********* 7 out of 10 *********
Director: Michael Bay
Actors: Mark Wahlberg, Peter Cullen
Transformers first released in July 2007. Largely panned by critics, it holds a 57% score on Rottentomatoes. It eventually earned $710 million worldwide at the box-office. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen released in 2009. It was criticised further, and has only a 19% score on Rottentomatoes. It earned $836 million worldwide. Transformers: Dark of the Moon released in 2011, and has a 36% score on Rottentomatoes. It earned $1,124 million worldwide. The point is simple. Critics do not get the movies in the Transformers series, but the audience do. At least most of them. And they enjoy it. They enjoy it, whether everyone will admit it or not, to such an extent that each one of the movies has gone on to do bigger business at the box-office. Be it the mammoth-sized robots, the ultra-cool visual effects, the large-scale fight sequences, Transformers series’ movies have been the taste of the summer period for many years, working within the boundaries of a limited storyline, while providing the audience with a taste of action that is difficult to find in any other franchise. So those who wish to be critical about this series may continue to do so, but Michael Bay’s Transformers series has worked wonders for the movie studios. And with Transformers: Age of Extinction, it continues to keep its age-old formula of success alive, providing us with mind-boggling visuals and action, while attempting to weave a story somewhere within it.
Transformers: Age of Extinction is set five years after the battle of Chicago of the previous movie. While the Decepticons were truly beaten in the fight, it is the Autobots that are being hunted by an elite CIA unit in collaboration with a new creature called Lockdown. Meanwhile Optimus Prime, unknown to any, is in the barn of a single father and struggling inventor Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg), disguised as an old semi-truck. It is when Cade discovers the Autobot he has been hiding, that all hell breaks loose, and Cade is suddenly on the run along with his daughter and her boyfriend from the US Government itself. Once again, a band of humans and the remaining Autobots will have to fight side-by-side against an enemy whose motives are much sinister than they first appear.
The fourth instalment of the Transformers series widens the world of the Transformers, swaying away from the usual battle between Autobots and Decepticons, by introducing the Transformers bounty hunter Lockdown. But the plot written by Ehren Kruger, his third work in the series, is again over-the-top and filled with exaggerated loopholes that however seem to be irrelevant in what director Michael Bay is eventually giving us. Bay is not asking us to dig too much into the storyline, for when has that been the driving force behind any of his movies in this series! In his elaborate style, Bay has created once again an adventure that starts small before going out of hand slowly and methodically, reaching a grand finale, where a small group of humans will fight beside the Autobots against a common enemy. The movie is filled with silliness if one indeed wishes to be critical; but at the same time, it stands magnificent and tall in its grandeur and style, it is engulfed with a “coolness” factor that would make your jaw drop, it is packed with action befitting a Transformers movie, something which is incomparable with any other movie series. One might say that all this comes easily with a $200 million production budget, but that isn’t the case. Movies of recent years like The Lone Ranger and Jack the Giant Slayer had similar production budgets but looked drab and dull; on the other hand, Michael Bay knows how to make his movies stand apart in their visual appeal, as he manages to extract a feeling of grandiose from every dollar spent. Oh, and those Dinobots are worth the wait! It is moments like those, which can make you forgive the weaker parts of the film.
For those who don’t dig into this series too much, it may all seem about the special effects. But for the fans of the franchise, there is another reason to visit a Transformers movie, and that is Optimus Prime. Voiced so effectively by Peter Cullen, Optimus Prime has grown in his brand value during the course of this franchise, and in Transformers: Age of Extinction he comes with a more knightly appearance combined with a bad-ass attitude. As the leader of the Autobots, he is the reassuring presence that the ones in the movie and the ones outside look forward for. Just like the Pirates of the Caribbean series, where the movies aren’t necessarily improving, but one still doesn’t want to miss a glimpse of Jack Sparrow, movies in the Transformers series give us the opportunity to hear Prime again, as he commands his fellow Autobots wisely and gives the humans hope. The arrival of Bumblebee is also greeted with much admiration.
While the human cast is not the main attraction of the franchise, Mark Wahlberg is a step up in this aspect. He’s a talented actor, who plays his part with ease in Transformers: Age of Extinction as the protective father and also an Autobot ally. Wahlberg brings more personality to the movie, which otherwise would have been lacking from the rest of the star cast. Stanley Tucci pops up with some lighter moments, Kesley Grammar is forgettable, and Jack Reynor as the boyfriend still has a lot of practicing to do. Nicola Peltz, as the daughter of Wahlberg’s character, sets a new low in acting as far as the female leads are concerned in this series. Chinese actress Li Bingbing finds a bit-part role while much of the movie’s finale too is shot in China, in line with the obvious kowtowing Hollywood is willing to do so as to sell more tickets in the fastest growing market.
Overall, Transformers: Age of Extinction does not bring much new to the table, nor does it take anything away. If you have enjoyed the first three movies by Michael Bay in this franchise, then the latest one too would make you cheer and rejoice at the marvels that Hollywood can create. If you disliked the previous ones, then you may do better to stay away.