Someone described this movie as ‘almost three hours of pure “Bayhem”’. And that, while a bit insane, is the absolute perfect description. The reality is that Michael Bay is a complete maniac, and not a good guy. He has been documented as having some crazy rage issues as well as being a rampaging sexist. This is pretty obvious with the majority of his movies; they are all style and no substance. He got his start directing music videos, and then became the reason Will Smith is a movie star because he is the one who added that shirtless running sequence in Bad Boys – and Will himself has stated that scene is why he has a movie career.
In 2007, Bay appropriated the Transformers license from Hasboro toys, and turned the characters from the 80s animated series that was designed to sell toys to a movie that was also designed to sell toys. The first one featured effects by ILM; and some of the most amazing on-screen robots that there had ever been. The subject matter fit Bay’s style perfectly, and while many aspects of the movie were nonsense, it definitely looked amazing.
In 2009, Bay got overexcited, and every small thing that people said they enjoyed in the first, he overcompensated by throwing way too much of it into the second, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. This included Megan Fox’s legs, and Sam’s parents. I liked Tony Todd as “the Fallen”, but everything else was awful.
That one was really poorly received (with good reason, it was mostly terrible). In 2011 Bay rebounded with the complete and utter destruction of Chicago, Patrick Dempsy, Leonard Nimoy’s voice, shots of Milwaukee (easily the best part, but I’m biased!) and a Buzz Aldrin cameo in Transformers: Dark of the Moon. I actually really liked this one, even though the majority of it makes no sense, and by this time, Shia LaBeouf had really started to wear thin.
Each of these three has slightly increased the run time. Transformers was 144 minutes, Revenge of the Fallen was 150 minutes, and Dark of the Moon was 154 minutes. This new one, Age of Extinction, clocks in at 165. That’s 2 hours and 45 minutes if you are keeping track. Do not get the big drink at the theater.
In terms of story, this one takes place 5 years after the destruction of Chicago in the war between the Autobots (good guys) and Decepticons (bad guys). Our government is hunting down and eliminating Transformers in general. They state they are only eliminating the bad guys, but in the opening sequence, we see that the government faction has a Transformer bounty hunter they are working with to hunt down all transformers. They capture and brutally kill Ratchet – a character we have grown to know and love from the other three movies, so it is really tough to watch him get shot down after he has surrendered. The government turns over eliminated Transformers to a private research company that is using the destroyed ones to study and build their own. Meanwhile, an ‘inventor’ in Texas (who seems to be from Boston originally, although that is never mentioned) stumbles across the remains of an old truck which turns out to be Optimus Prime, the leaders of the Autobots. He, his friend, his daughter, and her secret Irish drag-racing boyfriend (yes, you heard that right) then set out to assist Prime and his compatriots in a battle against the government, the scientists, and the bounty hunter, resulting in Prime teaming up with some Imprisoned Dinobots, leading to some exceptionally cool visuals.
That is a short summary of the story, because really, story is second in this movie. I read that the original Jurassic Park has only 19 minutes of dinosaur footage in it, and the most recent Iron Man movie had something like 25 minutes of actual Iron Man footage in it. This movie has a ton of Transformer footage in it, and it looks amazing. In terms of the human cast, they are pretty good this time around:
- Mark Wahlberg steps in as the lead in this movie as the improbably named Cade Yeager. He’s a poor ‘inventor’ working odd jobs in rural Texas to make enough money to send his 17 year old daughter to college, because he had her at 17 and wants her to have a better life. Wahlberg is an infinite improvement over laBoeuf, he is far more action centric and you absolutely buy it when he picks up an alien gun and joins the fight, as opposed to LaBoeuf who spent most of his movies stuttering and running and screaming. He is absolutely from Boston and not from anywhere near Texas, and one line that explained that would have been appreciated, but hey – whatever. He worked great with Bay in Pain and Gain, and he works great with him in this. He’s the perfect style of actor for a Bay-type of movie.
