DIR: Michael Bay • WRI: Ehren Kruger •PRO: Ian Bryce, Tom DeSanto, Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Don Murphy • DOP: Amir Mokri • ED: Roger Barton, William Goldenberg, Paul Rubell • DES: Jeffrey Beecroft • MUS: Steve Jablonsky • CAST: Mark Wahlberg, Stanley Tucci, Kelsey Grammer, Jack Reynor
There are many words one might use when describing Michael Bay’s Transformers franchise, but very few that don’t sound smug, hackneyed and, on the whole, just too easy. Ever the critics’ whipping boy, the past decade has established the director’s name as a byword for blockbusters that bring the sound and the fury and not a whole lot else, and aiming the same barbs at the same flaws time and again begins to feel less like reviewing than it does adding one more reedy voice to a self-satisfied critical chorus falling on utterly deaf ears.
So with Bay’s claim that his latest outing, Age of Extinction, will set the franchise in a whole new direction, what’s the verdict? Well, for a series based on creatures capable of taking on literally any form they desire, not a whole lot has changed.
Leading the new human cast that will form the centre of this allegedly new direction is Cade Yaeger (Mark Wahlberg), a broke mechanic-turned-inventor with the fiercely independent streak of any good Texan. Hoping his latest junkyard haul yields something that might put his daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz) through college, Yaeger’s derelict find instead turns out to be a badly-wounded Optimus Prime in hiding. With government forces and a mysterious alien mercenary hunting all Transformers in the wake of the Battle of Chicago, Yaeger is forced to round up what remains of the Autobots so that they might defend humanity one last time.
Age of Extinction marks the (large-scale) Hollywood debut of Ireland’s own Jack Reynor, but sadly this is where any sense of Bay’s promised new beginnings ends. Though presumably placed to add a more family-centric dynamic to the series, the human cast are once again pushed to the fringe so that Bay’s penchant for pyrotechnics can take centre stage for a cornea-melting two and a half hours.
The Transformers themselves live up to the diversity implied by their name in providing a dazzling array of stereotypes, complete with a haiku-spouting samurai and cigar-chomping marine, each of whom speak in a series of B-movie one-liners presumably designed to match Hasbro’s inevitable range of actions figures.
The human cast fare little better, their few efforts to inject a heartbeat into the narrative constantly mangled by scarcely-comprehensible action scenes. It’s as if every frame of the film is specifically designed to shatter any sense of immersion, from the sense of scale (occasionally punctuated by close-ups reserved solely for arse-cheeks or the American flag) to the cluttered, jarring soundtrack, less akin to the Zimmer’s best work than it is to a string-quartet squeezed into a steel-bin.
There is much more that could be said, some of it even positive – both Tucci and Reynor deliver the laughs as the comic relief, and some of the women even get to speak outside of cries for help – but all in all there’s little point in adding to the barrage and even less point in denying the box office landslide to come. Far be it from Film Ireland to kick a multi-billion dollar behemoth when it’s down, after all.
More mechanized popcorn for the senses, worth seeing for those ardent franchise fans and anyone still doubting whether a vacuum can be very loud indeed.
12A (See IFCO for details)
Transformers: Age of Extinction is released on 5th July 2014