Published Jun 27, 2014It appears Michael Bay has taken a break from bastardizing Generation Y's favourite childhood cartoons long enough to deliver a somewhat enjoyable and competent Transformers movie.
Originally taking the reins of the silver screen robots in disguise in 2007, Bay's track record with the Transformers has been spotty at best. Hardcore fans faulted the first one (and subsequent iterations) for having loose ties to the original subject matter, while its sequels — 2009's Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and 2011's Transformers: Dark of the Moon — suffered from a pair of incoherent storylines and subpar scripts.
But with Shia LaBeouf's Sam Witwicky getting the axe after the third one and Megan Fox only a distant memory, it seems like the sorry franchise is finally hitting its stride (albeit a little late), and it's all thanks to Mark Wahlberg and a cast with a decent sense of comedic timing.
Taking place four years after the momentous battle that left Chicago in ruins and the transformers stranded on earth at the end of Dark of the Moon, the U.S. government has begun working with the C.I.A. to round up and capture all remaining Autobots. But when Cade Yeager (Wahlberg) — a supremely jacked robotics engineer — and his assistant (Silicon Valley's T.J. Miller) discover a disused 18-wheeler hidden in the back of an old theatre, the pair soon realize it's the famed Autobot leader deemed long-gone years ago. Cue gratuitous racing scenes and machines morphing into other machines and blowing stuff up.
But make no mistake: Age of Extinction is dumb. Disturbingly dumb and disturbingly long (165 minutes in total). But what sets this Transformers movie apart from others is its sense of humour.
Kudos goes to chief writer Ehren Kruger, who brings a new level of self-awareness to the story not seen since his days with the Scream franchise. (An early scene finds the owner of a disused film house waxing poetic about the modern film industry's unoriginality and reliance on sub-par sequels to make money — an idea not lost on audience members aware of Bay's capitalistic, craptacular oeuvre.)
Helping chew the scenery are comedic forces like The State's Thomas Lennon (whose affable attitude as the President's Chief of Staff works wonders next to Kelsey Grammar's serious and sour Harry Attinger) and the critically acclaimed Stanley Tucci, who fully inhabits the smugness of Steve Jobs-esque genius Joshua Joyce.
Kicking things up a notch is Wahlberg. While it's hard to believe the native Bostonian as a down-and-out Texan — let alone an inventor of animatronics — his brand of bumbling brutishness and whip-smart delivery help inject a healthy dose of the charm in what is an otherwise paint-by-numbers action flick.
The first film to shoot with the Phantom 65 IMAX 3D camera, the results are obviously stunning, but as with Bay's other films, a little more character development and a little less action could go a long way to keep viewers interested in the film's final fight scenes.
Nevertheless, Transformers: Age of Extinction is at least fun and entertaining. As much as it pains me to admit it, Bay may be more than meets the eye.