- Stanley Tucci plays the scientist in question who wavers from villain to redeemed hero. I was worried his character would be a rehash of the nonsense that John Tuturro brought to the others, but he’s much less annoying than that.
- Kelsey Grammer plays the lead evil government agent. He’s slick, oily, and absolutely a villain. He does a great job, and between this, Think Like A Man Too, The X-Men DOFP cameo, and Expendables 3 – having a big summer, even if it is vaguely the same character over and over!
- Nicola Peltz plays Cade’s daughter, Tessa - the Bay-girl. This is the standard ‘hot-chick’ in a Bay movie who is there just for her looks and for Bay to shoot in varying camera angles and with a light sheen of sweat on her face. To her credit, she’s perfectly capable, and I enjoy that she steps up to help Optimus in the final battle.
- Jack Reynor plays Shane, Tessa’s boyfriend who seems to be a Texas drag-racer by way of Dublin. Cade had no idea his daughter was dating anyone, so the scenes of him dealing with Jack are interesting. Also, there is a scene in which they explain that it’s not statutory rape for him to be with Tessa because of some weird loophole in Texas law. That’s an actual scene in the movie. I guess it makes sense! Also - if they take the time to explain his accent, why do they not explain Whalberg's?
- Titus Welliver (whose name you might not recognize, but whose face you certainly will) plays the government henchman. He’s vicious and evil and is carrying out his orders as efficiently and cruelly as possible.
- Sophia Myles (from that TV show Moonlight with Alex O’Laughlin before he was on Hawaii 50) plays a random role of a scientist (?) who seems to discover remains of the metal that the Transformers are made of – and that is the key for Tucci’s character to build more of them. It’s a complicated bit of plot nonsense, but she does a fine job.
- T.J. Miller plays T.J. Miller as a friend of Cade’s who seems to help with the business. Spoiler alert – he doesn’t make it, and the way he bites it is exceptionally difficult to watch. It’s brutal and unpleasant, and pushed the rating a bit, in my mind.
- Bingbing Li plays Su Yuerning, who works with Tucci’s company in the Chinese department. I will say the whole sequence shot in the ‘slums’ of Beijing was amazing. The apartment buildings are insanely vertical, and it provided a really interesting background for the battle.
- Also – Thomas Lennon plays Thomas Lennon as the White House Chief of Staff. He’s very entertaining for about 60 seconds.
- Voicing Optimus Prime is once again Peter Cullen – who did the voice even way back in the 80s animated series. He’s fantastic. Frank Welker does the voice for Galvatron, Ken Watanabe does the voice for Drift, John DiMaggio does the voice for Crosshairs, Mark Ryan does the voice for Lockdown (the bounty hunter), and John Goodman does the voice for Hound. And there is a lot of John Goodman in this movie for a movie that doesn’t have John Goodman in it.
Overall, I really enjoyed it. It had some unique moments, it had some great visuals, and it was super entertaining. The story wasn’t terrible, and the acting was fine. I didn’t see it in 3D, but I’m sure it looks amazing in 3D. The shot of Crosshairs using the parachutes is beautiful, the shot of Optimus on Grimlock is great, and the shot of Lockdown strutting in front of his ship is stunning.
8 out of 10 – Lost points for the length, but Gained points for no Shia. Lost points for only having the Dinobots in the very end, but gained points because they were so cool. Lost points for the brutal murder of Ratchet, and then making us watch as they were melting him down. Lost points for Optimus once again taking too much of a beating for my taste, but gained points for Bumblebee still being awesome. Gained points for the introduction of Galvatron, and explaining where they got the brain for him – and for that leading into perhaps the next movie? Some one call Hugo Weaving and tell him to get ready.
Bonus Video 1: I don’t care what people say – I love the movie Armageddon – it’s my favorite piece of Bayhem.
Bonus Video 2: Everything wrong with Transformers 2
Bonus Video 3: Cast Interviews!