When the most unrealistic thing that happens in a movie isn’t the flying dinosaur robots, there’s likely a fundamental problem. Though director Michael Bay gives it his usual all-out effort, “Transformers: Age of Extinction” is another irredeemable mess of dimwitted dialog, soul-imploding action sequences and loud noises crammed together in an effort to beat audiences into submission.
Not many would expect a great deal of artistic merits coming from a “Transformers” movie given the past installments, yet here we once again see what Hollywood is capable of when you strip away any notion of cinematic grace and intelligent writing. A good half-hour too long to boot, “Age of Extinction” might just carry the distinction of worst big-budget movie of the summer.
After the world was saved for the third time in three movies in “Transformers: Dark of the Moon,” “Age of Extinction” scrambles to find new bad guys to pick up where we left off. While a bounty hunter named Lockdown (voiced by Mark Ryan) sort of brings in a new angle, the main enemy becomes the government as they enact their plan to hunt down the Autobots. Forming a special unit of the CIA known as Cemetery Wind, Harold Attinger (Kelsey Grammar) sees the Autobots as a threat that simply can’t be allowed to hang around, even though they’ve become extremely good at fending off enemies and saving the planet from extinction.
Then there’s Joshua Joyce (Stanley Tucci), a business tycoon who has discovered a material called “transformium,” which allows him to dream about creating his own transformers and, of course, dominating the world. Though Tucci gives an honest effort in trying to make Joyce more than just the latest shady businessmegalomaniac, unfortunately the script doesn’t do him any great favors in sidestepping any of the usual pratfalls. Also hoping to give a little human connection to the audience is Cade, an optimistic robot inventor played by Mark Wahlberg as a blue collar guy who deserves a bit of good luck. Sure enough, when Cade and his pal Lucas (T.J. Miller) bring home an old semi-truck to harvest for spare parts, it turns out that it’s actually Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen). Though Wahlberg has shown a surprising amount of range since he burst onto the scene in Paul Thomas Anderson’s brilliant “Boogie Nights,” here Wahlberg is chained to a likeable but boring character.
Cade’s daughter, Tessa (Nicola Peltz), also could have been given an actual part to play, but she’s predictably one-dimensional and mainly there to be a part of the scenery. Unfortunately, young actress Nicola Peltz is relegated to the same role that Megan Fox and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley have already played in this franchise, namely the beautiful vixen who stands there while Bay’s camera shoots her like she’s doing a Vogue pinup.
Unsurprisingly, there are some conflicts that need to be sorted out, and robot enemies again converge on one another with the world hanging in the balance. Instead of Shia LaBeouf, this time it’s Wahlberg who steps in to try and work with the Autobots to save the day, only with a new set of bad robots that aren’t that much different from the old ones. It also doesn’t help that Joyce’s new robot, Galvatron (Frank Welker), has been possessed by old Autobot nemesis Megatron, making another ultimate battle with Optimus Prime all but inevitable. Also tossed in for good measure are a whole slew of new robots as well, known as the Dinobots. Led by Grimlock, who naturally can transform into a Tyrannosaurus Rex, the Dinobots are mainly an afterthought, but they do have a few moments of novelty that at least temporarily break up the monotony.
More than anything, “Age of Extinction” points out yet again that Michael Bay’s movies are relics from a different era. While his entertaining action-thrillers like “The Rock” and “Bad Boys” seemed to fit right in with the pumped up, dimwitted action movies of the 80s and 90s, big-budget movies have gotten more and more sophisticated while Bay’s movies only seem to be regressing into all-out action anarchy.
“Iron Man 3″ could have found a similar tone as “Age of Extinction,” yet “Iron Man 3″ writer/director Shane Black found a creative new angle to spin a superhero movie, leaving us with a surprisingly witty answer to the dull routine of blockbusters. Even the amped up “The Avengers,” beneath the special effects gadgetry, was an ensemble comedy that had plenty more to offer than mechanical sumo wrestling. Despite several other entries vying for the position, “Transformers: Age of Extinction” might be a new low for Michael Bay.