June 26, 2014 2:44 pm

What the critics are saying: ‘Transformers: Age of Extinction’

TORONTO — Director Michael Bay blasts back into theatres with Transformers: Age of Extinction, the fourth movie in the franchise and the first without leading man Shia LaBeouf.

Set four years after the battle between Autobots and Decepticons, the movie stars Mark Wahlberg and Nicola Peltz as a father and daughter who discover an old semi-truck is actually an injured Optimus Prime.

Jack Reynor plays the boyfriend of Peltz’s character and Stanley Tucci portrays the head of a technology company that wants to make its own Transformers.

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Is Transformers: Age of Extinction an exciting summer thrill ride or an enormous Decepti-yawn? Here’s a look at what some reviewers thought.

Stephen Whitty of New Jersey’s Star-Ledger complained about the running time of Age of Extinction.

“One-hundred-and-sixty-five minutes. Think about that,” he wrote. “You could watch 2001 and still have four minutes left over. You could watch Gravity, twice, if you skipped the credits. You could probably read Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot, cover to cover.

“Any one would be a better choice than spending two-and-three-quarter hours with Transformers: Age of Extinction.”

Whitty added: “Just when you think the whole movie is ready to wrap up — giant spaceship, heroes fighting back in a blur, some male-bonding between Wahlberg and his daughter’s stupid boyfriend — you realize, with horror, there’s still another hour to go.”

At Forbes, Mark Hughes recommended movie-goers see Age of Extinction in 3D.

“Before you enter the theatre, ask to speak to the manager, and tell them to turn the light up on the projector because the dimming effect on 3D movies is unacceptable and largely due to theatres refusing to set the light to full brightness,” wrote Hughes.

“If you’re going to spend 2 hours and 45 minutes watching Transformers, do it right.”

READ MORE: What the critics are saying about other recent movies

Hughes described the visual effects and action sequences as “outstanding” but found fault with the story and characters.

“Despite Wahlberg’s charm, the writing ultimately doesn’t give him much to work with,” he wrote. “He’s a robotics expert with a home full of unique robots capable of all manner of tasks, but halfway through the film he just becomes a regular action hero, and the potential story bonus of having a robotics expert and builder as the lead human character is utterly lost.”

Alonso Duralde of The Wrap seemed to echo these complaints.

“The battling, metallic heroes have never looked better, but Michael Bay’s choppy, dissonant storytelling methods remain as audience-punishing as ever,” he opined.

Age of Extinction lasts a posterior-punishing 165 minutes, which is a lot of time to spend watching Wahlberg give his most embarrassing performance since The Happening, Peltz becoming another in the franchise’s series of pneumatic sex-doll heroines, and Stanley Tucci as a Steve Jobs type who yells things like ‘Algorithms! Math!’ at his underlings.”

Duralde also noted the film’s “macho posturing, casual racism and sexism.”

At the Sydney Morning Herald, Jake Wilson praised Age of Extinction for not having “the charisma-free Shia LaBeouf as lead human.”

But, he wrote, “otherwise this is the same Transformers movie as all the others.”

The Hollywood Reporter‘s Clarence Tsui called the fourth chapter “a marked improvement” over the previous two.

“But the bloat of this latest entry — at 165 minutes, the longest of the lot — suggests that Michael Bay and his team are struggling to rejuvenate the whole premise,” he wrote.

“Transformers: Age of Extinction isn’t the breath of fresh air vitally needed by an aging franchise.”

Tsui called the movie “dull and middling.”

He wrote: “What is extinguished is the audience’s consciousness after being bombarded for nearly three hours with overwrought emotions, bad one-liners and battles that rarely rise above the banal. A trio of editors make a technical marvel out of the fight scenes, but can do little to link the story’s multiple threads into something coherent.”

READ MORE: Transformers stars Jack Reynor, Nicola Peltz talk about the movie

William Bibbiani of Crave Online said Age of Extinction isn’t a movie but a marathon.

“How do you gauge the dramatic successes and failures of running non-stop for two hours, only to be picked back up again and forced run for yet another hour just because you haven’t seen the robot dinosaurs yet?”

Bibbiani added: “Like the rest of the Transformers movies, Age of Extinction is a run-on sentence, full of contradictions, casual racism and product placement. It has no ambition other than to beat you down until you’re so senseless you’re willing to accept anything it tells you, even if it says something completely ludicrous like ‘This movie is good’ or ‘Mark Wahlberg is a 35-year-old.'”

Still, he said fans of Transformers will be satisfied.

“They will get what they came for. They will emerge sweaty and parched and slightly queasy but they will probably come back for more,” he wrote.

At the New York Daily News, Joe Neumaier also referenced the target audience.

“If you’re not an 11-year-old boy, or a grown-up in the mood to feel like one, the endless ‘wow!-that-car-is-now-a-deep-voiced-robot’ scenes lack thrill,” Neumaier opined. “In fact, they action scenes, as in the previous films, are downright headache-inducing.”

He added: “It’s that kind of brain strain that, if one isn’t already a kid or a fan, puts the stink in Extinction.”

© Shaw Media, 2014

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