by Sam Robinson
Rated M. Starring Mark Wahlberg, Stanley Tucci, Kelsey Grammer.
You know how in almost every town there’s a local takeaway store that’s been there for years? It might not serve great food, but people keep going back for more anyway. Well imagine one day (as often happens) a big banner appears out the front stating ‘Under New Management’. The town rejoices with high hopes that there’s been an overhaul, and flocks in, but it turns out the food is just the same in a new wrapper.
This is pretty much Transformers: Age of Extinction in a nutshell.
The Transformers franchise has been around for seven years now, and the sequels so far have been bland, despite consistently raking in mega-cash at the box office.
Now fourth instalment Age of Extinction has arrived and boasts something new – an entirely new human cast. Shia LaBeouf has exited and Marky Mark Wahlberg has taken the lead. To me, this piqued my interest. Could this be the makeover the Transformers franchise needed?
Unfortunately, it’s not. And the reason why is that Michael Bay is still at the helm. New wrapper, same old director. Transformers is far from being under new management. The poor scripting is still there. The lens flare is still there. The lengthy destruction scenes are still there. The token young, attractive female is still there. And the ‘this should have ended hours ago’ feelings are still there. While an opportunity for a reboot of sorts existed, this has been declined for more Bayhem and more box office-pleasing banality.
The action of Extinction takes place five years after the last instalment, Dark of the Moon, where Chicago was destroyed in one of those lengthy destruction scenes I mentioned earlier. The Autobots went into hiding and the government decided that all Transformers are evil and must be hunted down.
‘It’s not their planet. It’s time we take it back.’
Enter Cade Yeager (Wahlberg), a single dad and poor inventor who finds an old truck he wants to salvage until it’s revealed that it’s a snoozing Optimus Prime. Before too long Yeager, his daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz) and her boyfriend Jack (Shane Dyason) are caught up with the Autobots as they defend the human race from extinction. This time around though the enemy threat isn’t really the Decepticons, but humans who have managed to develop a genome that can create Transformers who are bigger and better but transform without the cool effects that we love to watch. Which is a shame.
The film is majorly let down by the script. Clearly these films are more about the visuals and effects (which are excellent) but everytime I see a Transformers film I just wish they would put some effort into the dialogue. Wahlberg’s lines are restricted to protective father quips, the excellent Kelsey Grammer is restricted to cliches and angry phone throwing, and product placement is rife. The majority of the film takes place in the US but shifts to Hong Kong in the closing act for no real good reason. The best part of this movie is seeing Optimus Prime riding a Dinobot, which as cool as it is, we saw in the trailer anyway.
‘We’re humans. It’s what we do. We make mistakes.’
Extinction does say a lot about humanity. It constantly depicts us as these feeble beings – especially compared to the size of the robots running around – but also beings that are capable of causing great harm. It’s humans that primarily spark the chaos in this film, as they create their own evil Transformers. And when the great saviour Optimus Prime comes along to save the day, you sense a real disdain for having to help the race that caused themselves the trouble in the first place. It takes Yeager to convince Optimus that he needs to help us:
‘You gotta have faith, Prime! In what we can be!’
There’s a lot of truth in this reflection on the state of humanity. We do need a saviour. Our world is a mess, and it’s because of our sinful nature. We all cause hurt, harm and chaos – even if we’re not a corrupt federal agent or a greedy squillionaire. We all need someone to save us from ourselves. Someone who won’t roll their eyes, but lay down their life willingly. We need Jesus. John 15:13 –
Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
Jesus laid down his life for us because he loved us. He could easily have ignored the state of humanity in their sin and looked after himself, but he chose to become one of us, and endure the cross and die. All to save those who put their trust in him. Jesus is the real saviour.
There’s no doubt that this is the sort of film that teenage boys obviously lap up, and because the formula will always do well at the box office we can expect more of this to come in future. I just wish that someone other than Michael Bay would get a go at directing, and we could see something new. And not just Optimus riding a Dinobot. I’m giving Transformers: Age of Extinction two out of five stars.
Transformers: Age of Extinction is released in the US this Friday, 27th June, and in the UK on Thursday, 10th July. It is screening now in Australia.