If you’re going to do anything for a fourth time, you’d better know what works and what doesn’t. The first Transformers movie was a fun and unexpected summer classic. It molded ground breaking effects and top notch action sequences with a likable lead (Shia LeBeouf) and hilarious supporting characters (Anthony Anderson and the late Bernie Mac). Unfortunately, they weren’t able to capture lightning in a bottle with part two. 2009’s Revenge of the Fallen was both sloppy and convoluted. And who can forget those lousy twins! 2011’s Dark of the Moon would’ve been a solid step back in the right direction had it not been for the corny side characters (John Malkovich and Ken Jeong) and shoehorned female lead (no love interest at all would’ve been better than some random new girl we’re supposed to care about).
Age of Extinction delivers a new cast and a much, much darker tone. Mark Wahlberg takes over the lead role as failed inventor and single father, Cade Yeager. Along with his teenage daughter (Nicola Peltz), her boyfriend (Jack Reynor), and a Steve Jobs rip-off (Stanley Tucci), he gets caught up in the action after stumbling upon a nearly destroyed Optimus Prime. But before you go thinking it’s the usual Autobots vs. Decepticons explosion fest, there are some things you should know that’ll make you believe me when I say that this is easily the second best film in the franchise thus far.
Well, for one thing, the villains are a major upgrade. Set five years after part three, the chaos from the previous installment has caused humans to not only distance themselves from the Autobot heroes, but to actually hunt them in order to successfully build Transformers of their own. Then there’s Lockdown, a nasty bounty hunting Decepticon who is much more interesting and menacing than Megatron ever was in the previous movies. These livelier adversaries make for more interesting heroes. Gone is the wise, God-like Optimus Prime. In this movie, he is both angry and weary after years of dealing with human screw ups. As for the rest of the Autobots, for the first time since part one, there’s actually interesting members other than Bumblebee (especially John Goodman’s Hound).
Like with all Transformers movies, there are hefty problems. Oddly enough, the CGI seems really shoddy at times. It almost feels like they rushed the animation for this one. And as for the Dinobots that were so heavily marketed throughout the film’s promotion? They are basically just cameos who serve little purpose to the actual plot. I also can’t help wondering why there was no mention of any of the previous films’ characters. A worldwide catastrophe goes down and not a single one of them is even referenced? But the biggest flaw is the run time! At nearly three hours (without trailers) it’s just way too damn long. Nevertheless, good action sequences and a decent story are worth at least one viewing. Just don’t plan anything else to do with your day/night. And remember, all of this is based on toys, so don’t take it too seriously.
FINAL GRADE: B-