Michael Bay must thinks he’s some kind of a Geppetto and Blue Fairy combo who can turn a toy into a real boy (or bot). But if Pinocchio’s nose became longer every time he lied, Bay’s unleashed a long line of films by manufacturing one noisy extravaganza after another around a series of fancy car cum figurines out to save mankind. What’s crazier is how much wealth these silly excuses to sell more Hasbro toys have accumulated.
To be fair, the first Transformers movie was rather enjoyable. Bay took the puerility on face value and delivered a zesty battle between good versus evil, signified by the warring alien robots Autobots and Decepticons respectively.
What made it engaging is a socially inept teenager’s (Shia LaBeouf) link to the fracas as well as how they unravel from unsuspecting machinery into towering metal warriors. But its sequels — Revenge of the Fallen and Dark of the Moon — are so brazen about their intentions — box-office; it’s hard to assess a business model like a product of cinema.
Is Bay’s fourth film in the Transformers series — Age of Extinction any better?
What? Can’t hear you? Can you repeat that please?
Yep, that’s the aftereffects of Age of Extinction. In this relentless clang-clang of metallic scrap and flying bullets, where there are more explosions than an entire day’s production of popcorn at a multiplex, there’s a strong possibility that you may experience some difficulty in hearing even the voices of your much-assaulted, still recovering head.
While sound and stupidity dominate the final one and a half hour of this 165 minutes-long ordeal, sluggishness and stupidity dictates the first half. The pacing of Age of Extinction is like a prom party in the reverse where slow songs go first and dance music wraps it up.
And so, out of gimmicks and novelty (the ‘transforming’ bit is old hat now), in a summer heaving with blockbuster vehicles selling every version of ‘meta,’ Bay tries to do something he’s not done in a while — write — a plot about the reemergence of Autobots led by their heroic leader Optimus Prime (voice of Peter Cullen) around troublemaking intelligence agents (Kelsey Grammer), a conceited scientist faintly modeled around Steve Jobs (Stanley Tucci), a malicious Decepticon named Lockdown (Mark Ryan), his badass spaceship, some missile-like seed they’re all after and a faltering Texas mechanic (Mark Wahlberg), his rebellious teenage daughter (Nicola Peltz) and a boyfriend (Jack Reynor) he doesn’t approve of. Wahlberg is basically playing Bruce Willis with half the snark/charm and one-take involvement in his role.
The upshot is outdated filming cramming in every conceivable cliché where characters blabber lines like, “My face is my warrant” and “I am not here to help you get your daughter, I am here to help you help me save my girlfriend,” or some such drivel.
And that’s where praise for Tucci and Grammer comes in, they play out the cheesy, wicked tone of their characters exactly in the vein it’s meant to exist and perk up the scenes with some B-glee in complete contrast to the yawn-inducing stiffness dampening the father-daughter-boyfriend chemistry.
For all its attempts to shove an X-Men: Days of Future Past brand of extreme philosophy under the pretext of human rescue, Age of Extinction’s overpowering dimwittedness – women who look they jumped out of a Grazia spread — overrules it completely. Buildings collapse, machinery comes apart, bombs are ticked off, relentless devastation, car chases and alien abduction ensue but Wahlberg’s daughter wears disaster-proof make-up, her lipstick NEVER wears off.
What’s good, as always, are the cars and the sleek CGI but it’s so excessive, it’s gaudy, really. It gets to a point, like the China set piece (oh yes, regional chestnuts too), where every solitary thing –cars, people, trains, bridges, buildings are tossed mid-air and bang against each other amidst maddening levels of mindless blasts, needless fireworks, indistinct Autobot chatter (all I could understand was some threatening yang yang) and, believe it or not, noodles, lots and lots of noodles.
Even a five-year old would show a little more restraint with his toys than Bay does with visual kinetics.
Moreover, <spoiler alert> for folks who haven’t watched the promos, those massive dinobots we saw in the trailer, which led me to hope of improvement, well let’s just say, there’s more of Katrina Kaif in Agneepath than these guys in Transformers 4. <end of spoiler alert>
Given the unexplainable draw the Transformers brand has, I won’t be surprised if this one works too. But nearly three hours divided in yawns and headache prompts me to repeat what Optimus Prime says in the end, “Leave Planet Earth alone.”
You hear that, Bay?
This review was first published on rediff.com.