Going to see Transformers: Age Of Extinction is like taking an aficionado of Classical music to a Black Metal concert while a circus of amateur chainsaw jugglers closes in. It is a sensory assault that provides no respite. You will walk out of this movie feeling bruised, beaten and left in a daze, and no one will be able to help you because they’d be too busy unscrambling their own brains.
This is the fourth of the Transformers series, which means three movies of the same sort have swooped in to local theatres and crumbled out at the other end with the audience’s money securely in their pockets. None of them have cared much for audience satisfaction, just as long as they can blast away all notion of decent filmmaking with dizzying visual effects and clamorous sound clips that seem assembled from the echoes of a mechanic’s garage.
Consider the voices of the Transformers. They are deep and rumbling, but they lack reverberation and any kind of awareness of their surroundings. The voices are recorded in a studio, and they sound like they are in a studio, except for the layers of distortions piled on top of them. We see the mouths of the robots moving, we hear the voices, but they don’t match. The voices are disembodied. And someone needs to explain to me the social, linguistic, and biological parameters of these Transformers. I recall from the first film that these alien beings can tap into our radio signals and learn our languages, dialects and accents. They can also scan a passing vehicle and shape shift into it. Fair enough. But in this film, how does that account for a robot whose mechanical parts know how to look like a Samurai? Or for another that thinks he is an army captain, equipped with oversized human hand grenades and a metallic cigar? Why do these aliens shoot with human bullets and missiles anyway?
A number of them, including the heroic Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen), are shown to have breath. At one point Optimus coughs and plumes of dust leave his mouth. I was not aware that robots have lungs and are prone to pneumonia. Do they also respond to human medicine?
I have not come to the humans yet. Age Of Extinction, like its predecessors, graces us with characters who are given more screen time and more dialogue than they know what to do with. Our hero is Cade Yeager, whose name is a hero’s name and whose appearance resembles that of Mark Wahlberg. He is a single parent struggling to sell his half-baked inventions to pay for his daughter’s education, who is less than grateful and should no doubt be running for the Miss Farmland America pageant. His daughter (Nicola Peltz) has a boyfriend (Jack Reynor); together they make up cinema’s most superfluous couple. Equally superfluous is Cade’s employee Lucas (T.J. Miller), but something bad happens to him, and it is good.
Opposite Cade and his family of combatants are the human bad guys, led by Harold Attinger (Kelsey Grammer), a CIA agent who is convinced he needs Transformers to fight Transformers so that his beloved Earth will finally be rid of all of them. He is in cahoots with a techno-billionaire named Joshua Joyce (Stanley Tucci), who runs a company that manufactures new and improved Transformers. The 2015 editions, if you will. But his toys are infected by Megatron, whose dismembered head has been cracked open by Joshua’s scientists. And then there is an otherworldly device called The Seed, which can terraform any surface into the metal necessary for Transformer birth. Megatron wants this Seed, but so too does Prime, who wants to keep it safe. But there is an intergalactic robot bounty hunter called Lockdown (Mark Ryan), hired by Harold, who wants to capture Prime and uses The Seed as a trade agreement. There are also a bunch of robot dinosaurs, called the Dinobots, who want their freedom in much the same way that the ghost army of The Lord Of The Rings movies wanted theirs. The Dinobots, in case you are wondering, do not want the Seed. The humans, chucked in the middle, don’t know what anyone wants, and survive explosion after explosion, usually without a scratch. All the while inane dialogue passes between them under the guise of intelligent truisms. At the end, music by Imagine Dragons plays and all the good guys stand in silhouette in front of the sunset, resisting the urge to hold hands and sing “Oh Happy Day”.
Best Moment | What happens to that Lucas character, or what happens to Lockdown.
Worst Moment | Everything else.