The Transformers live action movie franchise has been a point of contention for many Transformers fans ever since its inception. And while there are both fans and haters, the general consensus regarding the franchise, especially with its most recent installment “Dark of the Moon,” is that the franchise seems to have over-stayed its welcome. “Dark of the Moon” left many fans of the Transformers franchise very upset, myself being one of them.
“Dark of the Moon” ruined any hope I had for the Transformers movie franchise. When a movie manages to butcher both Transformers AND Star Trek in a single swoop, you know something went wrong. However, after seeing the initial trailers for “Age of Extinction” I was suddenly filled with intrigue, skeptical intrigue, but intrigue nonetheless. Perhaps it was just the 13 year old in me that was taken aback at the sight of Optimus Prime riding a giant robot dinosaur into battle, but something rubbed me right about the trailer. And while I will tell you right now that the trailer was an abject lie, much like its predecessors, I can say the movie wasn’t nearly as bad as I was expecting it to be.
“Transformers 4: Age of Extinction” start off on the best note any modern transformers movie CAN POSSIBLY start off on, they replaced Shia Labeouf with Mark Wahlberg. This decision seems like one that came from on high, as the swap does so much to help make this movie so much better. While this may not be one of Mark’s greatest performances to date, it blows everything Shia did OUT OF THE WATER. Wahlberg’s character is that of a single father and inventor who is forcibly dragged into a war between the Autobots and those who are actively hunting them. Where Shia’s character Sam did nothing but scream out for “BUMBLEBEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” Mark Wahlberg actually engages in several battles, assisting the Autobots both on the battle field, and in gaining intelligence on their enemy. With a single character, and thankfully the primary focus character of the film, we have greatly improved the franchise.
However, not all is perfect in this film in terms of human characters. For the first 20 minutes of the film we are forced to endure easily one of the most annoying comic relief characters YET in the Transformers franchise. This character easily topples the Mudflap and Skids from TF2 in terms of unlike-ability. However, something happens in the movie that was altogether unexpected, and quite a departure from the usual tongue and cheek comedy nature of some of the previous films. This insufferably annoying character is actually KILLED, on screen, and in a BRUTAL fashion. At first I was shocked and taken aback by this rather uncharacteristic turn for the series, but then I couldn’t help but applaud the movie! On the one hand, this movie did something to SURPRISE me, and on the other it KILLED a character that I wanted to see dead.
The comic relief did not die with him however, as that role was delegated to a far less annoying character. Mark Wahlberg’s daughter apparently began seeing a boyfriend in secret, and when the family is faced with imminent peril, she calls for him to help them escape. While his jokes are far less mind numbingly dreadful as some other comic character’s lines throughout the series, it did seem forced at times. And at other times, the jokes made me cringe more than they made me laugh.
Thankfully, the plot tends to kick in JUST when things start to get too slow and “funny.” And yes, I used the word PLOT. This movie actually has a story to it, and while the promos and ad campaigns may make you believe that its all about the Dinobots, it’s not. Much like Shockwave’s promo materials for “Dark of the Moon,” the Dinobots are a bit over-exaggerated. The plot centers around the Autobots as they are hiding out from a clandestine military group working within the government that has tasked themselves with hunting down every Cybertronian left on planet earth, be they Autobot or Decepticon. This military group is also receiving assistance from another Transformer, an unaligned bounty hunter named Lockdown. Lockdown is working alongside the humans in order to hunt for his ultimate prize, Optimus Prime.
Between characters like Lockdown, and the new Autobots of Drift, Hound, and Crosshairs, this film keeps the robotic cast strangely small, allowing them time to develop and flesh themselves out, even if only slightly. that’s still far better than any of the Autobots or Decepticons have received in the past 2 movies. Also unlike the past 2, or even 3, movies, you actually care about the human cast, both good and evil. Wahlberg does not skimp out on his performance, and he is poised against other stunning actors like Kelsey Grammer and Stanley Tucci. Everyone brings a worthwhile performance, barring Nicola Peltz.
And for all the praise I am throwing at this movie, that is not to say it is not without its faults. The plot convenience fairy tends to poke its head in one too many times, and characters like Galvatron seem like wasted potential that could have just sat back until later films. Some design choices also seem extremely goofy and out of place at times, when robots aboard Lockdown’s imposing space ship have giant red and white cartoon style eye balls.
One of my favorite aspects of the original films, namely the performances by Josh Duhamel, were very much missed in this film. The character of Captain Lennox was a fun proactive military character; and while Mark’s role tries to compensate for this, Lennox is very much missed.
All in all, this film has its issues, and it is FAR from a fine piece of cinema, but I don’t think I will receive many arguments when I call this the best transformers movie of the franchise. Let’s be honest: that’s not a high pedestal to reach.
-Good performances from the human cast
-Minimal annoying comedic characters
-Fun action scenes for the 13 year old inside all of us
-A worthwhile villain that is more than a snarling “I AM EVIL BECAUSE REASONS”
-Too many plot conveniences, and a few plot holes
-The Dinobots only showed up at the VERY end of the film
-Galvatron is a wasted opportunity
-Comes off as disjointed and slightly haphazard in its pacing in the beginning
-Strange and goofy design choices at times.