Movie review: Money, not talent, drives fourth ‘Transformers’ movie
Don't hate "Transformers: Age of Extinction" because it makes no sense, or because it's ridiculously loud, or because it pummels you with chaotic special effects, or because it jams product placement down your throat, or because its characters are one-dimensional cliches.
Don't hate it for those reasons because it's a Michael Bay movie, and he seemingly can't help himself.
Hate it, rather, because in spite of being all those things, it's hopelessly boring.
The fourth installment of the science-fiction series, based on the Hasbro robot toy line, begins in an America where the Transformers are declared alien terrorists. Because of that, the CIA — represented by black-ops baddie Harold Attinger (Kelsey Grammer) — is hunting them down.
At the same time, Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg), a DIY inventor in Texas, comes upon a junked semi truck — and soon realizes it's really a Transformer. And not just any Transformer, but the leader of the fugitive good-guy Autobots, Optimus Prime (voiced, as always, by Peter Cullen).
The CIA also realizes it, and soon Cade and Optimus are on the run, with Cade's 17-year-old daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz) and Tessa's race-car driving boyfriend Shane (Jack Reynor). (Shane is 20, and the fact that the movie takes time from the action to explain the law that allows Shane to date a 17-year-old — which he carries on a laminated card — is just one of the forehead-slapping moments in Ehren Kruger's idiotic script.)
While Optimus goes to Monument Valley to reassemble the last remaining Autobots, Attinger follows up on the nasty deals he's made to defeat the Transformers. One is with Joshua Joyce (Stanley Tucci), a Steve Jobs-like tech tycoon who's trying to crack the Transformers' secret for living metal. Another is with Lockdown (voiced by Mark Ryan), an alien Transformer bounty hunter who wants to take Optimus Prime prisoner.
This alleged plot is, of course, immaterial to Bay's main ambition: throwing together massive action sequences where logic flies out the window while debris flies everywhere. Soon Cade, Tessa and Shane are along for the ride while Transformers battle over Chicago (the same place they destroyed in the last movie), and rescuing Joyce from his Beijing factory.
The one thing that holds the movie together — when the one-note characters and the nonsensical storyline fail — is the string of product placement. Shane races for Red Bull, Cade crashes a spaceship into a Bud Light truck (and then opens a bottle), a Chinese motorist wears Gucci sunglasses, an evil Decepticon crashes into a Hong Kong bus advertising Victoria's Secret, and so on.
The movie's economics extend to the fact that the last 45 minutes take place in Beijing and Hong Kong, part of Paramount Pictures' effort to appeal to the growing Chinese market — which includes product placement of Chinese brands, and a co-starring role for Chinese star Bingbing Li.
Because of such considerations, it's easy to look at "Transformers: Age of Extinction" not as a movie, but as a quarterly statement — the by-product of a lucrative business deal. And like a corporate report, you wouldn't want to sit through it for nearly three hours.