The story goes that director Michael Bay was, after his previous Transformers venture (Dark of the Moon), ready to sign off on the franchise. But evidently, while on a visit to Universal Studios, he came upon long queues of fans waiting to take the Transformers ride and was so overwhelmed by popular love for the mechanobots and the film franchise that he signed on yet again.
Perhaps Bay should have quit while he was ahead of the game. Even diehard fanboys of these shape-shifting heavy metal alien robots will likely tire of Age of Extinction, the fourth in the series, which opens up another trilogy. The film is one ginormous metal heap of meaningless mayhem, gratuitous violence, ear-shattering background scores and a senseless storyline. Bay channels his admittedly prodigious talent entirely into the sadistic enterprise of assaulting all of his audience’s senses, but he reserves his cruellest treatment for viewers’ mental faculties.
I’m sure there is something resembling a plotline tucked away somewhere in those 166 minutes of disaster-porn masquerading as a movie. But after being subjected to third-degree assault for close to three hours, my benumbed brain can only recall fleeting images that don’t quite add up to anything coherent.
For instance, the film opens with a curious twist to the theory to account for why dinosaurs were wiped off the planet. From there, it lurches to more modern times, where after the devastation of Chicago (which is where Dark of the Moon ended) humans have turned against even the benign Autobots, their erstwhile allies in the inter-galactic war against the Decepticons. Meanwhile, an evil corporate empire — what would Hollywood do without that meme? — has cloned the alien technology to build metamorphing Transformers. And the even more evil government — we love caricatures! — is hunting down every surviving Autobot and Decepticon on earth.
These disparate strands get tied up together with the life of Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg), an utterly incompetent inventor in Texas, who stumbles on Optimus Prime, the ‘general’ of the residual Autobot army. That discovery puts him in the line of fire of virtually everyone else and has him on the run. By the time the film ends in faraway Hong Kong, now totalled beyond recognition, even the feeblest feint of narrating an intelligible story has been abandoned at the altar of offering a high-decibel spectacle that’s heavy on special effects and boys-with-toys anarchy.
Cade’s daughter Tessa (played by Nicola Peltz) serves up the proforma eye-candy role (complete with hot shorts and long legs), essayed in earlier outings — and to more sensuous effect —by Megan Fox. The uninhibited manner in which the camera caresses her curves is oddly disquieting, given that Tessa is only 17 years old: but evidently it’s fair game in Texas, which sort of gives Bay the licence to linger on underaged anatomy. That’s about the only edginess that Bay brings to the film. And in any case, even Tessa’s skimpy shorts can’t save a movie in which everything else is overlong and tedious.
Bottomline: 166 minutes of mind-numbing mayhem masquerading as a movie.
Transformers: Age of Extinction
Genre: Sci-fi action
Director: Michael Bay
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Nicola Peltz, Stanley Tucci, Jack Reynor, Kelsey Grammer
Storyline: What storyline?