DVD Release Date: September 30, 2014
Theatrical Release Date: June 27, 2014
Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, language and brief innuendo
Run Time: 165 min.
Director: Michael Bay
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Stanley Tucci, Kelsey Grammer, Nicola Peltz, Jack Reynor, Bingbing Li, T.J. Miller
The box-office obsessed are feeling glum. Website Box Office Mojo reports that after a robust first quarter of the year, 2014 box-office has slipped behind 2013, due primarily to no early summer blockbuster on par with last year’s mega-hit Iron Man 3.
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Many industry observers are looking toward Transformers: Age of Extinction to turn around the box-office slump. The film, the latest in a highly profitable franchise, carries a budget of $165 million, but the high cost is not a huge concern. In an era where international grosses play an ever larger role, the action-heavy story of transforming robots is seen as an industry savior that will play well not only in North America but overseas.
That philosophy also helps explain why Paramount, the studio behind Transformers: Age of Extinction, recently announced that its future productions will include Paranormal Activity 5, Hot Tub Time Machine 2, SpongeBog SquarePants 2 and Mission Impossible 5, as well as franchise reboots of Beverly Hills Cop, Friday the 13th and Terminator.
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It’s enough to make those who long for original, creative stories despair. How inspired can a remake or reboot be? Sure, there are a few successful examples of such, but the track record isn’t promising.
Transformers: Age of Extinction is a reboot of sorts. Series star Shia LeBeouf has been replaced by Mark Wahlberg—star of Extinction director Michael Bay’s Pain and Gain—who plays Cade Yeager, a Texas widower raising 17-year-old daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz) while trying to build a business. He’s six months behind on his mortgage, and his daughter has started seeing an older man, Shane (Jack Reynor), who has a knack for lighting Cade’s short fuse.
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Soon after Cade starts a salvage job on a fixer-upper truck, he discovers the vehicle is not what it seems. The truck turns out to be the Autobot Optimus Prime, and that revelation thrusts Cade, Tessa and Shane into a plot orchestrated by a shadowy government figure (Kelsey Grammer) who’s working with tech guru Joshua Joyce (Stanley Tucci) to build his own transformers army.
The story builds to an overextended finale that, like so many other unimaginative blockbusters, involves a huge fight set among city skyscrapers. For reasons unknown and unsupported by the storyline, the movie runs 165 minutes, and although the film is filled with slick visuals—the 3D presentation is impressive—its battle scenes feel endless. You’ll be looking at your watch around the 90-minute mark, then struggling with the realization that the film still has another 75 minutes to go.
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The cast all do what they can with the thin material they’ve been given. Wahlberg’s protective dad, while clichéd, is fun to watch as he tries to keep his daughter from making foolish decisions. Reynor’s Shane is disposable, but Tucci and Grammer appear to be enjoying themselves.
Director Bay is known for bloated action spectacles, and Transformers: Age of Extinction exemplifies such filmmaking. Watching it, I couldn’t help but think of director Alfonso Cuaron’s outstanding Gravity, which ran just 91 minutes—a model of blockbuster-movie efficiency that one hopes will serve as a model for future projects from Bay and other directors.
Bay also tips his hat to director John Ford by setting one sequence in Monument Valley, the location of so many classic Ford Westerns. That’s a bad move—another reminder of a better filmmaker who told stories with real human interest, and usually within a two-hour time frame.
If you see Transformers: Age of Extinction, you, too, will have plenty of time to dwell on other things while watching it: better movies, better movie makers—pretty much anything other than what’s unfolding on the screen in front of you.
The most discouraging thought of all may be this: Paramount has already announced a fifth Transformers movie for 2015, so the extinction of the Transformers franchise will have to wait until at least then.
CAUTIONS (may contain spoilers):
Publication date: June 27, 2014