“I make movies for teenage boys. Oh dear, what a crime.”
There are certain directors who automatically get a response from audiences. When names like Nolan, Spielberg, Scorsese, and Anderson (P.T. of course) are mentioned, we know what to expect. Michael Bay is no different. Bay is known around the world as the “action” guy, and he does everything he can to live up to that name. His IMDB page is filled with films almost every adolescent boy loves. Bay’s films often leave plot and character development on the cutting room floor, and he wouldn’t have it any other way. With all the stigma behind Bay and the continuously poor reviews, when Transformers: Age of Extinction finishes its run at the box office, he will be the third highest grossing director per film.
It is hard to imagine a more bloated film than Transformers: Age of Extinction. The film runs a blistering 187 minutes long, and it feels every bit of it. Trying to breathe fresh air into the franchise, Mark Wahlberg is cast as the lead. He plays Cade Yeager. Cade is a struggling father and inventor who stumbles upon a Transformer. Transformers are outlaws on the run, so this find might be his family’s ticket to financial security. Tessa (Nicola Peltz), Cade’s daughter, is a motherly daughter who wants to please her father, but at the same time be a teen. Tessa is an extremely troubling character for me. Michael Bay is notorious in Hollywood for his misogyny and often nonchalant sexual exploitation of young girls. This character does nothing to recoup his reputation. Her interaction with her boyfriend Shane (Jack Reynor) is often uncomfortable. One scene that is particularly troubling is when Shane quotes the statutory rape laws of Texas to Cade.
The plot of the film is mired in unnecessary twists and predictable through lines. There are several villains with little or no motivation. Time reference is not something of which Bay chooses to make sense. One particular head scratcher is how our heroes get from Texas to Chicago so quickly. Later in the film, one of the Transformers chooses to fly into outer space. There are multiple times throughout the film where this particular skill would have been helpful but it was never even given a thought.
Even though it’s a tough film to sit through, Age of Extinction is not without its pros. Bay has a unique eye for action, and without a doubt, this film has some of the best set pieces in the history of cinema. What Bay lacks in conception he makes up for in style. The Chinese set pieces are fantastic and had me often wondering, “How did he do that?”. In past sequels the action often felt forced and indiscernible. Age of Extinction does a great job of making the action coherent and gives us references to scope and size. Even though the film is mostly absent of good acting, Stanley Tucci does give an excellent performance as Joshua Joyce.
Overall, Age of Extinction feels like a slog. Despite Tucci, the acting is stilted and secondary. The trip to China is fun, but unnecessary. It feels like a blatant cash grab in the Asian markets. Everything in the movie is void of purpose outside of what will bring in the most money. I wish my favorite childhood toys had something better than this.