‘Transformers: Age of Extinction’: Mind-numbing, bombastic action that seems never to end
By RICHARD ROEPER Movie Columnist June 26, 2014 7:48AM
Muscular Mark Wahlberg plays a failed Texas inventor who brings Optimus Prime back to life in the overlong “Transformers: Age of Extinction.” | PARAMOUNT PICTURES.
Age of Extinction’★1⁄2
Cade Yeager Mark Wahlberg
Joshua Joyce Stanley Tucci
Harold Attinger Kelsey Grammer
Tessa Yeager Nicola Peltz
Shane Dyson Jack Reynor
Paramount Pictures presents a film directed by Michael Bay and written by Ehren Kruger. Running time: 165 minutes. Rated PG-13 (for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, language and brief innuendo.). Now showing at local theaters.
Updated: July 28, 2014 6:10AM
Early in the first hour of the mind-numbing hammer to the senses that is the fourth “Transformers” movie, the old-timey operator of a shuttered movie theater in Texas says nobody wants to come to a specialty movie house any more because it’s all about sequels and remakes these days.
That’s what passes for an inside joke in a Michael Bay movie. Or maybe it’s just salt in the wound. Look at this old fool, lamenting the days when films were about something! Now hold tight, cuz pretty soon CGI robots are going to start breaking things …
We also get references to one of Bay’s early hits, a classic Western and a Stanley Kubrick film, but those nuggets are mere drops in the ocean of bombastic, overlong action sequences that dominate throughout.
Well past the two-hour mark of a film I thought might never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever end, an alien spaceship is doing something. I don’t want to give it away, but suffice to say the alien spaceship is clearly executing a certain maneuver, and we see the effects of this maneuver over and over and over.
And yet Mark Wahlberg’s character still has to verbalize what the spaceship is doing. “It’s doing [thing it’s doing]!” he says, even though at that point only the blind wouldn’t have caught on.
With a running time of 165 minutes — roughly the same as a double feature of “Battleship Potemkin” and “Annie Hall” — the fourth entry in the “Transformers” franchise is like a spoiled kid who insists on showing you every single toy he owns.
It is one of the most relentless movies I have ever seen. It just refuses to end.
Believe it or not I actually enjoyed the first “Transformers” movie, when the whole cars-to-robots-to-cars thing was new, and it was great fun to see humans reacting to these giant machines and their silly dialogue. But the 2009 and 2011 follow-ups managed to be bloated and hollow at the same time, and the “Age of Extinction” is just another warmed-over, cynical, ATM machine of a movie. It’s soulless eye candy.
We pick up the story a number of years after “Dark of the Moon.” Billboards remind citizens to remember the battle of Chicago and to call the government if they see any aliens, whether they be Autobots or Decepticons. Optimus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen as if he’s doing a Saturday morning cartoon character aimed at an audience with an average age of 8) is missing and presumed by many to be dead, or whatever it is you call it when Transformers have hit the scrap heap.
Mark Wahlberg is Cade Yeager, a widower who lives on a ranch in sun-dappled Texas with his daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz, who looks like a young Tara Reid and has approximately the same range as an actor). This being a Michael Bay movie, there are American flags draped in Cade’s “lab” — the barn where he works on his inventions — and on his front porch, and it seems like the sun is always setting.
Jack Reynor plays Tessa’s Irish, racecar-driver (convenient profession) boyfriend Shane, whom Cade dubs “Lucky Charms,” because, you know, the kid’s Irish. After Cade stumbles upon Optimus Prime’s dormant form and brings him back to, um, life, the three humans and the legendary Autobot form an alliance and hit the road so they can save the Autobots, repel attacks from Decepticons, battle Kelsey Grammer’s evil, alien-hating government operative and do a bunch of other stuff, all of which involves either protracted car chases or CGI battles, or both.
Stanley Tucci plays a megalomaniacal, genius billionaire developing a new strain of man-made Transformers. He starts off as a villain but then becomes the shrieking, relatively stupid comic relief. I liked him better as the ruthless genius.
Nobody comes to a Michael Bay movie for the dialogue, but still, the speeches by the Transformers (many of which begin with, “You humans …”) and the action-sequence quips by the humans are particularly dopey. With his giant biceps and his comfort level with violence (even before he’s met a Transformer), Wahlberg is miscast as an absent-minded professor type with a barn full of failed inventions and a daughter telling him they’re broke. (Wahlberg doesn’t even try to affect a Texas accent.)
The product placement in this movie is shameless. The transition of the action from Chicago (and yes, some of our landmark buildings take a beating yet again) to China is a blatant grab for even more foreign box office. The pounding, war-movie score only serves to remind us how ridiculous it is to see giant car-robot creatures duking it out. The introduction of Dinobots is a giant bowl of so-what.
From a technical standpoint, “Age of Extinction” impresses. It’s easier than ever to distinguish the various Transformers, and most of the time it really looks like humans are interacting with these creatures. Bay knows how to shatter glass, crash cars, destroy buildings and stage CGI battles as well as anyone in the business.
But the longer it goes on, the less interesting it becomes. This film will wear you down. As we were approaching the 165-minute mark, all that noise and fury was about as exciting as the special effects in an Ed Wood movie.