Crash. Shatter. Boom. Crash. Shatter. Boom. Smattering of silly dialogue. Pretty girl screams: “Dad!” Crash. Shatter. Boom. Silly dialogue. “DAD!!!” Crash. Shatter. Boom. What? Oh, sorry. We were falling into a trance there.
Which is, dear moviegoer, what may happen to you during Michael Bay’s Transformers: Age of Extinction, the fourth Transformers film and, at 165 minutes, precariously close to the three-hour mark that Bay undoubtedly will reach – by our sophisticated calculations, and at the current growth rate, with his sixth installment.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Despite what you’ve just read, this film will likely be a massive hit because by now, if you’re buying a Transformers ticket, you surely know what you’re getting into, and you want more, more, more. And Bay is the Master of More.
Or just take it from the 11-year-old sitting next to me, who reserved any audible judgment – he, too was in a trance, though maybe from sugar intake – until the moment he saw a Transformer become a dinosaur. Overwhelmed by the pairing, he proclaimed: “That’s the sickest thing I’ve ever seen in my life.” It was as if peanut butter and jelly had been tasted together for the first time.
While you ponder where between these extreme reactions you’ll fall, a quick update. This time, there’s a whole new human cast. Most important, Mark Wahlberg has replaced Shia LaBeouf as, well, Main Human Guy, and the good news is that Wahlberg’s grounded quality, rough charm and really nice biceps make him a thoroughly welcome presence. The bad news: He isn’t immune to the numbing effects of some desperately cheesy dialogue (Ehren Kruger wrote the screenplay).
A significant part of the movie also takes place in China – clearly a nod to the franchise’s huge market there. Whether such obvious wooing of the Chinese audience will work or backfire – the film also includes very obvious placement of Chinese products – remains to be seen.
In any case, we begin in Paris, Texas, where Cade Yeager (Wahlberg), a struggling inventor, is desperately seeking a big discovery. He’s also a widowed dad, and super-protective (as the movie incessantly reminds us) of his high-school daughter, Tessa (Nicola Peltz, blond and pretty and ineffective, though the one-note script does her no favors).
One day, Cade buys a rusty old truck. Examining it back home, he soon discovers it’s none other than Optimus Prime, the Autobot hero, seriously damaged.
As Cade works on fixing him up, his assistant, wisecracking surfer-dude Lucas (T.J. Miller, mildly amusing), has the dumb idea of calling the authorities. What he doesn’t know is that the government – actually, the head of CIA black ops, Harold Attinger (Kelsey Grammer, expertly villainous) – is plotting to destroy all remaining Autobots in favor of a man-made army of Transformers. He’s being helped in this endeavor by the shadowy KSI corporation, run by the nasty-but-complicated Joshua Joyce (Stanley Tucci, giving the most entertaining performance in the film).
So now, it’s evil humans pitted against the trustworthy Autobots. So much for gratitude. There’s also a subplot involving Tessa and her secret boyfriend, Shane (Jack Reynor, underused), whose Irish accent leads Cade to dismissively call him “Lucky Charms” – at least until the two bond in battle.
From here, it’s up to you. You can try to follow the ins and outs of the battling forces – robot and human, man-made and alien, ancient and modern – or just watch things crash into each other, blow up, or both.
The obvious question: is it too much for its own good? Bay is very talented at all things visual, the 3-D works well and the robots look great. But the final confrontation alone lasts close to an hour, and at some point, you may find yourself simply in a daze, unable to absorb any further action into your brain.
But one viewer’s migraine is another’s euphoria. You decide.