Tuesday, 8 July 2014



Well, it's better than Transformers 3, but that's scarcely a measure of quality: you might as well say it's better than being mugged or falling off a building. Hurrah for reversing the downward trend of probably the most idiotic and undeserving billion-dollar franchise there has ever been (until someone makes a three-hour action spectacular about the Microsoft Office Paperclip), but there's still a long and painful uphill climb before Michael Bay and his battalions of CGI bods will achieve the relative heights of barely passable mediocrity. This latest instalment of the kiddies' toy commercial is insanely long at 166 minutes, deafeningly loud and practically incomprehensible, not to mention incredibly dull. For all the spectacular destruction, filmed with Bay's usual throbbing hard-on for things blowing up and cars crashing and buildings falling down and giant metal things beating the crap out of one another, the actual narrative makes no sense and the few vaguely human moments in between stompy thudbot fights play as excerpts from a particularly terrible teenage soap opera.

Sixty five million years ago, the alien robots came to Earth and wiped out the dinosaurs by seeding the planet with a terraforming gizmo that turned swathes of our planet into the material the Transformers are built from. Now, billionaire robotics tycoon Stanley Tucci and demented CIA Black Ops chief Kelsey Grammer have made a deal with an alien bounty hunter for a seeding device of their own (which they can detonate in the wastelands of Mongolia and create all the "Transformium" they need to build an army of new, better and more powerful Transformers) in exchange for the Autobot leader Optimus Prime. Prime has turned back into a truck and stayed hidden in a derelict Texas cinema for the last five years; he's found, bought and reactivated by wacky inventor Mark Wahlberg....

The best moment in Transformers: Age Of Extinction comes when Wahlberg, hot jailbait daughter Nicola Peltz (the character may be seventeen, but the actress is nineteen, so start your engines, guys) and her colourless boyfriend Jack Reynor are all clambering down the anchor cables where the surviving Autobots have attached a spaceship to the roof of a Chicago tower block (for reasons too idiotically contrived to bother with here). Not because it's a magnificent piece of FX technology; rather it's because it looks so stunningly fake in the midst of all the ultra-hi-def photorealistic CGI mayhem with which the film is constantly exploding. All I could think of during this sequence was Roger Moore and Tanya Roberts pretending to cling on to the Golden Gate Bridge at the end of A View To A Kill, a sequence that looked more than a bit rubbish thirty years ago.

All of this is put together with Bay's expected level of subtlety: precisely zero. Rather it indulges his orgasmic love of destruction, chaos and huge metal things smashing into each other that he couldn't really squeeze into the repugnantly stupid Pain And Gain, so it's like he's making up for lost ground. Chunks of a Texas town get trashed, chunks of Chicago get trashed again, chunks of Hong Kong get trashed, and in addition to the Autobot stomping there are now giant robot flying dragons as well; the alien spaceship sucks up ships and trucks with its anti-gravity thing and tried to kill Mark Wahlberg by dropping them on his head. There are car crashes and spaceship crashes and buildings collapsing and robot fights and robot explosions and so much stuff happening all over the frame that the human eye simply can't take it all in, never mind the human brain. Let's not start to wonder about the poor sods in all the cars that get thrown into the air, in the skyscrapers repeatedly thudded into, in the houses flattened by falling battleships. Who gives a toss about them when it looks so damn cool?

It doesn't matter hugely that Shia La Boeuf, a cardboard cut-out of a twerp, isn't in the Transformers films any more. The amount of actual human activity is barely discernible even when the giant smashbots aren't on screen and even the greatest actors of the age wouldn't manage to make themselves heard over the constant kabooming din. But humanity is a secondary consideration in the Transformers universe: it's about robots turning into trucks, helicopters, cars, photocopiers (presumably) and jet fighters and lamping one another in densely populated areas. At ridiculous length and at full volume. Goodness only knows what it's like in IMAX 3D: I settled for a normal 2D multiplex screening and that was quite staggeringly dull enough, thank you. There's already a Transformers 5 on the IMDb.


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