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July 3rd, 2014

Transformers: Age of Extinction

Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Nicola Peltz, Jack Reynor, Stanley Tucci, Bingbing Li, Kelsey Grammer, Sophia Myles, Peter Cullen, Frank Welker, John Goodman, Ken Watanabe, Robert Foxworth, Mark Ryan, and more.

Directed by: Michael Bay Written by: Ehren Kruger Cinematography by: Amir Mokri Music by: Steve Jablonsky

Premise: Five years after the battle in Chicago, both Decepticons and Autobots find themselves being hunted down by the humans. Unbeknownst to them, there's an alien helping the humans. One who wants nothing more than to get his hands on Optimus Prime. Yet it is Cade Yeager who finds the leader of the Autobots. And when a well meaning friend rats them out to the CIA, Yeager and his daughter are forced to flee for their lives, with Optimus lending them protection. The group goes forth trying to find answers. (Rated PG-13)

Review:

1) Acting - Thumbs Up: Mark Wahlberg, Nicola Peltz, and Jack Reynor have some decent dynamics to play with in the film. Stanley Tucci was perfect for the high roller business man, but the comedy bits they tacked on to him later on did not fare as well. While Kelsey Grammer's performance was great, his character still didn't quite make sense aside from the usual cutout of the corrupt, unhappy CIA agent. Bingbing Li was a lot of fun, but underused.

2) Special Effects - Total Thumbs Up: Towards the end of the film there is a ton of combat, and it looked great. The giant ship, the magnet and the effects on the cars, ships, and Transformers were pretty spectacular. The explosions, missiles, collisions and more, were well done. They were stingy at first about showing the transformations, but once Optimus was active again, we got plenty.

The meshing of scenes with the live actors and the CGI ran incredibly smooth for the most part. The fire breathing tyrannosaurus rex was worth the wait. I have to say, however, that the new morphing for the improved Transformers was very cool, but later jarred because though they kept saying the metal had the ability to transform into just about anything, they still kept the new bots to only changing into humanoid and vehicle forms.

Best sequence of the film was the beginning one, back in prehistoric times. The bird like dinosaur was adorable and made for a really nice POV character. What the seed did there was amazing in its brutality and a cool piece of work.

3) Plot/Story - Neutral: The script was very character heavy, and a lot of them seemed to have been shoved in there with no real background or need, other than convenient for explanations or getaways. Worse, they tried to add bits of comedy here and there, and for the most part, they fell flat.

The overprotective father routine was cute at first, but they dragged it along bringing it up a few too many times. It would have also worked better if Cade had initially done more to help Optimus wake up than just connecting him to a car battery. Since the man's dream had been to invent something, it would have been nice to see something he'd thought of that ended up making the difference with bringing Optimus back, but alas...

A lot of the science was looser than usual. Interstellar drives normally aren't used in atmosphere because they tend to mess it up. When the bad bot's ship left the first time, it never even caused a ripple. Kinetic energy was pretty much ignored multiple times as the humans were thrown into the air, the Autobots transforming around them and catching them mid leap or fall. The falling glass alone would have cut the humans into ribbons.

Also, while most of us can suspend disbelief about the Transformers shifting into human vehicles to stay hidden, they took things too far with a couple of the characters. Hound and Drift in their normal shapes were a bearded, cigar smoking, sergeant and a samurai warrior - but they are aliens! They've lived for hundreds of years, so why would they have been made to resemble a sergeant and a samurai? It made no sense at all.

Worse, one of the Autobots in the film is a trouble causing semi-coward, and the rest suffered from infantile infighting. And when they find a weird space creature being kept as a prisoner in the giant ship? Hound kills it because it's ugly. What message are they trying to impart here?

There was also information they sprinkled here and there but never with enough substance to ground the viewer. It was enough to confuse and make us feel like we were missing something though. And they never do tell or show what happened to the giant ship!

There were no real surprises in the script. This plot line has been done over and over. There was little that was unexpected or something to get excited about.

4) Stunts - Total Thumbs Up: Lots of combat scenes, explosions, gun play, and buildings being destroyed. Tons of pedestrians having to jump out of the way of speeding cars, falling busses, buildings, fishing boats and all manner of things. Nice work there.

5) Locations/Cinematography - Total Thumbs Up: Lots of varied locations which gave the film a broad feel. Texas didn't exactly look like Texas, but they did film there. The Blue Cross Blue Shield offices in Illinois made for a neat venue to represent the offices of KSI. Even better were all the shots in China taking us from opulent offices and laboratories to the common streets and buildings.

Lots of lovely shots of the horizon with the sun setting. The Monument Valley shots were nice as well.

Conclusion: "Transformers: Age of Extinction" was overall somewhat disappointing. It looked good, but we didn't see anything new. The plot was typical with no surprises. Lots of two dimensional or convenient characters.

Rating: 3 out of 5 (Hubby's Rating: Better For Matinee)

Gloria Oliver
Unveiling the Fantastic
www.gloriaoliver.com

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Info, sample chapters, and free reads at www.gloriaoliver.com

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