Review: TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION (2014) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Tuesday, 24 June 2014


It's bloated as usual, but TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION is spectacular and worthwhile enough as a summer-movie escapism.

When Michael Bay first announced that he won't be directing the fourth movie of TRANSFORMERS, I thought it was the right time for other director to step in and bring fresh perspective to the franchise. After all, a serious case of deja vu is bound to happen sooner or later if the same director kept repeating the same formula in a movie franchise over and over again. And then came the shocking surprise: Bay chose to return for the fourth movie. Upon knowing the news, my feeling was initially mixed. Even though there were part of me being happy that Bay finally did a huge favour for the die-hard fans to include the beloved Dinobots in the fourth movie, I was still skeptical when I saw the first teaser and its subsequent full-length trailers... because they somehow felt more of the same. But upon finally watches the movie, I'm glad that Bay is willing to do something different in his TRANSFORMERS franchise, even though the result is sadly uneven.

The movie begins several years after the catastrophic events of TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON, at which the shady government agent Harold Attinger (Kelsey Grammer) takes charge of a black ops team to hunt down all remaining Transformers with the help of Captain Savoy (Titus Welliver) and the mysterious Decepticon bounty hunter Lockdown (voiced by Mark Ryan). Naturally, some of the Transformers are forced to lay low. Meanwhile, amateur inventor Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg), who recently bought a damaged truck and soon discovers that the truck is actually Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen), the leader of the Autobots, who has been hiding all this while. Not long after, the black ops team manages to track down Optimus Prime and ultimately put both Cade and his daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz) in great danger.
As the first movie ever shot in full IMAX digital 3D camera (as opposed to the usual bulky IMAX film camera), Michael Bay and cinematographer Amir Mokri has certainly made full use of the technology. The result is simply breathtaking and it was especially worth watching in IMAX 3D cinema. All the technical credits here are superb, while Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) has again delivers a fantastic special-effects showcase where the Transformers are as visually stunning as ever. Action sequences are engaging enough to keep you hooked on the screen, and I always loved the way Michael Bay paraded some of his stylish slow-motion shots.

The story, which again written by Ehren Kruger, has made significant improvement over the last two movies. Gone is the juvenile humour that plagued the TRANSFORMERS movies earlier, while it's rather interesting to see a darker tone in this fourth instalment for a change.

Peter Cullen, who voiced all three TRANSFORMERS movies in the past, gives another typically distinctive voice performance as Optimus Prime. Although relegated to a limited role this time around, fan-favourite Bumblebee remains a beloved and fun character to watch for. Other voice performances, including Ken Watanabe as the samurai-like Drift and John Goodman as the cigar-chomping Hound, are equally noteworthy. As for the human cast, Kelsey Grammer is slick enough as Harold Attinger and Stanley Tucci gives a robustly entertaining performance as Joshua Joyce, a research scientist in charge for the experiment of man-made Transformers. Another actor worth praising for is Titus Welliver, who delivers a suitably tense performance as Attinger's no-nonsense Captain Savoy.

The first attack of Galvatron (voiced by Frank Welker) against some of the Autobots during a highway chase scene; The vertigo-inducing sequence involving Bumblebee, Cade, Tessa and Shane (Jack Reynor) hanging from swinging power cables which are attached between Lockdown's spacecraft and a tall building; and the all-hell-breaks-loose climactic finale between the Autobots and the Decepticons at the downtown Hong Kong.

Clocking at 165 minutes (that's 2 hours and 45 minutes, in case you need to know), this is no doubt the longest TRANSFORMERS movie ever made. Ehren Kruger may have improved in his story department but he still falls prey to his usual mistake since his screenplay remains a bloated mess with too many stories trying to cram altogether into one movie. Not to mention the laboured pace and incoherent editing by Roger Barton, William Goldenberg and Paul Rubell that nearly made the movie a chore to sit through.

As the lead actor, it's actually nice to see Mark Wahlberg headlined in a TRANSFORMERS movie for a change, especially after Shia LaBeouf dominated in the first three movies. Unfortunately, Wahlberg doesn't impress much with his disappointingly average performance as Cade. Same goes to Nicola Peltz, who sadly reduced into damsel in distress for the most part of the movie (and yeah, she screams a lot). Jack Reynor, who plays Tessa's racer boyfriend Shane, is equally wasted here as well, while popular Chinese actress Li Bingbing lands in a forgettable role as the English-speaking executive Su Yueming.

While Bay always does a great job in the action department, he tends to disappoint with his penchant for shaky camerawork (the indecipherable car chase scene and the fight scene involving Su Yueming are among the prime examples here). As much as I enjoy the majority action-packed sequence in the downtown Hong Kong, I couldn't help but figure that Bay could have done a better job of introducing Dinobots late into the movie. Instead, the long-awaited inclusion of the Dinobots feel more like a filler than spending time developing their characters where we can at least root for them.


It may have been a heavily-flawed TRANSFORMERS movie as usual, but still delivers as a rousing entertainment worth checking out for.



No comments: