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First Reviews of 'Transformers: Age of Extinction'

Reviews
by Sam Adams
June 22, 2014 12:23 PM
7 Comments
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Optimus Prime in "Transformers: Age of Extinction"
Optimus Prime in "Transformers: Age of Extinction"

"Transformers: Age of Extinction" had its world premiere in Hong Kong on Thursday night, and the very first reviews have hit the net, courtesy of the trades' foreign correspondents.

In Variety, Maggie Lee says it's as if Michael Bay & co. are "trying to find a literal new definition for the term 'blockbuster,'" and according to her, they largely succeed. 

It's not just that the Autobots look more distinctive and easier to tell apart than ever in "Transformers: Age of Extinction" --  as Optimus Prime never tires of reminding us, these robots have actual souls. So who cares if the human characters are even more dispensable and the plot even more scattershot than usual?

Lee draws special attention to the extent to which "Age of Extinction" is tailored for the Chinese market, where "Dark of the Moon" is the fourth-highest grossing movie of all time. The movie shot extensively in China and Hong Kong, and though Bay plays fast and loose with local geography -- "Joyce is supposed to head to his branch operation in southern Guangzhou, but Chinese audiences will recognize random shots of Beijing mixed in with footage of the South China Karst, the much-touted Unesco World Heritage site in Chongqing"  -- Lee praises the film for capturing the flavor of present-day Hong Kong.

Though "Pacific Rim" beat "Age of Extinction" to location shooting in the former British colony, the lurid images Guillermo del Toro served up made the ultra-modern city look like Chinatown. Kudos to Bay, then (despite the surreally ubiquitous lanterns), for capturing the city's gleaming high-rises and seedy alleyways with lively verisimilitude. In several scenes, the dull, rusty hues of the man-made Transformers blend especially well with the grimy tenements, which resemble stacks of matchboxes. 

At the Hollywood Reporter, Clarence Tsui is less kindly disposed:

Despite boasting an entirely new human cast and many a new onscreen mechanical warrior, plus a half-hour grand finale set in very different Hong Kong locales, "Transformers: Age of Extinction" isn't the fresh breath of air vitally needed by an aging franchise. No matter that these films set the tills ringing -- all things come to an end, and if this is a reboot, Extinction promises the series will go out with more of a whimper than a bang farther down the line. Still, the current film is very well-placed to rake it in big time in China and could surpass "Dark of the Moon's" record takings.

Tsui points to a couple of "22 Jump Street"-esque moments in Ehren Kruger's script -- a generic diss of movie sequels, and a slag on Bay's "Armageddon" -- as evidence the franchise is running on fumes, as well as some unwise homages to "The Searchers" and "2001: A Space Odyssey," not movies to which Bay's oeuvre can really brook comparison. Still he admits, grudgingly, that "Age of Extinction" "does the job by reducing everything to a drone," and says the Chinese government, at least, is likely to be a big fan.

Though basically superfluous, the last 40 minutes of the film should please the Chinese co-financiers, including the state-owned China Movie Channel, as well as the authorities. For a change, there are no Chinese villains and the one significant local character, Joyce's English-speaking deputy Su Xueming (Li Bingbing, "Resident Evil: Retribution"), is presented as a swish executive and a dexterous fighter who saves her American boss. The fictional Chinese defense minister can also be heard proclaiming the country's ability to protect Hong Kong, as he promises to send fighter jets to the city in a show of Beijing's military might. 

More reviews:

Drew McWeeny, HitFix:

Whatever the case, "Transformers: Age Of Extinction" more than delivers on whatever promises Bay makes to an audience at this point. Giant robots. Giant mayhem. Destruction on a global scale. You know what you're in for if you buy a ticket, and Bay seems determined to wear you down with the biggest craziest "Transformers" movie yet.

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7 Comments

  • Sanker from india | June 24, 2014 9:17 AMReply

    As I'm reading this, the first three comments say indiewire sucks cuz they hate transformers and the fourth one says indiewire sucks cuz they are talking about trash like transformers. I say the same thing to all of em

    "WHY THE HELL ARE YOU HERE?!"

    As for transformers, parts of 1 were watchable, but yeah, it really sucks.

    I love you indiewire, you guys are awesome!!!!

  • ralf | June 23, 2014 12:47 AMReply

    First I could give a crap about what shit people, or reviewers have to say. I enjoyed all three transformers movies and will enjoy the heck out of this one. I go to watch movies and see what I think about it, and block the rest of the world. People who are true Transformers fans go watch it, those who aren't or appear to be and complain about every little thing then don't watch it. Wait for it on redbox. It's your choice if you want to support a franchise or not

  • Brian W | June 22, 2014 7:26 PMReply

    Just what we need - another overintellectual egghead contributing ANOTHER irrelevant "review" of a series not only PROVEN to be a moneymaking popular series, but apparently someone who doesn't really seem to enjoy movies at all, and expects every movie to be SHAKESPEARE.

    I hope the movie blows up (in a good way) just to spite these "knowitalls."

  • Rald | June 23, 2014 12:49 AM

    BRIAN W I agree with you 100% so many people ask for to Danm much. Why don't they step into the directors shoes for once

  • sullivan alvarado | June 22, 2014 5:52 PMReply

    By taking seriously these kinds of movies (by talking about them) Indie Wire is embarrassing itself. How can intellectuals/thinkers/cultural critics seriously even talk about such films which are made for none other reasons than to bring cash to the studio's shareholders? These films are an insult to the intelligence of worldwide audiences. Serious film critics and film lovers should boycott them.

  • Stephen Staunton | June 22, 2014 12:50 PMReply

    I like how Michael Bay disses one of his few decent films

  • Logan | June 22, 2014 12:43 PMReply

    What's hilarious is that parts of this film were shot in Detroit (doubling for Hong Kong). No mention whether the reviewer was aware of this.

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