Let’s get this right out of the way: if you haven’t liked any of the Transformers films from Michael Bay, you are not going to like this one either. I’ll add to that by saying this is probably the most “Bay-like” of the films so far. There’s a lot here that you might see in Bay’s older films. Hell, I was surprised that a few things made it in while maintaining a “PG-13” rating. While it’s not necessarily graphic human violence, we actually see some pretty heavy human deaths, as well as some graphic Transformer deaths.
I went into Age of Extinction expecting it to not have a hugely intense plot, and it doesn’t, but it does do some more world-building and setting up for what they’re hoping will be another trilogy of films, so some threads are left unresolved. With the first batch of films there were hanging plots that were never resolved at any time between the three films, so don’t expect everything mentioned here to get followed up on if there is a sequel. I also went in expecting to have a good time, see some robot-on-robot violence, lots of explosions, and some funny, but not necessarily smart, dialogue. My theater was packed, which in my smallish city, doesn’t happen often. I went with my wife and son, and the audience had a good time. There were laughs, a few ‘oh no’s’ at the right moments, and some cheering over a lot of the heroic moments. All in all, a good time was had, which is not something I see often in my town at the movies, so take that for what you will.
Age of Extinction is set several years after the third entry. A small group of the CIA has been charged with eliminating the Transformer threat, only they’ve decided not to stop with Decepticons, and have been going after the Autobots as well. Optimus Prime ends up in the hands of a human named Cade after he was shut down after getting ambushed by the CIA group. The CIA picks up on Prime’s location after Cade brings him online, and gets the Autobot’s leader to trust him. Cade and his family end up on the run after the CIA threatens his daughter Tessa, and Prime exposes himself to help the humans that brought him back. Cade and Prime both realize there’s something more going on and start to investigate while they’re on the run. This leads us to a corporation that’s involved with the CIA hunting team. This corporation is developing their own technology based off of the Transformers. All the while, there’s another player involved: a bounty hunter named Lockdown who has his own motives, but wants Optimus Prime alive, and is working with the CIA team to get it.
Nothing ever goes as planned, and Prime ends up meeting up with the last of his Autobots before their globetrotting. The Dinobots are being featured pretty heavily in the ads, but they really don’t get involved until the last act of the film, and while they’re pretty bad ass on-screen, don’t expect much development at all. The biggest story arcs are for Optimus and Cade, plus a bit for Stanley Tucci’s character, who realizes too late what he’s really been involved with, and tries to turn things around. Optimus is feeling betrayed and isn’t looking to make amends anymore. Too many of his brothers have ended up dead at the hands of the people he was only trying to protect, and he’s done putting up with it. Cade and Optimus manage to work through a lot of their issues in little heartfelt chit-chats throughout the film that are both amusing, and serve to move their personal plots along.
For the most part, the stupid toilet humor jokes are out, but have instead been supplemented with other colorful commentary, most of which comes from John Goodman voicing Hound in the film, who is vulgar as hell and equally amusing. There were a few moments where the effects weren’t as up to par as I’m used to seeing from the series, but I’m going to chock that up to the film having over ninety minutes of Transformer shots, which a lot more than we’ve seen before. This is much more a film about the Transformers than the first three films, and the Autobots and Lockdown are fleshed out a bit more than we’ve seen before. The film also uses far more stable shots and roving shots for the action this time around, much like Dark of the Moon, so the sickening shaky cam isn’t as prevalent, and the choppy cuts Bay usually use aren’t either.
As a fan of the Transformers cartoon series, and the films, I have to say that I enjoyed Transformers: Age of Extinction, and most everyone in my theatre liked it as well, including my wife and son, who are both fairly vocal when they hate a film. This will probably be too tame for most fans of Bay’s films, but as he’s only really worked on four Transformer films, along with Pain and Gain, since 2007 or so, we’re kind of stuck with this for now. Age of Extinction is a bit edgier than the last three Transformers films, and probably wouldn’t be something I’d take a younger child to see, but the inner kid in me that fell in love with the Transformers brand back in 1984 loved seeing these guys in action again, and loved seeing a different take on Optimus than we’ve ever had before. This won’t be for everyone, but the big robots and even bigger explosions were a lot of fun, and nowhere else are you going to see Optimus Prime riding Grimlock as a giant T-Rex, all while wielding one big ass sword, taking out cons left and right.