REVIEW: Transformers: Age of Extinction

Photo: Paramount Pictures

Photo: Paramount Pictures

Chris Luckett

One of the dumbest arguments for excusing stupidity in a movie is, “Well, that’s the way it was in the book/cartoon/ride/video game/toy’s backstory.” Just because a ridiculous plot point or character was accepted without scrutiny in another medium doesn’t mean it should gets a free pass in its movie form.

If anything, a movie adapted from a silly product should work extra hard to make itself believable, freestanding, and not above scrutiny. Clue, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, and The LEGO Movie all succeeded despite their simplistic origins. Battleship, The Haunted Mansion, and the Transformers series, on the other hand, didn’t. In fact, the Transformers movies, made by the much-maligned Michael Bay, may be the worst of the offenders.

Based on Hasbro’s ‘80s action figures and the subsequent animated TV series, the Transformers movies began stupidly and got progressively more brainless. 2007’s Transformers was entertaining, if nonsensical. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen was riddled with racist stereotypes, absences of logic, and superfluous close-ups of Megan Fox’s body parts. Transformers: Dark of the Moon — yes, that is the correct title — was quite simply the worst movie of 2011.

With star Shia LaBeouf having quit big-budget movies, Mark Wahlberg has now been brought in to lead the fourth entry, Transformers: Age of Extinction. If you’re wondering whether the addition of the two-time Oscar nominee (as well as the better-than-this Stanley Tucci and Kelsey Grammer) improves the series any, the answer is: technically, yes. When the last movie in a series is a zero-star bomb, there’s nowhere to go but up. That said, it’s only a modicum better.

The “plot” of the movie, such as it is, deals with the aftermath of Dark of the Moon, which climaxed with the destruction of Chicago by the warring Autobots (read: good alien robots) and Decepticons (read: bad alien robots). In an over-the-head metaphor for post-9/11 suspicion and paranoia, citizens are encouraged to inform the government if any transformers are found. (The U.S. Government, for reasons neither adequately explained nor thought out, is killing all the alien robots they can find.)

An inventor/robotics technician/grease monkey/struggling single dad played by Mark Wahlberg discovers an abandoned truck that turns out to be a transformer. When his friend calls it in and Men in Black show up to kill everyone involved, Wahlberg goes on the run with his Daisy Duke-wearing daughter and her stunt racer boyfriend. Some stuff blows up, a conspiracy is uncovered, giant robots fight, and more stuff blows up. For nearly three hours.

Contrasting the movies of some directors, like Spielberg, Kubrick, or Hitchcock, is akin to comparing diamonds. Michael Bay, meanwhile, has become synonymous with trash. Comparing Armageddon, Pearl Harbor, Bad Boys II, and Pain & Gain is like deciding whether you’d prefer being kicked, punched, stabbed, or shot. The Transformers movies are his worst contributions to cinema in an already storied catalogue of veritable garbage. Transformers: Age of Extinction may not be his very worst movie, but that’s not saying much.

Oh, and just because, there are also alien, robot dinosaurs in the movie. What purpose do they serve? No earthly clue. But hey, nobody questioned it when they were toys, right?

½ star / 5