No point blaming director Michael Bay for trying to retool his Transformers franchise with a new cast, a ton of blurry action and a carload of unimaginative plotting.
And let’s give some credit where it’s due: Bay is master when it comes to creating imagery of destruction or utilizing CGI technology to transform his Autobots from cars into mega-robots. A shot of vast spacecraft hovering over Hong Kong like a giant, dark-winged bird shivers with menace.
PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, language and brief innuendo
For 27 years, Robert Denerstein was the film critic at The Rocky Mountain News. Read more of Robert's reviews at Denerstein Unleashed.
That’s right. Give Bay props for unashamed bravado and a reasonably astute understanding of his audience.
Which brings me to my point: It’s not Bay we should fret over, but an audience that’s willing to forgive narrative lapses, silly stories, action sequences in which it’s not always possible to tell who’s fighting whom and a tendency to equate loud noise with drama.
In this helping — set two years after Transformers: Dark of the Moon — Bay continues in customary fashion: He doesn’t so much build toward a climax as leap into it, something like an eager kid cannonballing into a swimming pool. And when he does cook up a great image, he tends to repeat it.
Transformers: Age of Extinction jettisons Shia LaBeouf, and brings a new cast on-line.
No stranger to big-screen combat, Mark Wahlberg plays Cade Yaeger, a Texas widower and inventor who lives with his teen-age daughter (Nicola Peltz). Dad’s not having much success as an inventor, but don’t worry: Father and daughter quickly are caught up in trying to help robot Optimus Prime reassert himself after being severely damaged and winding up in Cade’s workshop.
Jack Reynor joins this chaotic mission. He plays Cade’s daughter’s boyfriend, a character who gives Wahlberg an opportunity to deliver cliched fatherly dialogue about his daughter’s budding womanhood.
Stanley Tucci turns up as the head of a company that’s trying to manufacture its own Autobots, and a depressed-looking Kelsey Grammer plays a CIA agent, a character who helps make government an easy target of audience mistrust and scorn.
Bingbing Li portrays one of Tucci’s employees when the story shifts to Beijing en route to Hong Kong, where it concludes and concludes and then concludes some more.
But who really cares about the actors or even about the fate of humanity? The Transformer series belongs to the giant alien robots, who are beginning to make discoveries about themselves and who, it’s suggested, might take over the entire story should another sequel follow.
No point rattling on. I saw the movie in IMAX and 3-D, which certainly aided Bay’s efforts to present everything on a gargantuan scale.
As for Bay? He seems to hellbent not only on giving audiences what they want but on giving them so much of what they want, they’ll be reduced to insensibility. Many people evidently consider this fun.