After the epic, end of the world battle in Transformers: Dark of the Moon, director Michael Bay and the franchise owners faced a challenge; how to keep this commercial juggernaut of a series moving forward.
That they’ve managed to do so, while delivering what may well be the best, or close to the best film in the series, adding both a backstory (of sorts) and momentum (enough) to justify at least one more film says a lot about the elasticity of the Transformers concept and the resilience of Bay’s approach to action film-making.
In our recent podcast, James and I concluded that if you are asking whether or not Transformers: Age Of Extinction is a good film, you may, in fact, be asking the wrong question. This is not art. This is a film made to appeal to every segment of the cinema-going, popcorn crunching mass-market. Yes, it crudely and unambiguously nails its colours to a dollar-sign encrusted flag early on. We get plenty of gratuitous shots of Mark Walberg’s biceps (he plays a down on his luck inventor called Cade Yeager) and Nicola Peltz’ derriere (she plays Yeager’s daughter Tessa) along with an unabashed attempt to lure the growing Chinese market, complete with some right-on-cue People’s Liberation Army propaganda.
What you make of this film will completely depend on what you think of the idea of giant alien robots going on a three-part, major-city smashing rampage, complete with emotionally wrought, but largely inconsequential human help and a thin sliver of big business meets homeland security conspiracy thrown in. Yes, it really is the kind of thing Oliver Stone might have dreamt up if he fell asleep watching old children’s TV reruns.
Speaking of partial consciousness, the film is staggeringly, one has to say, wastefully long. This is not helped by several stretches where almost nothing happens. Fans may suggest these pauses allow the audience to catch their breath, but the effect is all together more soporific, like falling asleep on a commuter train. Did I miss my stop? Did I snore in public? OK, nothing happened.
And, true to form, Michael Bay’s treatment of the female form is every bit as lurid as we have come to expect, making true on New York Magazine’s satire 7 Ways to Tell You’re a Woman in a Michael Bay Movie. For the record, Ms Peltz first appears in a white singlet and very short cut off jeans (complete with extreme rectal closeups), then in the next scene she is in a short white minidress, while Sophia Myles (scientist Darcy Tirrel) debuts in a white artist jump-suit, followed by a white office power suit.
The one break from beautiful woman in white rule is Bingbing Li who wears full black in every scene. She is a Chinese business associate and object of affection for Steve Jobs meets Howard Stark villain Joshua Joyce (Stanley Tucci). Analysts might well have a field day deciphering what putting the one non-American female lead in non-white means!
But, this film is really all about the robots and we get lots of them, new ones and old favourites reincarnated. It’s all a bit daft, a bit noisy and bit too long, but it does the job it sets out to do and if this is your kind of film, you’ll probably be glad you paid for your ticket and had long enough to chew through that jumbo popcorn you ordered.