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Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Transformers. The age of extinction review


"It can't be bargained with. It can't be reasoned with. It doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever..."

Thirty years ago, Kyle Reese offered those words of warning to heroine Sarah Connor in James Cameron's iconic sleeper hit The Terminator.

Having endured the fourth movie in Michael Bay's Transformers saga, it seems an apt description for a cast iron money-making machine.

The film series can't be bargained with. It can't be reasoned with. It doesn't fear critics, or logic. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you, dear film goer, stop (paying).

I've sat through the previous movies and was lucky enough to attend the LA premiere ofTransformers: The Ride, so more due to needing a rainy day movie than any desire, I settled down for Bay's latest slice of formulaic adventure.

The usual sights and sounds abounded.

  • Heroes running away from huge explosions in slow motion.
  • Uber photogenic pouty heroine in short shorts being ogled by the camera.
  • Robots ripping each other apart in slow motion.
  • Robots transforming to deliver a bit of exposition.
  • Characters stating the obvious before enacting said dialogue. "We've got to lose them in this corn field", before, er, motoring through a corn field to try and lose the villains.
  • Cool sound effects, with the exception of Mark Wahlberg's laser gun, which sounded like an asthmatic penguin.
  • Bay reworking the Armageddon sub-plot - over protective father warming to his prospective son-in-law after bonding over death-defying extra terrestrial threat.
  • A seemingly endless final battle so long some punters staggered from the cinema like they'd been stuck on a transatlantic flight.
  • A couple of great character actors (Kelsey Grammer and Stanley Tucci) possibly thinking of the cash while adding some depth to the lightweight plot.
  • Comedy characters slotted in to add some levity to the explosions. In this case a chubby Jurassic Park/Dennis Nedry-style Brit boffin. Fat guys. Always funny in Producer Steven Spielberg's world.
  • Oh, and Optimus Prime's recurring monologues about nobility... having wrecked a couple of major cities. In one scene he rides a Dinobot through a small Chinese wall, despite the fact he could have leapt it or gone round it.


Ah yes. The Dinobots and China. Kids love dinosaurs and robots, so it was a no-brainer we'd get those toys making an appearance in the franchise at some point. 
And with China being such a lucrative market, a third act which sees most of the country levelled was a smart move to keep those overseas cash tills ringing.

2014-07-08-image.jpg
The Transformers Ride launch, Universal, LA


How does it rank against the other three films? Well it's possibly the best TF movie since the 2007 original. Long, yes; occasionally incoherent, (Mark Wahlberg seems to ignore full stops in his script), and it features some awful CGI - the enemy robots are made from gravity-defying blocks that appear to have no weight or heft, making them look like a bad video game cut scene.

However, as epic cinema goes, it was never dull. Irritating at times, especially during those obligatory Bay sunset scenes and the attention deficit disorder shots which cut every few seconds. 
(The obsession with super cars was like a feature-length Top Gear challenge, only without the wit. 
Only in a Michael Bay film can a Bugatti Veyron look mundane because of all the other super cars on show).

However, compared to Transformers 2 and 3, this was a slight improvement. A little like a (robot) bull in a slightly classier China shop.

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