The first “Transformers” was an instant American pop-movie classic. It established the Transformer formula. What is that formula?
Four things: the machinery must look cool. There must be a long-legged jail-bait female of stunning visage (tanned). Green cornfields and orange sunsets. Witty teen dialog such as, “Dude, she’s an evil jock-concubine.” Wait, five things: the Harley-Davidson philosophy. We’ll come back to that.
Anyway, four movies later, it’s been established that no visage can match the blue-eyed, raven-haired looks of Megan Fox (not to mention the rare bombshell-with-comedic-timing aspect). Let’s have a moment of silence for the absent Fox.
The element of surprise as to what Transformers do is long gone. The machinery’s gotten way too complicated. And an almost three-hour movie about toys (and dinosaurs, for crying out loud) is way too long.
Man, er, Autobot Hunt
So—CIA black-ops have been tracking Transformers and giving them to Joshua Joyce’s (Stanley Tucci) gizmo company, KSI, with intention of upgrading, militarizing, and controlling the entire transformer phenomenon. For Uncle Sam. Basically the same problem Iron Man’s always dealing with.
But they can’t find earth’s remaining five Transformers. Especially not autobot sensei Optimus Prime.
Cue cornfields, pink sunsets, and a rustic barn. Texas inventor and over-protective dad Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) buys a beat-up old 18-wheeler rig for parts. When he opens the door to its dusty interior, shell-casings clatter out. Big ones. Hmm…
Upon tinkering, Yeager realizes what this $150 worth of beat-up truck is. Yup. Not what it appears to be. His exceedingly pink-lipped teen daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz), and his un-funny cliché surfer-dude business partner Lucas (T.J. Miller) tell him to call the government Autobot emergency-number ASAP. But that would end the movie.
Soon, Yeager’s truck has been tracked by black-ops to his farm. They slam darling daughter on the lawn and jam a gun in her face. Where’s that Autobot?! That’s entirely unacceptable to the truck. The truck? Yes, you guessed it, it’s Optimus Prime. So he transforms out of truck-mode and luckily still has plenty of un-spent shells in his Gatling guns to blast the CIA with, putting surfer-dude, Cade, Tessa, and (oops) Tessa’s secret boyfriend Shane (Jack Reynor) in big danger.
Now it’s time to talk about the dino-transformers. Yes you heard that right. There are dinobots. On second thought, let’s not talk about them. Suffice it to say, the actual Transformers ride the dinobots. As if they were knightly steeds of yore. Makes sense. Transformers look like suits of armor. The kids’ll love it, thought Michael Bay.
If We had Three Hours…
The synopsis could go on a lot longer. It’s an almost three hour movie. But by the time you get to the dinobots, your mind will have been completely fried by endless CGI fake stuff transforming into other fake stuff, explosions, pummelings, death-by-dino, death by transformer-swords, ridiculous pounding soundtrack, and much unabashed product placement. Fourteen year olds love this stuff. It’s why they have pimples.
The franchise will continue, but it now needs a gritty upgrade to retro. It needs to be un-Michael Bay’d. This fourth Transformers installation is over-long, over-done, and over-titled. It needs to get back to the Harley-Davidson philosophy.
Which is, basically, that they got this story right the first time. Go vintage. Stay vintage. Keep the transformer muscle-car modes of the ’70s variety; keep it gritty. Don’t high-tech everything just because you have more RAM.
Over-protective dad territory is not Mark Wahlberg’s thing, particularly. He whines too much. We need to be seeing this entire story through teenage, not dad sensibilities. This is an escaping-out-the-window to drive your ultra-cool ride movie. Where your ride, hiding out on planet earth camouflaged as a jacked-up Camaro, can (flippity-bang!) transform into an intergalactic warrior-bodyguard. That’s good stuff.
Casting-director alert: Jack Reynor looks hilariously like a male-model version of Seth Rogen. Those two need to play brothers in the next Transformers movie. If there is one. It’ll be funnier. And bring Megan Fox back.
‘Transformers: Age of Extinction’
Director: Michael Bay
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Stanley Tucci, Nicola Peltz, Jack Reynor
Running time: 2 hours, 37 minutes
Release date: June 27
3 stars out of 5