Transformers: Age of Extinction Blu-ray ReviewOctober 1, 2014
At this point, you probably know if you’re going to enjoy the latest Michael Bay Transformers film (or Micheal Bay films in general). The combination of over-the-top action, silly humor, gigantic explosions, and over-sexualized women is either your cup of tea or it isn’t. Sure, he might play fast and loose with the Transformers lore, but there’s no denying that the man knows how to create a spectacle on screen. Even four films in, the kid in me still gets amped up seeing these incredibly realistic CGI robots (and now robot dinosaurs!) transform, battle it out and blow stuff up. You shouldn’t be buying a ticket at the theater for these films expecting an Oscar-worthy story or acting performance. For me, not every film has to be “good” – I can enjoy a movie that is merely fun. And Transformers: Age of Extinction, despite its brainlessness and overlong runtime, is a fun movie.
Transformers: Age of Extinction takes place five years after the alien invasion of Chicago, as seen in Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon. Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) is an inventor living in Texas with his daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz), trying to make ends meet by repairing gadgets for his neighbors, and hoping to make it big with one of his inventions. America now sees all Transformers, whether Autobot of Decepticon, as a major threat, and so the CIA begins hunting down and exterminating them. At the outset of Age of Extinction, all of the Autobots are in hiding, including their leader, Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen). Cade Yeager soon stumbles upon a junked-up old truck, and purchases it from its owner before discovering that it’s actually Optimus Prime in hiding.
In hopes of a monetary reward, Cade’s friend Lucas (T.J. Miller) informs the government of Cade’s discovery, and shortly thereafter the CIA shows up on Cade’s doorstep, threatening the life of his daughter unless he gives up Prime’s whereabouts. They escape the military’s clutches with the help of Optimus Prime and Tessa’s boyfriend Shane (Jack Reynor), who happens to do rally racing for a living. It’s revealed that the CIA has teamed up with a Transformer known as Lockdown to hunt down and destroy the Autobots, in exchange for Optimus Prime. Meanwhile, billionaire inventor Joshua Joyce (Stanley Tucci) has discovered that by melting down Transformers, he can harness their DNA and create his own army of robotic soldiers.
Transformers: Age of Extinction is aided greatly by the introduction of a completely new human cast. Shia LeBeouf and Megan Fox are out, replaced by the much more capable Mark Wahlberg and Nicola Peltz. Wahlberg’s action hero physicality adds a lot to the film, removing his character as far as possible from the awkward Sam Witwicky of the previous trilogy. Nicola Peltz is a far better actress than Megan Fox was, and her character of Tessa is much less annoying. I liked how the bond between Cade Yeager and his daughter was at the center of the film, and how Tessa was portrayed as someone who truly cares about her father rather than the stereotypical rebellious teenage girl. Stanley Tucci was great in this film, as someone who at first is an antagonist but quickly changes direction and becomes one of the film’s best comedic characters. Li Bingbing was completely badass as Su Yeuming, with some of the film’s most awesome human fight sequences. Jack Reynor was rather flat and wooden as Shane, but at least he was nowhere near as annoying as Shia LeBeouf’s Sam. And while the human cast was much better this time around, I’m glad that there was a much bigger focus on the robots in Age of Extinction.
While the story is a bit mindless and the film is riddled with trite dialogue, one-liners, and stereotypical characters, Michael Bay’s camera work remains top-notch. He was able to capture some beautiful shots and incredible angles in Transformers: Age of Extinction, and ILM has once again outdone themselves in regards to the visual effects. When your film’s plot involves such preposterous things as a sword-wielding robot riding a fire-breathing, larger robot dinosaur into battle, you have to just shut your brain off and enjoy it; that said, ILM’s CGI characters integrate so seamlessly with the real location shots that it really helps sell the illusion. In short, Age of Extinction’s visuals are nothing short of a technical marvel. The Transformers all have a distinct visual design and personality, which helps to separate them from each other during the film’s seemingly endless destructive fight sequences.
That said, those personalities aren’t the greatest at times. Peter Cullen’s Optimus Prime works the best, and his performance helps sell the notion of a broken, defeated leader whose family is being tracked down and murdered. I still think that his performance is perhaps too human, considering he is an alien robot, but his character is the one I had the least amount of problems with. Considering the relatively dark material in Transformers: Age of Extinction, some of the side characters come off as far too goofy and stand out in a bad way. First and foremost is Hound, who is well-voiced by John Goodman and is quite hilarious at times. He adds a lot of levity to the proceedings and works great alongside Stanley Tucci’s Joshua Joyce, who provides most of the laughs from the human side. However, his design is absolutely ridiculous. Hound has a robotic beard, a cigar, and a big fat robotic gut. This is a perfect example of making the Robots In Disguise far too human. How does a robot even get fat? What the hell is that beard and cigar made out of?
Another robot character has a trenchcoat and a gigantic toothpick hanging out of the side of his mouth. Ken Watanabe’s robot character Drift is Asian and looks like a giant metal samurai. It feels as though every character apart from Optimus Prime had no personality of their own prior to landing on Earth, and simply mimicked the most stereotypical characters they could find on a TV screen. How does Drift have a Japanese accent and know all about spirituality? It’s the same mistake Bay’s screenwriters made in the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film, where Master Splinter learned all of his Ninjutsu from a book, and put on a phony Asian accent and getup. Lockdown was a solid villain though, quite possibly the best Transformers antagonist yet.
Another issue is the fact that the Creators, a race of aliens who Lockdown claims built the Transformers, are seen only briefly in the film’s intro. They are shown using the Seeds to wipe out the dinosaurs and terraform the Earth, and afterwards are never seen or heard from. All we know is that they hired Lockdown to retrieve Optimus Prime for some mysterious purpose. While the ending obviously sets up a sequel that will tackle this storyline head-on, one would think that a little more light could have been shed on the Creators given the film’s near three-hour runtime.
If you enjoyed Transformers: Age of Extinction, there’s a metric ton of bonus content on the Blu-ray Combo Pack- over three hours’ worth of extras. These include an in-depth interview with Michael Bay regarding his approach to filming the incredible action sequences, a look at the difficulty of filming in Hong Kong’s crowded streets, illuminating features on the music composition, CGI integration, set design and much more. One of the coolest extras takes fans behind-the-scenes at the Hasbro toy factory, and shows the workers taking the Grimlock Dinobot figure from concept sketch to 3D-rendered sculpt and eventually a fully transforming plastic toy.
While Transformers: Age of Extinction certainly has its fair share of problems, there’s no denying that it’s an action-packed, adrenaline-pumping thrill ride (once it gets going). The globe-trotting film’s visuals are absolutely incredible, and those who enjoy Michael Bay’s brand of humor and (literally) explosive action get a lot to enjoy here. That said, this film is easily a half hour too long, is stuffed to the gills with awkward product placement, and suffers from some weak characterization and unexplained plot points. If you’re willing to shut off your brain for three hours, it really is a feast for the eyes – I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of seeing thirty-foot robots duking it out on the big screen.