Wow. That is the word that is primarily associated with the work of director Michael Bay. Bay’s action scenes are meant for “wow.” The actors (or more specifically, actresses) in Bay’s films are meant for “wow.” The special effects are meant to bring out the biggest “wow” possible. Michael Bay has been the champion of “wow” for almost two decades. However, Bay has brought out a new form of “wow” in his films. For example, his 2009 film “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” brought out reactions like “wow, this is incredibly stupid,” “wow, there is nothing interesting going on here,” or even “wow, this is one of the worst movies ever.” Similar reactions have been following Bay ever since his debut in 1995 with “Bad Boys,” but Bay’s films have been losing their “wow” factor gradually since he first signed on to bring Hasbro’s robots in disguise to the big screen in 2007. So now Bay has decided to give his cash cow franchise a spit-shine polish, despite not being super interested in making another “Transformers” film. The good news is that Bay has successfully eliminated the negative “wow” factor his films have garnered recently. The bad news is that it’s been replaced with an annoyed “ugh,” as in “ugh, this crap again.”
To be fair, “Transformers: Age of Extinction” does fill out the basic requirement of Michael Bay moves in that it looks cool. Sunsets and sunrises flood the Texas sky as muscular mechanic/inventor Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg, replacing Shia LaBeouf as the human hero) tries to scrape together cash to put his daughter Tessa (the unspeakably attractive Nicola Peltz) through school. When Cade and his employee Lucas (T.J. Miller, an actually funny comic relief) find an old truck that looks like it’s been through more than just road rage, Cade brings it home to discover that it’s actually Optimus Prime. Prime, along with the rest of the Autobots, are on the run from the governments of the world that are hunting down the robots after the Chicago attack seen in “Transformers: Dark of the Moon.” But when a government special ops team, commanded by Harold Attinger (Kelsey Grammer, stone faced and barely breaking an octave in his voice) infiltrates Cade’s farm, Optimus springs into action and reunites with the four remaining Autobots he can find (yes, Bumblebee is one of them). The Autobots then discover a high tech corporation, led by sophisticated but sleazy Joshua Joyce (Stanley Tucci, replacing John Turturro as the “weird, spastic old guy played by a credible actor” character), have harnessed the metal of the Transformers (called “transformium,” of course) and are starting to create their own army of Transformers.
I’m starting a new paragraph here because the previous dissertation is only half of the entire plot of the movie. In fact, “Age of Extinction” could be split into three separate movies instead of being (very poorly) put together for a nearly three-hour bonanza of boom. There is terrible pacing and transition between scenes, with nearly nothing to make moments gel together. The acting is either forgettable or just bland, especially from Nicola Peltz and Kelsey Grammer. Mark Wahlberg does his job of saying silly lines as serious as possible, which almost makes his lines enjoyably ridiculous. The Transformers themselves, Autobots and pseudo-Decepticon alike, are mostly forgettable despite being voiced by the likes of John Goodman and Ken Watanabe. No matter how many times the robots pull out a gun from nothing, transform, or ride robotic dinosaurs (which did tug at the heart of the 8 year-old in me), the new robots are better off as toys than they are as memorable characters.
In fact, the problem with “Age of Extinction” is that it has lost whatever lasting impression the previous films have left. Sure, the “Transformers” movies have left good and bad tastes in the mouths of others, but at least there was something to talk about when leaving the theatre. Even when “Age of Extinction” travels to China for its climax, has a cool looking spaceship, and tries to incorporate the robots’ involvement in the dinosaur extinction on Earth, it does nothing to make the viewer shift closer to the screen. While there may be some awe-worthy scenes for the young boys seeing the movie, anyone else will find “Age of Extinction” dead on arrival. It’s certainly not Michael Bay’s worst film (“Revenge of the Fallen” or last year’s “Pain & Gain” are tied for that dishonor), but it’s certainly the blandest film Bay has ever done. Think about that for a second: the man who is known for monstrous robots fighting each other in front of beautiful women and explosions made an extremely boring film about monstrous robots fighting each other in front of beautiful women and explosions. If one dares to view “Age of Extinction,” this question should be brought up after the movie’s over: Who is less interested in Transformers, the viewer or the director?
Final Verdict: 1.5 out of 4 stars