin B. Lee recently made an amazing video assay titled “Transformers: The Premake”, which insightfully and succinctly shows many interesting things surrounding the movie. Now I can assure you that this is far more interesting than the film itself.

Here is the link: http://youtu.be/dD3K1eWXI54

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