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Transformers: Age Of Extinction

by Leonard Maltin
June 26, 2014 3:28 PM
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Transformers Age of Extinction Mark Wahlberg
Photo Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Well, there’s another three hours shot to hell. Somewhere in this interminable mess there is an entertaining action movie, but it’s smothered by Michael Bay’s addiction to overlength (165 minutes, to be exact), lumbering exposition, and stupid dialogue, courtesy of screenwriter Ehren Kruger. I doubt this will bother 11-year-old boys and undemanding summer audiences, but I can’t pretend to fit into either of those categories. I remained engaged as long as I could but, at the two-hour mark, I got bored and couldn’t wait for it to be over. (I feel the same way about all the films in this series, which began on a more promising note in 2007.) When the most interesting thing in a scene is the blatant product placement (Bud Light, Victoria’s Secret, et al) you know something is out of whack.

Mark Wahlberg brings his star presence to the role of a mad-scientist-type inventor in the near-future, following the alien destruction of Chicago depicted in the previous film. He’s a devoted single dad to a nubile 17-year-old daughter (Nicola Peltz) and has a comic sidekick (T.J. Miller); together they help him develop his mechanical devices in a barn in rural Texas. One day he purchases a rundown truck, little dreaming that it is one of the Autobots on the U.S. government’s most wanted list: in fact, it is Optimus Prime, badly injured and in need of repair. The government is represented by a rogue CIA director (Kelsey Grammer), a power-hungry monster who spouts patriotic rhetoric but simply wants to line his pockets. He’s in cahoots with a super-smart business mogul (Stanley Tucci) who is draining other surviving Transformers in order to reproduce their “essence” for his own purposes.

There are adrenaline-pumping car chases and explosions galore, which are certainly more coherent than many of the story points, not to mention the dialogue. In some of the frenetic car scenes Miller, and later Tucci, emit outbursts from the back seat that are supposed to add comedic punctuation—but aren’t funny. And just when you think the movie is wrapping up, there is a lengthy sequence of lumpy exposition with the leading characters (both human and robotic) that kicks off another “act.” With that, the story shifts to mainland China and Hong Kong for more destruction.

It’s no spoiler to say that the film leaves the door wide open for yet another sequel. If I had my druthers, this series would go extinct. But what’s my opinion against millions of ticket buyers around the world?

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  • Joe | June 27, 2014 5:59 PMReply

    @Mark Whelan; "I'm confident your mind was set before the curtain even raised"
    Sorry, but from reading years of Leonard's reviews, this is simply an unfair criticism. He always goes in with an open mind, and he is honest and open in his biases. I don't think you need to be Gen X or a Millennial to tell if a modern movie is a good or bad one.

    I thought the first film was a delightful way to bring back characters I liked as a kid: it was fun, funny, action-filled, and fitting for a summer film. Even if it was too long, it was great time. Then I saw the mess of the 2nd film, chock full of jive talking stereotypes that were painful to watch, characters in places they had no reason to be, and lots of action nonsense. I'll enjoy the Transformers ride at the Universal theme parks from now on, but I'm skipping these bloated films. There are too many good movies and TV to watch with my three hours.

  • Mark Whelan | June 27, 2014 10:46 AMReply

    Unlike yourself--and virtually every other critic worth their salt--I found the "Transformers" films unfairly maligned and often misunderstood. That said, even I can't turn a blind eye to excess or a brazen cash-in, which is precisely what this film is. I'll appreciate the past three films as product of their times: bombastic, swollen yet well-intentioned and (mostly) well-made pop-corn cinema. These days, with soaring ticket prices and questionable theater-going relevance, it's understandable why the "Transformers" films are successful and as BIG as they are. This isn't necessarily a good thing, but it is a reasonable explanation for their tireless over-length and visual bombardment. My nostalgia for "Transformers" runs deep and probably allows lenience for these movies, but isn't this also why you give garbage like "Jersey Boys" and good-but-not-great films like J.J. Abram's "Star Trek" high accolades. Simply put: the baby-boomers don't understand "Transformers." Perhaps one day you'll revisit the past three films and glimpse at some of the brilliance they encompass. They certainly aren't great films, but they're good ones and undeserving of the rancor that has plagued them the past seven years (even 2009's "worst film of the decade" nominee "Revenge of the Fallen" is coming on a bit too thick). This reboot was unnecessary and I'm sorry you didn't enjoy it, but like most, I'm confident your mind was set before the curtain even raised.

  • S. Wolf | June 29, 2014 11:44 PM

    I recall the original comic book and didn't think it made much sense at the time. My opinion hasn't changed. The first film wasn't horribly bad as brainless action movies go, but the second one killed it for me. Other than the protagonist stomping on his friend's cell phone, there wasn't much to recommend it. When the idea of giant, transforming robots is easier to swallow than plot points such as one Transformer disguising himself as a top secret SR-71, thinking no one would notice an extra one suddenly appearing out of nowhere, well the script has huge problems beyond my ability to suspend disbelief.

  • mike schlesinger | June 28, 2014 12:32 AM

    Oh, we boomers understand "Transformers" well enough. What you don't understand is that we don't object to giant friggin' robot movies; we object to LOUSY giant friggin' robot movies.

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