How? Can someone please tell me how a film about the Transformers once again needing to save the planet is 165 minutes long? You know how sometimes people talk about a movie being too long? Well, Transformers: Age of Extinction feels like it’s about 90 minutes too long. Yes, I realize that would leave it under feature-length running time, but guess what? That’s how many ideas it has. It has 75 minutes of interest stretched out to 165. That would be like me adding an extraneous four letters to each word I type in this review. Would that be acceptable?
Take just the initial scenes, which introduce our heroes — a trio of humans from Texas — who find a dormant Optimus Prime (voice of Peter Cullen), wake him up, and then have to run for their lives after the government tries to capture Optimus and kill the humans. It takes over half an hour to get to the point where the heroes are on the run. A good movie would establish all of that in about half the time. And they blamed the second Transformer’s awful storytelling on a writers’ strike. Well, what about this time, crew?
I’ll back up. The heroes are Cade (Mark Wahlberg), an inventor, his daughter, Tessa (Nicola Peltz), and Tessa’s boyfriend, Shane (Jack Reynor). Cade doesn’t even know about Shane when the movie begins, so you just know we’re going to have that conflict over the course of the film. But, yes, they find Optimus, wake him up, and then learn that the government has a rogue operation going on that involves killing all the Transformers in order to sell their parts to an inventor (Stanley Tucci), who is building knock-off Transformers that can be controlled by humans.
Oh, and you know how there are good Transformers called Autobots and bad ones called Decepticons? That’s pretty common knowledge, I’d assume, especially if you’ve already seen the previous three films. Well, there are other factions, too. One here, who eventually becomes the primary villain, is all black and apparently created the other Transformers. Oh, and there are also Dinobots, which effectively serve in the same way the Army of the Dead did in The Lord of the Rings: a convenient, if cool, way for the heroes to win a fight.
What I just explained in a couple of paragraphs takes the film an extraordinarily long time to relay to us. It’s almost as if, since we finally have a plot this time around, the filmmakers were ill-equipped to tell it, and as a result had no idea how to do so concisely. It’s a lack of experience, if nothing else. I jest, just a little bit, because I’m honestly befuddled as to how it takes 165 minutes to tell this story.
The characters are shallow and inconsistent — they can switch sides at the drop of a hat — the plot is horrible and takes way too long to tell, and it’s hard to shake the cynical feeling that the film goes to China just to try to get lots of money at the Chinese box office — although if it means Li Bingbing can be in more movies, like this one, I’m all for this. What positives does the film have?
Well, as has always been the case, the special effects are top-notch. You can’t get a CGI-driven film to look much better than the Transformers movies do. They each cost a ton of money, and they use that money well. The Transformers themselves look a bit different this time around, and I’d say they look better. Actors like John Goodman, Ken Watanabe, and John DiMaggio lend their voices to the new Transformers, and that’s always kind of fun. And, hey, despite feeling very deus ex machina-like, the Dinobots are pretty fun when they show up to end the final battle scene.
You’ve seen three Transformers films prior to this one. Are you really expecting this one to be all that different? It’s way too bloated, has terribly shallow human characters, and introduces new elements to the series that seem thrown in just because there was nowhere else to go. But, hey, you want hundreds of millions of dollars in CGI on-screen? You get that, and it looks better than ever. Transformers: Age of Extinction is not worth your time, but if you’ve seen the other three, you’re kind of committed, aren’t you?