Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Transformers - Age Of Extinction!

I confess to being a Transformers fan, always have been. Though I was much too old to fully enjoy them as toys, I did appreciate the sublime elegance and wit which they encompassed. Exciting everyday objects (to a kid at least) which became weird alien robots at the twist of a few joints was a very very cool notion. The cartoon was pretty good too, though even at the time the limited animation was painful from scene to scene. The whole saga had enough high romance and enough adventure to get me to tune in on a semi-regular basis. In an age before ginormous computer-graphics this was compelling sci-fi, or could be at least. The comics were a bit less well done though and lacked the magic somehow, or at least I never discovered it.

The movie franchise which launched in 2007 and continues to this day put up its fourth installment in 2014 with the final Michael Bay controlled version due out later next year. The one I've just seen - Transformers Age of Extinction - was panned by critics but still managed to rake in a billion dollars or better worldwide. Making money is not necessarily a sign of wit or talent (see Trump) but it does show that a lot of folks wanted to take a look, and so did I. I just didn't want to necessarily pay for it, so I waited until it hit my TV screen. Now I have.

Critics said it was too long and a bit dull. That's proven to be true as coming in at three and half hours (with commercials) it was too long and it took me three days to finish it since I tried to watch it in the evenings after work and I kept nodding off. So I have to say that maybe the critics were onto something. But it wasn't all bad. Here come the spoilers.


Cade Yeager, an inventor down on his luck and losing touch with is daughter Tessa who is about to graduate high school finds a broken down semi-truck and he and sometimes partner Lucas buy it and bring it to the farm where Yeager keeps his lab. They discover it's a Transformer, and since the events of the previous movies all Transformers are being hunted by the governments of the world and disposed of. Despite this danger Yeager tries to start it up but the arrival of deadly United States agents changes that when the truck is revealed to a disguised Optimus Prime who helps the trio escape the wrath of the U.S. government. The Autobots are few and far between and ready to skip out on an ungrateful Earth which is partnering with Lockdown, the bounty hunting agent of the "Creators" who once terraformed Earth in the age of the dinosaurs and who now want the remainging Autobots, especially Prime. Meanwhile the tech firm KSI is using Transformer tech to create new drones but fail to realize that the consciousness of the deadly Megatron is operating behind the scenes to gain control of these new Transformers. In his new identity of Galvatron he rises up and takes command of the new drones and attacks the Autobots who fight back with the aid of the recently rescued Dinobots and eventually the Earth is saved but only after many thousands apparently die and Hong Kong is nearly destroyed. After the fight Optimus Prime says farewell to his new human allies and his Autobot comrades and heads into space to confront the "Creators", but that's the next movie.


It's a bit of a convoluted story but even that would be okay if I could've made sense of the humans. The hottie Tessa and race car driving boyfriend Shane are cyphers who disappear (or seem to) for large chunks of the movie and even when they are around they don't really contribute much. Drop them out the story and it hangs tighter and immediately makes more sense since about fifteen minutes of mopey sob story would go with them. Cade is the human who matters here and his relationship with Optimus is the key, not unlike Sam from previous movies. As with many of these kinds of replacement situations the creators tried to craft a situation too much like the previous ones and ended with far less than the sum of the parts.

Also a bit hard to get a handle on are the distinct personalities of the surviving Autobots who I gather from the internet are at least some reformed Decepticons. No mentions of that I could detect, but there are some exciting action sequences. The biggest letdown is that they don't actually transform all that much and the new drones transform in a new way which feels more like Gort from the new The Day the Earth Stood Still than anything related to the previous Transformer movies.

I did rather like the villains though. The revived Galvatron/Megatron is always nicely done, though he has relatively little to do here, they are saving him it seems. Lockdown is good but his powers are hard to define and his allies are indistinct. The human baddies are cliches but bristling with evil Attinger (Kelsey Grammer) is pretty good and his right-hand CIA killer Savoy (Titus Welliver) is the most interesting cat in the whole bag. His ruthless murderous demeanor is unrelenting and the conflict between him and Cade (Danny Wahlberg) was neat to watch.

All in all this was a pretty decent movie and if there had not been better previous ones, it might be considered more highly. But there were and this is what you have. I'm gonna' watch the fifth one, titled Transformers - The Last Knight but I likely will wait a while on this one too.

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