Thursday, June 26, 2014

Review: TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION is Action Packed But a New Coat of Paint Can't Cover Up Franchise Issues



Let me take several moments to preface this review by saying a few things. While growing up in the 80s, I loved the Generation 1 (G1) version of the Transformers. Big, hardcore fan here. So when I first heard a Transformers movie was coming in 2007, I was as excited as I've ever been for any movie to come out.

Today, that first Transformers movie still holds up as my favorite of all four of the films in the franchise, including Transformers: Age of Extinction which is considered a soft reboot for the franchise by updating the look of the Transformers (ie. a new coat of paint for more toy sales) and with a new cast. But this is no soft reboot at all and is more of the same issues that have progressively plagued the franchise. Plus, the latest installment is by far the most product-driven, marketing campaign of brands yet.

It makes sense to have so much product placement because this film could've had a budget of nearly $300 million. And if you're name isn't James Cameron or Joss Whedon, not many studios will back a film that costs so much.

So the franchise has made more money as each new film has been released and Transformers movies are not going away. Transformers: Age of Extinction looks to break into the box office with huge numbers worldwide. No one person can be blamed for the latest debacle of a movie but it's a collective failure of appeasing the original G1 fan base and instead continuing to appeal to the newer generation of fans.

Hasbro and Paramount need to take notes from writer/director J.J. Abrams, who has endeared himself to the original Star Wars fan base with the path he's taking for Episode VII by following the original films and not the prequels. If Hasbro and Paramount want to right the wrongs of the past four films, then they need to shut down the current path of the Transformers franchise and have a hard reboot. Set it as an 80s period piece movie using the G1 designs. This is the only way this franchise will really grab my attention moving forward.

Before I get into my review I'll still say that for as bad as I think the Transformers franchise is, I still see each movie because I grew up with the Autobots and Decepticons and it's tough to not want to see giant alien robots kick some ass on the big screen.

So here comes the review part of this post and I'm going to spoil the shit out of many things in Transformers: Age of Extinction after the below image. Read on if you dare...




SPOILER REVIEW

Transformers: Age of Extinction is at it's best when focused on the human cast. The introduction tale of Mark Wahlberg's character, his daughter, his co-worker/friend and his daughter's boyfriend are spot on and highly enjoyable. Even though you don't get much Transformer action in Act I of the film it's okay because you get to enjoy the build-up which, in my opinion, is Michael Bay's best quality as a filmmaker. Not the action and not the explosions. I consider those the icing on the cake.

Everyone wants to see Optimus and the gang transforming on the big screen. This is obvious. However, Wahlberg is a solid replacement for the previous installments lead role played by Shia LaBeouf.  Yet Wahlberg is not the human cast member who steals the show in this film. That honor belongs to actor Stanley Tucci.

Tucci's CEO character, Joshua Joyce, a blend of Tony Stark and Justin Hammer from Iron Man 2. You just love to hate him and simply cannot help but to love him at the end of the film. I seriously hope he is brought back for Transformers 5—which is reportedly slated for a 2016 release already (ugh).

Enough about the humans in this film, let's talk Transformers. So many have died in the past three films and the death toll continues to rise in Transformers: Age of Extinction. It's seriously getting to the point where they might be starting to run out of Transformer characters. Matter of fact, many of the original G1 characters are now dead. Megatron, Starscream, Soundwave, Shockwave, Ironhide, Jazz, Jetfire, Ratchet and the list goes on.

STOP KILLING OFF ALL THE TRANSFORMERS!

Or wait ... keep doing this because you're just forcing yourself into a hard reboot for the franchise. Carry on, because I want my 80s period piece hard reboot with G1 designs. (I think I speak for the majority of the G1 fan base too.)

Despite all the alien robot death, this movie still is still highly entertaining, action packed and the Transformers themselves look sexier than ever. The story, on the other hand, is weak.

Transformers are being hunted by humans who have teamed up with the Transformers bounty hunter Lockdown. A deal between Lockdown and the humans has been made and once Optimus Prime is delivered to Lockdown, so he can bring Optimus to the Transformers' creator, and Lockdown will give the humans a "seed." This is pretty much a nuclear bomb that will change organic life into Transformium. Yeah ... you read that right ... Transformium. It's the metal the Transformers are made of. (Shame on you Hasbro for allowing this word to be used because it's so cheesy.)

Tucci's character is the head of a company who is making Transformers the humans can control. Cue the use of dead Decepticon heads to make this happen, including the head of Megatron. (Idiots.) This is a nod to several past Transformers stories in the television and comics cannon.

As you can probably guess, Megatron's head is not fully dead and while the company is building Stinger—a knock off of Bumblebee, but said to be better—they are also building Galvatron. To make a long story short-ish, this is all part of Megatron's plan to have a new body built and to be reborn as Galvatron.

The Dinobots are pointless in this film and only serve the purpose of being the cavalry at the end of the movie. Only after Optimus has the terribly lame "taming sequence" of Grimlock (the T-Rex for those who don't know), Optimus is then the Dinobot whisperer and gets them to fight alongside of the Autobots. Even though, at the end, he lets the Dinobots loose and free to roam Earth. (Bad idea.)

Finally at the end of the movie, Optimus reveals he's got rocket boots and flies into the sky with the "seed" to set up the next film. (Cue the speculation as to what's next.)

In order to not give away the entire film, and so you can maybe enjoy some of it, I'll digress at this point of the review and leave you with this:

Transformers: Age of Extinction is not a terribly bad movie, it's watchable and entertaining at certain points when humor isn't being forced onto the audience. It's this summer's mindless popcorn movie with more explosions than any of Bay's previous films in the franchise. But as the films have gone on, the quality of the films have declined too. The studio and Hasbro don't care because this film will continue to make them a ridiculous amount of cash. But they should care because it's only a matter of time until fans are burnt out with this franchise's movie path and stop going to the theater to see it and that hard reboot I desperately want actually happens.


5 out of 10


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