Truly --- "Transformers: Age of Extinction" is the first really big blockbuster of the summer. Optimus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen) is back for the fourth Michael Bay-directed installment, which left off four years ago with the destruction of our hometown, Chicago, after the last battle between the Autobots and the Decepticons.
Only this time, Optimus Prime has Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg), a small town Texas inventor, on his side. Along for the ride is his 17-year-old (yeah, right) daughter, Tessa (Nicola Peltz), and her boyfriend Shane Dyson (Jack Reynor). Unknowingly, Yeager brings home a rusted truck to strip for parts --- only the truck turns out to be Prime, who is being hunted by the CIA, led by Harold Attinger (Kelsey Grammer).
Attinger is in cahoots with Joshua Joyce (StanleyTucci) who owns Kinetics Solutions Incorporated (KSI), a conglomerate which has designed a new transformer named Galvatron, that can destroy everything in its path, including, and most importantly, Optimus Prime. But its primary goal is to override Joyce's commands and confiscate the Seed, a powerful bomb that can destroy an entire city in seconds.
If it sounds a bit convoluted, it is. But it is also mind-blowing, especially in IMAX/3-D. Bay has this franchise, based on "Transformers" by Hasbro, down to a science --- no pun intended.
Getting rid of Shia LaBeouf and bringing Wahlberg into the fold is a splendid idea. You just can't help but love this guy. Wahlberg is tough, funny and schmaltzy, especially where his daughter is concerned. But it makes him endearing, instead of lame/creepy.
Peltz is great looking, but her acting could use a lot of work. But, hey, it's "Transformers" --- remember Megan Fox? --- she couldn't act either. But, I digress. Reynor is acceptable as Tessa's Irish race car driver hottie --- he and Wahlberg are actually quite enjoyable together as the good guys.
However, as always, it is Tucci who steals the show. He is perfect as the maniacal head of KSI, and he also provides the majority of the comic relief. Tucci is definitely one of the best supporting actors in the business. Let's face it --- where would "Hunger Games" be without him as Caesar Flickerman?
My only complaint about "Transformers: Age of Extinction" is its length. The battle scenes are consistently too long, even though the special effects of the street fighting in Chicago and Hong Kong are awesome. If "Transformers" is your thing, you're going to love this one!
Opinion: See It Now!
Michael Bay, the director of the first three films in this "Transformers" franchise, was initially reluctant to do a fourth picture. But co-executive producer Steven Spielberg wanted him back, so that was that. The result is "Transformers: Age of Extinction", which features Bay's trademark long, drawn-out battle scenes and a plethora of explosions.
Mark Wahlberg (Cade Yeager), Stanley Tucci (Joshua Joyce) and Kelsey Grammer (Harold Attinger) are new cast members, and while these three veterans are adequate, overall the acting is suspect. Nicola Peltz, as Yeager's daughter Tessa, is not very convincing despite her frequent death-defying experiences, and her boyfriend Shane Dyson (Jack Reynor) is bland, at best.
But people don't see these films for the acting. It's all about the bots --- Autobots and Dinobots, Megatron and Optimus Prime (possibly the greatest name ever created for science fiction). I imagine some car enthusiasts see these films just to see the lavish and sporty vehicles the filmmakers devise for transformation material. Meanwhile, where is Optimus Prime? The answer lies in Yeager's grungy barn where the robotic inventor is tinkering with a dilapidated truck he purchased earlier.
Yeager needs money to keep his home and send Tessa to college. He is overly protective of his 17-year-old daughter, endlessly warning Shane to keep his hands off of her. This is cliched writing, at best ( by Ehren Kruger, also screenwriter of films two and three), but fans of the series overlook such trivial matters as long as the special effects are, well, special. And they are.
The time is now, four years after the invasion of Chicago left some of its great architecture in shambles. The movie features some great shots of the Windy CIty, cleverly interweaving the famed skyline with Autobot/Dinobot battle scenes. This includes a harrowing sequence with Yeager, Tessa and Shane high above the ground negotiating a "suspension bridge" of cables between buildings.
Government officials, led by Attinger, want the Autobots destroyed, but Joyce's company, KSI, has developed a material dubbed Transformium, which allows KSI to transform anything into anything else, rendering the Autobots obsolete. Some of the more unique special effects are accomplished with this material.
Like its predecessors, "Transformers: Age of Extinction" is loud, louder, LOUDEST. And despite all its violent activity, the film maintained a PG-13 rating, even though Tucci's character gets away with an F-bomb, one of the funniest lines in the movie. Thankfully, Tucci provides a ton of comic relief to an otherwise serious story, although actor/comedian T. J. Miller, as Yeager's buddy, Lucas Flannery, tries mightily to create laughs early on, despite some flat writing.
Bay's penchant for overly long battle scenes is the biggest reason the running time is a hefty 165 minutes, which matches the film's budget of $165 million. But it will doubtless turn into a good investment for Paramount.
"Transformers: Age of Extinction" should be seen at an IMAX venue. The ending features a strong hint that the franchise is not quite finished. So in case you were wondering, yes Virginia, there is a fifth "Transformers" in the works.
Opinion: Mild See It Now!