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Sunday, June 29, 2014

Transformers: Age of Extinction Movie Review

It's safe to say movie-goers don't line up for Michael Bay films expecting Shakespeare. But somewhere in the middle of "Transformers: Age of Extinction" I was reminded of a line from Macbeth as the protagonist waxes poetic about life:

"It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."

Though I wouldn't go so far as to say that Michael Bay is an idiot (though he may have appeared that way at a certain Samsung press conference), this latest "Transformers" film isn't raising the intellectual bar for the director's work. There's a whole lot of sound and fury here: plenty of explosions, chase scenes and gunfire, as well as those cool transforming robots - now even Dino-bots! But ultimately, there's very little depth and really not a lot that's new here.

The decision to move forward without the human characters from the first three films (most notably, Shia LaBoeuf's Sam Witwicky) doesn't seem to have made much of a difference to the franchise. It's still an action-packed spectacle as riddled with plot holes as it is with bullets. But honestly, all that being said, I (and my 10 year old son) actually enjoyed the ride. In my opinion, it's a better film than the two previous outings, but that's not saying much ("Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" earned an abysmal 1/2-star rating and "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" only a half star higher). This time around, while the character development is still thin, the jokes are a little funnier, the effects even more impressive and the action sequences tighter. The over-long run-time of 165 minutes may have you shifting in your seat a bit, but the frequent changes in locale and scenery will make the time pass relatively quickly.

This, the fourth film in the franchise, picks up a few years after the third film. In the wake of Chicago's decimation at the hands of the Decepticons, the government has stepped in to take back the planet, hunting down Decepticons and supposedly offering sanctuary to the Autobots. But really the CIA has secretly teamed up with yet another alien being - a Transformer bounty hunter - to wipe out both Autobots and Decepticons alike.

Meanwhile, things aren't much better for humans. Hard times have fallen upon most regular folks. Inventor Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) is doing what he can to get by, fixing stuff for his neighbors for whatever they can afford to pay and salvaging junk which he uses as parts for his own underwhelming technological creations.  His domestic servant robot is almost (but not quite) able to deliver a tasty beverage to its master and his robot guard dog's faulty voice recognition software can't tell friend from foe.

Yeager buys a beat-up old Mack truck (using borrowed money) and takes it home thinking to strip it for parts but finds out that it's actually none other than our friend and mechanical hero, Optimus Prime, leader of the Autobots. The CIA learns of Prime's location and sends in its black ops team to take him out, with whatever collateral damage occurs along the way.

The token "hot chick" this time around is Nicola Peltz who plays, not our hero's love interest, but his 17-year-old daughter Tessa. The "romantic" sub-plot (and I use the term loosely) centers on Tessa and her boyfriend, Shane (Jack Reynor). Previously unknown by Tessa's dad, Shane rescues our hero and daughter with some fancy driving and tags along as they attempt to save the world. Kelsey Grammer is here as the head of CIA black ops and Stanley Tucci plays the billionaire corporate inventor who believes he is on the brink of creating his very own new, improved Autobot army. But is he the one in control or is there a dark force at work, pulling the strings?

"Transformers: Age of Extinction" has at least one strong point: the action sequences (of which there are many) were filmed using the new IMAX 3D Digital Camera, which captures both the left and right eye images at 4K resolution. If you get the chance, see the film in an IMAX 3D theater as the IMAX sequences are absolutely stunning.

The thin plot, mostly cheesy dialog and cardboard characters aren't going to win any awards but we're still predicting box office gold for this action-packed extravaganza.

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