Friday, June 27, 2014

Transformers: Age of Extinction

TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION: Mark Wahlberg, Nicola Peltz, Jack Reynor, Stanley Tucci, Kelsey Grammer, directed by Michael Bay (157 min.)

Here we go again.  Michael Bay lives in a world of adolescence, making movies for teenagers, but does that mean he has to make them unwatchable?  I am all for popcorn flicks with big action and CGI, they surely have a place in this world.  What I am not a fan of is overt sexism, ignorant racism, one-dimensional characters due to pure laziness, action scenes that don't know when to quit, and unnecessary excess upon excess.  Transformers: Age of Extinction is more of the same, a lot more, too much more in almost every way.  It's all the same stuff we have all seen in the first three Transformers films, only this one clocks in at over two and a half hours, the longest of the series.  Despite it being about thirty minutes too long, not that trimming this down would make things better.  It would have just made the overall experience less arduous.

At least we don't have Shia LeBeouf to deal with this time.  It is Mark Wahlberg, who plays Cade Yaeger, an amateur inventor in rural Texas whose inventions never seem to work out.  He is a single father to Tessa (Nicola Peltz), an under-dressed, oversexed teenage daughter who does nothing more than pose in skimpy outfits for Bay.  But, of course, Cade is overprotective of his sexy daughter to the point that the conversations about her not kissing boys or dating boys or looking at boys is literally the only conversations they have the entire film.  Nearly three hours of Cade making empty threats is tiresome, especially when Tessa's boyfriend, Shane, pops onto the scene to help save the day.  Luckily, Shane is a Rally Car racer with corporate sponsorship and everything.  Who isn't?  And lest we forget a stock character, T,J. Miller fills the role of wisecracking sidekick Lucas, a surfer dude who, no matter how intense the situation, has time to add snarky sarcasm.

The time is five years after the destruction of Chicago in the previous film, and all transformers are being rounded up and wiped out by shady government operatives, led by Kelsey Grammer's stereotypically wicked Harold Attinger.  Turns out, however, Attinger is working in concert with the Decepticons, the bad ones, and a bounty hunter transformer we've never seen before.  There is an entire subplot involving a big corporation in Chicago led by Joshua Joyce (Stanley Tucci) who is creating his own transformers with their technology, but it doesn't matter.

Cade stumbles upon an old truck that turns out to be Optimus Prime, and one acton scene leads to another, and another, and another, and even one more, but then one more.  Then, maybe one or two or ten more, and they're all the same.  The bad guys come after the good guys, and one precarious situation unfolds after another.  Perhaps they all make sense in the teenage mind of Michael Bay, but the plot points are brushed past at such a rapid pace in order to get to the next loud action sequence, none of it has any real consequence.  The action takes us to Chicago which is mildly destroyed now, about $400 million I suppose.  Then we go to Beijing, where a bomb is going to be detonated to do some stuff and some things.  Who cares?!  Let's get to the CGI!

Look, I completely understand what is going on here, and I know what to expect with a Michael Bay film.  But does that mean the film itself has to be complete garbage?  Remember way back six years ago when the origin Transformers came out, and was an entertaining summer action flick for the most part?  We have come a long way from there, and gone way down on the quality scale.  Make big loud action films, fine, but at least make them worth seeing.  Bay's typical sexism is on display, with every woman used merely as an object.  And the racism is in tact as well; the only black character is a big, loud, sassy black woman with attitude.  He can get away with making trash movies, but how does Bay get by with such overt sexism and racism time and time again?

Transformers 4 is an assault on the senses and sensibilities.  The film goes on and on to the point where I started thinking about other things.  The loud metal-on-metal destruction blurs into white noise, and after two hours and ten… fifteen… twenty… I was leaning forward in my seat ready to bolt.  By the time the Dinobots, dinosaur transformers, finally appeared out of seemingly nowhere, I was spent.  The actors are barely acting.  Wahlberg has done better, not in a while, but what about Tucci?  His performance is brutal and uneven as he hops from stoic and stern to what amounts to a nervous breakdown of silliness and wacky one liners.  The snark is lazy and the script is everywhere.  My message to everyone is to skip this one, and skip the next one, and maybe we will finally be finished with this Bay franchise.