Despite the series’ lacklustre reviews, the Transformers movies have grossed over $3 billion worldwide so far. The latest, Age of Extinction, has made more money in one week in the US than Tom Cruise’s Edge of Tomorrow did in its entire box-office run. Put basically, series-helmer Michael Bay could literally do whatever he wants with a Transformers movie and still make double as much money as any other blockbuster on the market. Hence, I’m not going to sugar-coat it: this film was not made to do anything other than sell tickets. The result of that is of course, critically speaking, hands-down the worst movie of the year.
By no means am I a Transformers hater. Obviously, I’m no big fanboy of the franchise either (there is a line) but I quietly respect its attitude towards brainless self-indulgence. In Age of Extinction (the fourth in the supposed ‘trilogy’), things blow up. Lots of things blow up. In fact, at one point it actually feels like there are more explosions than there are lines of dialogue. Like I’ve said, mindless indulgence; in Bay’s own words he makes films “for teenage boys” and on that front, Extinction does not fail.
Where it does begin to falter however is with just about everything else. Michael Bay can make an explosion look good. In fact, he can make one look great, but that’s just about where his talent ends. If Bay were really playing to his strengths, Extinction would be a series of explosions and robot fights and nothing else; that would have most likely made for a more entertaining movie. Rumour has it, that’s why the last hour of Dark of the Moon was oddly watchable.
Instead, bizarrely, Bay and his story collaborator Ehren Kruger still insist on including an overly-complicated espionage-driven plot that no one in their right mind could ever come close to understanding. Character motivations violently shift in the middle of scenes, common-sense is happily thrown straight out of the metaphorical window and the entire story itself changes completely in the last hour of the film. Usually I would attempt to give some sort of brief synopsis but here, it really isn’t worth it. If you’re planning on getting any enjoyment out of Extinction at all, ignoring the plot entirely is step one; every twist, turn and overly-complicated scientific monologue is a total red herring.
To some relief, for the first time in Transformers movie history, Shia LaBoeuf does not top the bill. In fact, he is nowhere near the bill; his existence is completely ignored. He is of course replaced by not one but three new characters, all equally as irritating. Mark Wahlberg is Cade Yeager, an inventor from Texas who somehow ends up along with his daughter and her Irish boyfriend, in the middle of a giant transforming-robot war. Not once do any of these three ever speak a line that isn’t unnecessarily rude or loaded with exposition. Wahlberg spends the film’s entire running time angrily barking at everyone within a ten-foot radius (robots included), whilst his on-screen daughter, Nicola Peltz’s plastic Tessa, seems incapable of any action that doesn’t involve crying and/or desperately scrambling away from things. The only person who seems to be having any fun at all with the ridiculous dialogues and nonsensical plotting is Stanley Tucci, phoning in a ludicrously hammy take on the billionaire villain, alongside a clearly-bored but easily-watchable Kelsey Grammar. It’s difficult to trust a film that casts Mark Wahlberg as a genius inventor and has more nice things to say about its villains than its heroes.
However, above and beyond the worst thing about Age of Extinction, the thing that makes it a contender for the worst in the series (yes, even worse than that one with the mechanical testicles), is that the entire sordid affair reeks of money. Every waking second of the stupidly drawn-out 165 minute running-time is soaked in tackily obvious product-placements and celebrity-cameos that are aimed at weirdly-specific markets. It feels ludicrous to even have to say this, but Age of Extinction lacks even the tiniest speck of creative integrity. Everything (and I mean everything) shown is there for some form of commercial reason. The result is a $200 million mega-blockbuster that somehow feels ridiculously cheap. Whereas the previous Transformers films at least boasted a healthy dose of fun, Age of Extinction finally sees Michael Bay’s uncontrollable thirst for money take him to incredible new lows.
Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014), directed by Michael Bay is released in UK cinemas by Paramount Pictures, Certificate 12A. Watch the trailer below: