Transformers: Age of Extinction was initially pitched as something of a reboot. Though franchise helmer Michael Bay was set to return to the director’s chair, Shia LaBeouf was out as Mark Wahlberg took the lead role. But even with the new cast, it has the same bloated and confused approach that marked all the sequels, and the fourth film – which is the longest of the series – features all the same problems of the previous movies, but only some of the pluses. My Transformers: Age of Extinction Blu-ray review follows after the jump.
The film, which opens with a tease of the Dinobots that will eventually appear in the film, shows that since the last movie Transformers are being hunted by the government with the assistance of the Transformer Lockdown, who brutally murders the loveable Autobot Ratchet near the start of the film. We’re also introduced to Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg), a Texas inventor who is about to lose his farm, though he thinks he’s right around the corner from prosperity. Cade and his partner Lucas (T.J. Miller) buy a truck that’s hiding out in a theater and has been shelled, which eventually reveals itself to be Optimus Prime. Cade has a daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz) who’s about to go off to college, and may need money for that, and it’s interesting to note how the film spends a lot of time talking about the importance of their home and Cade’s dead wife, and money, and then completely forgets how important these things are about an hour into the film. Tessa is also keeping a secret from her father, she’s been dating race car driver Shane Dyson (Jack Reynor).
Once Cade comes to realize that the truck might be a transformer, Lucas and Tessa realize it could work out for them because there’s a hundred thousand dollar reward for finding one, but Cade is more interesting in helping Optimus. His partner Lucas calls for the reward money, which leads federal agent James Savoy (Titus Welliver) to their home. Prime has to defend himself, the Yeager home is destroyed, and Cade, Tessa and Lucas are saved by Shane. But the minute Cade meets Shane (who carries a card showing that it’s legal for him to date Cade’s daughter, even though he’s older than her), Cade is near murderous at the thought of Shane dating/having sex with his precious girl. They’re all along for the ride with Optimus, who gathers up the remaining Autobots in hopes of figuring out why they’re being hunted. It leads them to industrialist/Bill Gates type Joshua Joyce (Stanley Tucci) who is secretly working with CIA head Harold Attinger (Kelsey Grammer) to use the technology they’ve found in the dead autobots to create new computer technology. But Lockdown is not who he seems to be, and though he gives something to the humans to help them with their man-made transformer technology, Joshua has created Galvatron, the new version of Megatron, and if Joyce goes through with his plans he’ll basically be releasing a bunch of Decepticons on the earth. Oh yeah, Optimus also finds out about the Dinobots, and eventually brings them on to his side with about twenty minutes left in the movie.
Man, is it hard to sum up the plot of this movie. I’ve now seen it twice, and even with the Blu-ray handy, I’m still questioning why stuff happened. And though there’s obviously a bigger audience for the film, it’s hard not to want to scream at the film “this is a movie based on toys meant for children!” What twelve-year-old wants a labyrinthine plot that focuses on Transformers being brutally hunted and murdered, a father who’s worried about his daughter’s virginity, and quasi-fascistic government agents? To be fair, the obvious audience is people who grew up with the toys, but still, it lacks the fun and light-hearted sensibility that made the first film actually good.
The plot is both over and undercooked garbage, but Michael Bay knows how to stage an action set piece, and he delivers a couple good ones, but the film is so overstuffed with incident (and runs two hours and forty five minutes), it’s a little like being beaten into submission after a certain point. The franchise started with a fairly simple idea, that it was about a boy and his car, but the human element at this point just seems to get in the way, while Optimus Prime has become a murderous thug who threatens to kill humans for what they’ve done, while the supporting Autobots often come off no better. The film was set to be the biggest dog of a relatively weak summer, but it ended up being the lowest grossing entry in the franchise (domestically) with $245 Million. The bad news is that even if that would serve as evidence the series needs another course correction, the film made over a billion worldwide. Oh well. At home you can at least fast forward to the good parts, but Michael Bay really needs a good script ahead of filming these things, and perhaps Steven Spielberg back advising on the stories. Michael Bay does great work with the action, but he needs to find better writers.
Paramount presents the film on Blu-ray with a DVD and Digital copy, with the film in widescreen (2.35:1) and in Dolby TrueHD 7.1 lossless audio. Yeah, this disc is breathtaking in terms of the audio and visual presentation, which may be helped by having the first disc dedicated solely to the movie.
Disc two is where all the supplements reside and they are underwhelming. It starts with “Bay on Action” (11 min.), which mostly lets Bay talk about his approach to the film, while “Evolution with Extinction” (123 min.) is an eight part look at the making of the film, which covers the normal bases (the cast, the locations, the effects, the new characters, etc.), but it’s pretty tedious. There’s also “Just Another Giant Effin’ Movie” (10 min.), which shows the cast having “fun” on the set (and features Michael Bay’s Mom), while “A Spark of Design” (15 min.) highlights the toys made to tie in with the film, and “T.J. Miller: Farm Hippie” (20 min.), has Miller talks with Wahlberg, Grammer and Bay in a supposedly comic bit. There are also two trailers for the film, and two advertisements for Transformers-related tie-ins.