Sunday, September 28, 2014

Video review: "Transformers: Age of Extinction"

For the record, I haven’t liked any of the “Transformers” movies. I was a little too old for the 1980s television show, but I’ve caught up with it since and wasn’t impressed. None of the more recent TV spinoffs, either. In fact, it’s probably fair to say that I’m a Transformer-hater. In my view, they’re less than meets the eye.

Mainly, it’s because I just don’t understand them. They’re supposed to be an ancient race of sentient robots who can change shapes … so why would they change into things like trucks and jets, which wouldn’t even be invented for millennia?

The fact that the entire enterprise was just a marketing ploy for a line of Japanese toys doesn’t help; the whole thing is the result of a mercenary, rather than creative, impulse.

So here is the fourth movie, “Transformers: Age of Extinction,” from director Michael Bay. All of the original cast is gone, notably Shia Labeouf, replaced by Mark Wahlberg as an obsessive inventor who stays up nights working on gadgets but somehow remembers to lift weights so he looks good in a tight T-shirt.

He buys an old semi-tractor trailer truck to fix up, and lo and behold, it’s actually Optimus Prime (voice of Peter Cullen), leader of the good Autobots, who are now few and scattered. It seems a couple of human bad guys (Stanley Tucci and Kelsey Grammer) are using the metal remains of the dead transformers to create an army of new ones, so they need to be smashed up.

There’s also a nefarious transformer bounty hunter, who’s after Optimus so he can use his head for some familiarly murky end-of-the-world type nonsense.

The computer generated robots look better than they ever have, especially the action scenes, which have been slowed down enough for the eye to track. The characters and plot, though, are mere afterthoughts – oftentimes the movie seems like an unrelated string of action scenes.

This fourth Transformers flick – reportedly not the last – isn’t the worst of the bunch. But the franchise has yet to learn how to take on the shape of quality filmmaking.

The movie comes with a host of video extras, though you’ll have to shell out for the Blu-ray combo pack to get them – the DVD version comes with exactly nothing.

The centerpieces are an extensive interview with Bay on his approach to action movies, and “Evolution Within Extinction,” a comprehensive making-of documentary touching on all aspects of the production, with a heavy emphasis on the CG creation of the transformers.

There are also a handful of other featurettes, and an Angry Birds video game tie-in.

Movie: D
Extras: B-plus

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