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Film reviews

Michael 'box office' Bay lays another dud


July 11, 2014

by Mark Walker

Surprise surprise folks, Transformers 4 has finally bucked the trend. 

After three diabolically bloated CGI fests, featuring oddly sentimental and weakly humoured shape-shifting robots, Michael Bay has delivered a fourth film that is not as bad as the previous entries. No, it’s somehow worse than all of them combined. 

To the writers’ credit, at least there is an attempt to ground the action in characters that we might have a hope of caring about. 

Shouty Shia La Beouf has been replaced by mouthy Mark Wahlberg. It’s a good call. He’s not nearly as annoying as Shia La Beouf and he’s a seasoned screen presence with the kind of gravitas needed to keep all of this twattery in orbit. 

Misleading start

Admittedly, he’s thoroughly unconvincing as a hobbyist roboticist/inventor, but we’ll let that pass since he’s easily the best thing to happen to the Transformers franchise in four films.Furthering the improvements, eye candy Rosie Huntington-Whiteley has been replaced by a new starlet (Peltz) who can actually walk and speak at the same time. 

In fact, 45 minutes in, I started to optimistically speculate: maybe Bay had pulled it off this time. 

Welcome to cinema hell

Maybe this giant, overblown, gaudy toy commercial would have just enough of an emotional thread – the bond between a muscular, widowed father and his pouty, heart-of-gold teenage daughter (I generously tried to ignore the fact that newcomer Peltz is a Britney Spears clone and her bum is photographed way more than her face) – to carry an audience through this scrappy narrative. 

In fairness, this did get me through the first 45 minutes, at which point I realised, with great anxiety, that there was still another 120 minutes left. If there is a cinema hell, this is it.

Familiarly convoluted plot

The story once again deals with giant alien robots who are capable of disguising themselves as various vehicles. 

So, as far as I can remember, the plot was something about evil robots, who during a pre-history prologue turned dinosaurs into metal and then something about the CIA hunting down Optimus Prime (voiced by Cullen) – the exiled leader of the good robots – to use him and his alien technology for their own twisted 

Cade Yeager (Walberg) happens across Optimus Prime, in truck form, and the pair help each other’s respective ‘families’ evade a special CIA unit led by Kelsey Grammar – and a morally suspect tech-corporation, the CEO of which is played by veteran character-actor Stanley Tucci – as they navigate through various locales such as Texas, low-orbit space and Hong Kong. 

The film isn’t shy about its deliberate courting of the ever-lucrative Chinese box office with several Chinese stars and much of the latter half being set there. 

Big budget, small brain

In principle, I have little problem with this – Looper (2012) is an excellent little sci-fi film that attempted the same trick. It’s only a shame that Hollywood can’t cater imaginatively to Chinese audiences with brains to match their bulging budgets.

If incoherence is your bag – and listening to nonsensical claptrap about Megatron and Galvatron floats your boat – then by all means, go and have your arse numbed to extinction. The most memorable moments are the jarring appearances of endless product placements – but then again, that’s probably the whole point.

Transformers Age of Extinction

1/6 stars

Dir: Michael Bay; US sci-fi/action, 2014, 165 mins

Mark Wahlberg, Stanley Tucci, Kelsey Grammer, Li Bingbing, Peter Cullen, Nicola Peltz

Premiered 10 July
Playing nationwide