The original “Transformers” from 2007 was a pleasant surprise that was loud and preposterous, but extremely entertaining.
The sequels that followed in 2009 and 2011 basically took what made the original so much fun and turned it into spectacles that relied too much on overkill. This latest installment, “Age of Extinction,” had me hoping that director Michael Bay and his filmmaking crew had learned from their mistakes.
This time, there’s no Shia LaBeouf driving the franchise. Instead, Mark Wahlberg steps in as Cade Yeager, a widowed inventor from Texas raising his daughter. He finds a run-down truck that he hopes he can turn into something great so he and his daughter don’t get evicted from their home.
Luckily for Cade, this truck just happens to be Optimus Prime hiding out after the events of the last movie, “Dark of the Moon,” branded the Transformers outlaws.
Soon afterward, more and more Autobots return, including Bumblebee and a few others that happen to have the voices of John Goodman and Ken Watanabe. Together, they face a new threat to humanity both on and off Earth in the form of a government agent (Kelsey Grammar) and some more new Decepticons that arrive to find a key device responsible for the Transformers’ creation on their home planet. Or something like that.
Stanley Tucci co-stars as a billionaire inventor who wants to use the technology that created both races and make his own version of Transformers. Hey, what better way to continue to send the franchise down the toilet than by making more? Ooh, that’s an interesting thought.
In the meantime, the war between the Transformers takes place halfway around the world, mostly in Asia. Everywhere from Hong Kong to Beijing is left devastated in their path. After “Godzilla,” it looks Hollywood can’t quit its unrelenting assault on the Far East.
“Transformers: Age of Extinction” certainly supplies more of the same old thing that fans of the first three loved, but that’s also its Achilles’ heel. The first movie’s charms won filmgoers over with its creativity in special effects. As for the sequels, including this latest one — well, let’s just say there’s so much we could’ve done without.
I give Bay credit where it’s due. The special effects are sometimes impressive and occasionally inventive, but it’s more of the usual blowing up city buildings, blowing up boats, blowing up trains, etc., etc., etc. I don’t mind things that go “BOOM!”, but give me a story and characters that I can care about instead of humorless dialogue and action that looks good, but draws out far, far, far too long.
Also, the movie is bloated in its running time at 165 minutes, the longest movie yet in the series. What did the filmmakers think they were making, “Lawrence of Arabia”?
Rabid fans will line up again for this one and the sequels that inevitably will follow. But next time, Mr. Bay, lighten up on the pyro. This movie is appropriately titled, but I doubt its extinction won’t be on the horizon anytime soon.
(Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, language, and brief innuendo.)
Hall is a new columnist for the Courier.