By the time I saw Transformers: Age of Extinction it had been out for a full opening weekend and had nearly grossed more than any other previous Transformers on opening weekend. Given that this year's iteration actually opened for a standard shorter opening weekend as compared to its predecessors who opened on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, this film seemed to hit some pretty high benchmarks in terms of dollar signs. I read one or two short opinion pieces before diving in myself and mostly I agree with what I heard, but let's break it down a little.
Spoiler Alert!: There may be "spoilers" ahead. That is, if there is enough plot in any of these movies to "spoil".
The first thing you might notice is a new cast of characters. This actually doesn't bother me as I don't expect much in the way of plot or story from these films. While I actually enjoyed Shia Labeouf in the first movie he wore on me in those which followed. They set the precedent for replacing the Megan Fox role with any attractive women in the 3rd film so again no big surprise to see a new face there. I did miss the lower level military folks, Major Lennox and Master Sergeant Epps, from the previous films portrayed by Josh Duhamel and Tyrese Gibson respectively. I also missed John Turturro's wacky nutball character which added an element of "fun crazy" to the previous iterations. All in all though, the addition of Kelsey Grammer and Stanley Tucci were welcome especially as Tucci's character may have been the only one who showed any sort of development throughout the story. It was a fine cast for what we expect of these movies.
So what's been happening in this crazy Transformers world? Well a secret government team put together by Harold Attinger (Kelsey Grammer) is hunting down the remaining Decepticons to eliminate them as a threat to Earth's population. At least that's what we're meant to believe. It's clear from the beginning, however, that there is more going on with this shadowy secret group as they are hunting Autobots as well as Decepticons. During all this, Optimus Prime is nowhere to be found so it seems to be pretty much bad news for any transforming robot anywhere on the planet.
It turns out this CIA agent, Attinger, is working a behind the scenes deal with Joshua Joyce (Stanley Tucci), CEO of KSI to help finance his retirement. KSI wants to collect robot parts to use for their metal (aptly dubbed "transformium") which his company can no longer find naturally on the planet. Attinger somehow comes across and works out an arrangement with an apparently neutral transformer, Lockdown, who has some unique skills and technologies to help Attinger hunt down the remaining robots in hiding.
Lockdown will provide Attinger a "seed", which Attinger will then provide Joyce in exchange for a significant shareholder stake in KSI. In return, Attinger agrees to use his influence and secret team, known as Cemetery Wind, to locate Optimus Prime who he will then turn over to Lockdown to do with as he pleases.
The deal would provide Tucci this "seed" which can turn a wide area of land into transformium. Thus Joyce gets all the transformium he would need to produce preemminent technologies made by KSI for the next century. This would leave him, Attinger and other share holders wealthy for a generation to come. What we don't know is that there's another influence behind the scenes here working all the angles for its own purpose. I won't get deeply into that so as not to spoil what little mystery there may be in this plot. It's essentially this arrangement that drives the progression of the story.
On the other hand you have Cade and Tessa with a close but strained familial relationship as she prepares to graduate high school and move on with her life. Cade is an inventor who has yet to catch his big break with a revolutionary invention so he struggles to provide for his daughter, as we see early on with the threat of eviction from his land and home. He then stumbles across an old truck while perusing a liquidation sale of sorts looking for tech to re-invent in a derelict theater. He eventually discovers that he has something more than just an old truck. Not long after, the feds come looking for what we find out is Optimus Prime, thanks to a little tip from a rat friend of Cade's; stoner/surfer/assistant Lucas Flannery. This causes a fairly large battle at Cade's farm, destroying his home and leaving he and his daughter to flee...with the help of her boyfriend Shane Dyson; an off road race car driver. So begins their side of this adventure.
I must say one of the more satisfying moments in the film was the subsequent death of Flannery as he is consumed and insa-fried by one of Lockdown's grenades. Other notable elements in this incredibly long, drawn out adventure come in the form of John Goodman voicing Autobot Hound as well as what I think all of us were looking forward to; the Dinobots. While their introduction and subsequent cooperation wasn't incredibly faithful to the cartoon series, the idea of an ever changing conflict/cooperation relationship with Prime and the autobots was aptly represented in his having to combat Grimlock in order to gain their allegiance. I also did enjoy the more primal feel the Dinobots had as compared to their cartoon counterparts. They felt very prehistoric even in terms of robots and transformers which added a nice touch of authenticity to their characters.
The story centers around the autobots avoiding capture and destruction while piecing together what's going on behind the scenes at KSI. I could go on and on forever about this story because the movie itself goes on and on forever, but ultimately a bunch of robots are destroyed and humanity is saved once again thanks to Optimus Prime, Bumblebee and a few other loyal autobots. Oh, and their human companions as well thanks to various incredible feats of human agility, resilience and strength typical only to a Transformers film.
The special effects, as expected, are incredible in this movie. The 3D was good without being silly or detracting from the action. The human built transformers and how they transformed was unique and well represented by the visual effects, but I do find myself liking the standard transformation better. The action in general was pretty well done, although outlandish in spots, but entertaining for sure. The introduction of Galvatron was a plus as well since he plays a key role in the later development of the story. Perhaps the best thing about this and any other Transformers movie is that those of us who grew up watching these stories in cartoons could only have dreamt they would one day look as cool as they do now.
Well it probably comes as no surprise that the story and plot aren't exactly the most complex or interesting so that's one thing. I always wonder what movies like this would be like if they had even just a bit more genuine substance. Maybe it's just not possible with these high octane summer action flicks. The acting was passable but not particularly impressive overall, but I did enjoy Kelsey Grammer and Stanley Tucci. I'm not sure I understood anything about the Dinobots being in the story and available for action. They seemed sort of like they were thrown in for those of us who grew up on the cartoons without telling us anything about what they were and where they came from for audience members who didn't watch the cartoons. Just eye candy, which I guess sums up the movie as a whole.
Despite all the things that I said to make this movie sound awful, it was nearly as entertaining as I expected it to be. My biggest criticism here is the length. Coming in at 2hrs 45mins is just ridiculous for this kind of film. You could feel the length more than once as you moved along through the story and it really soured me on the overall fun of the experience. I don't expect much in terms of story, acting or dialogue from these types of films, and although I criticize them I still enjoy them in the end. In this case, however, cutting 45 minutes or more from the final product could have really allowed it to just be a fun, action romp which is what we all expected. I still recommend you go see it in XD/RPX/IMAX 3D if possible. Just be prepared for the length and don't expect much other than fun and action and you won't be disappointed. "Autobots, roll out!"
What are your thoughts on Transformers: Age of Extinction? Let us know in the comments below!