“Transformers: Age of Extinction” Movie Review

     Perhaps the premise of “Transformers: Age of Extinction” would have been more palatable if the term “extinction” would’ve been used in a more literal sense.  Late in this dastardly film, teary eyed star Mark Wahlberg asks Optimus Prime “Will I ever see you again?”.  For the sake of films and moviegoing in general, I really hope we never do.  Returning for a completely unnecessary fourth installment of his bloated, loud, and obnoxious franchise, director Michael Bay fills an already established template with enough robotic mayhem and pyrotechnics for a lifetime of films, continuing this worn out and unwelcome story for what is most certainly a worldwide cash grab.  The film cost producers over $210 million to make and that doesn’t include marketing.  So why would Bay and his cronies be so apt to invest such a large amount in a film sure to be critically panned?  

     Simply put, it’s mindless entertainment for the masses.  The same reason why people will line up for a low rent buffet at a Golden Corral.  Instead of a story that actually has meaning, the public would rather be fooled into thinking they have just watched something entertaining based on the amount of numbing, bombastic action sequences one film can stuff into an endless 157 minute running time.  Sadly, it appears Bay doesn’t really care. As long as people around the world continue to squeeze through the turnstiles at a record pace, why would he strive to create something better?

     Bay excelled last year with his quasi indie effort “Pain and Gain”, effectively telling an unbelievable, yet true crime story with both style and flair.  With an immense talent for modern shotmaking and the ability to combine those elements with timely humor and envelope pushing action sequences (“The Rock” and “Armageddon” come to mind), there is no doubt what Bay is capable of as a filmmaker.  After viewing “Age of Extinction”, the first question that comes to my mind is why is he wasting his time?  He is either a studio hired hack with the sole responsibility of churning out junky product for mainstream consumption or he has decided to give way to the whore like nature of the business and accept the realities of what most people expect to see when a “Transformers” film comes out.  I’m completely aware the film tested with an “A-“ from “Cinemascore” and upon learning that I lost even more faith in the human race and our ability to have a discerning taste when lavishing the films we see with praise.  Apparently, our standards of quality within society have taken a significant nose dive.

     If there is a positive, it’s the fact the entire cast from the previous three installments has been axed, but not even the presence of Mark Wahlberg can save this paper thin storyline from imploding before the first act.  Ironically, Bay and his collaborators have chosen to lift the plot from 2012’s “Prometheus” in that the original creators of the Autobots and Decepticons have come to Earth to take back their creations and for some reason, they’re not happy with the things they have been doing on Earth.  A bounty hunter named Lockdown has been sent to find and capture the remaining Transformers and is working along side a human element led by the CIA called Cemetery Wind.  While Autobots are being hunted around the globe, inventor and mechanic Cade Yeager (Wahlberg) buys an old rusted semi truck intent on selling the parts he can salvage.  It doesn’t take him long to figure out the truck is a Transformer and when he is able to restore it’s power, the truck transforms and reveals itself to be Optimus Prime.  Shortly thereafter, Cemetery Wind, led by Agent Harold Attinger (Kelsey Grammer) arrives at Cade’s Texas farm and demands he turn over Optimus Prime.

     From that point, Bay unleashes the usual car chases, vehicle to robot transformations, explosions, falling buildings, and other destructive occurrences.  Aside from that, we are left with a lame sub plot involving Cade’s 17 year old daughter, Tessa (Nicola Peltz) and her boyfriend, Shane (Jack Reynor), as the three of them alternate scenes of robotic peril with Cade’s disapproval of their relationship.  This, as well as another subplot involving a scientist and his work with the very metal that allows these robots to transform is so hollow that I began to wonder if audiences would be equally happy watching a 45 minute special effects demo instead, and just skip the story.  After all, it’s obvious people aren’t lining up to watch the human characters, so why pretend they even need to exist at all?

     In the film’s final showdown between Optimus Prime and Lockdown, there’s a scene where Cade, Tessa, and Shane all have the opportunity to drive away and let the robots settle things amongst themselves.  Of course, Bay insists we have to have a human hero in order to form some kind of connection with his film so Cade tells his daughter and Shane to leave, while he puts himself directly into harms way, armed only with a small alien ray gun, for no logical reason at all.  Truth be told, there isn’t anything logical within the film’s story as each human scene functions like a piece of chewing gum flimsily holding the action set pieces together and ultimately forming one giant mess.  GRADE: F