Transformers: Age of Extinction is such a mixed bag. It has amazing action sequences, an ambitious storyline, a nearly 3 hour runtime, and the most gratuitous product placement. Just like fast food, the movie is processed yet tasty, with little nutritional value. We know it's bad, but we enjoy it anyway.
With a 17% rating from critics and a 73% from the audience on Rotten Tomatoes, the film deserves both scores. It is far from high art and is very much high commerce. If you enjoyed any of the first 3 Transformers films, odds are you will enjoy this new one.
The rest of my review is going to have some very minor spoilers. I'll try to minimize how much I reveal, but to properly explain what I think worked and what didn't, I feel it's necessary.
Very Minor Spoilers Ahead
The darkest and most ambitious story. A human dark ops team inside the CIA is hunting all Transformers, Autobot or Decepticons, for their raw materials. This betrayal is very interesting and should have been the main storyline. What the film's ending sets up, if they follow through, will be the movie fans have been waiting four films to see.
So bloated the film could have lost about 45min and been a much better film. There is a third party at play, another Transformer named Lockdown (the one with the giant ship). He is a bounty hunter... and he's vague... and completely unnecessary.
Characters and Actors
Mark Wahlberg is Cade Yeager, a likable father/inventor from the Boston accent part of Texas. His daughter, Tessa Yeager, is a broadly drawn character, but actress Nicola Peltz does a good job of making the family dynamic work. Jack Reynor as Shane Dyson is fairly charming and understated. I'd say he's the exact opposite of Sam Witwicky. Stanley Tucci does really well given the lines and material he's given.
Lockdown had nothing to add other than extra uninteresting action sequences. John Goodman as Hound and Ken Watanabe as Drift are given such terrible dialogue based on human stereotypes that you will wonder how they are alien robots. I love Titus Welliver, but the focus his character is given adds nothing to the movie. Kelsey Grammer is a believable villain but the danger wrought by his character is completely undercut by Lockdown's presence; he becomes all bark and no bite.
Action and Effects
It's a Michael Bay film — the action is fluid, full of explosions, and layered. I saw the movie in IMAX 3D, and Bay makes full use of the format. I really like the new Optimus Prime and Bumblebee designs and the cars they transform into. ILM knows how to make amazing robots.
Without revealing too much, there is a new type of Transformer, and how they look when transforming looks so weird that it pulls you out of the reality of the film.
Man of Steel had product placement that felt very natural compared to how garishly it's done in Age of Extinction. At the end of the day, the movie should help move more Transformer toys.
The B-word and F-word were landed more times than I think a movie with a PG-13 rating should. The target demo for the toys, ages 5-10, is likely too young to watch this movie.
The movie had an ambitious storyline that was muddled with too many characters, which ultimately made the movie bloated. The action and effects were great, but a new transformation effect almost shatters the suspension of disbelief. The amount of product placement was insane. I can only recommend this movie to people who enjoyed the earlier films.
GeekTyrant Score: 5/10
The best part of Transformers: Age of Extinction is that it seems to setup an off-Earth movie, with Optimus Prime taking the fight to the "people" who sent the bounty hunter Lockdown. The possibility of a 100% human-free movie is what fans have been waiting for.