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Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Transformers: Age of Extinction

This time, Michael Bay delivers a boring spectacle

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Director Michael Bay, known for blockbusters, regularly churns out Transformer films that net enormous worldwide sales. This time, the film’s awkward script and inferior dialog burden the sharply detailed CGI effects that sometimes transfix.

At three hours long, the film is a grueling marathon. It’s a rare achievement to spend this much money creating this much spectacle, only to bore viewers to distraction.

The franchise, based on the Hasbro toy that has amused young and not-so-young boys since 1984, is comprised of robot warriors that can be transformed into trucks and muscle cars. The toys, reshaped by refolding and reconfiguring their parts, were invented in Japan. That makes sense since transforming them seems based on principles of origami. American company Hasbro bought the toy line and proceeded to do what Americans do best—market the heck out of it.

The Transformers are extraterrestrial aliens that come to Earth for battles with one another. Decepticon Transformers are hell bent on wiping out the Autobots, or good Transformers, and would happily dispense with mankind. Fortunately for us, during the past three films, the Autobots have defeated the Decepticons. Hint: You can identify Autobots because they transform into the cars and trucks favored by high school teens.

In this fourth installment, some nasty bureaucratic types decide that all Transformers must be destroyed, including the protective Autobots. Kelsey Grammer appears as the government official in charge of overseeing this destruction, while Stanley Tucci plays the CEO of a company receiving the lucrative government contract.

With only a handful of Autobots remaining, it’s good that one of them is Autobot leader Optimus Prime, and that he has hidden out in the guise of a rusty, inoperable freight truck. Purchased for $150 by inventor/mechanic Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg), Optimus’ faith in humanity is restored when Yeager risks his own life to repair and protect the Autobot.

The script, penned by Ehren Kruger, casts Yeager as a politically correct redneck running his repair service and inventing gizmos out of his barn. Yeager, who loves tinkering but is mystified by business, is equally clueless about the activities of his pretty daughter, 17-year-old Tessa (Nicola Peltz). Playing Tessa’s boyfriend, Shane, Jack Reynor fills the young-buck shoes vacated by Shia LeBeouf.

The first two hours of the film are peppered with action sequences tenuously connected within its loose plot. Shaky as this construction is, it improves over the final 40 minutes. While choreographing an endless Transformers battle during which many skyscrapers are smashed does sound intriguing, in practice the monochromatic metal-on-metal action becomes tiresome after 10 minutes. That leaves 30 minutes of more of the same, and me wishing the movie would transform itself into practically any other movie.