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Sunday, July 6, 2014

Movie Review - Transformers: Age of Extinction

Just when you thought the Transformers franchise had come to an end with Dark of the Moon (2011), the master of slow-motion explosions, director Michael Bay, returns with Transformers: Age of Extinction! Longer, darker and with even bigger Transformers than ever seen before, Age of Extinction is the fourth in the franchise of Transformers movies which began in 2007. With the trilogy ended, so did the involvement of actor Shia LeBeouf, who starred as Sam Witwicky in the first three Transformers movies. Age of Extinction takes place several years after the events of Dark of the Moon, dubbed the "Battle of Chicago", where the Transformers have now become public knowledge and are now feared and hunted down by the government. Particularly one Black Ops team known as KSI, led by CIA Agent Harold Attinger (Kelsey Grammer), is in charge of destroying both Autobots and Decepticons, having allied themselves with a group of ruthless Transformer bounty-hunters led by Lockdown (voiced by Mark Ryan). Along with the government's involvement, a wealthy techno-industrialist Joshua Joyce's (Stanley Tucci) company is developing their own Transformers reverse-engineered from the captured remnants of the Transformers to build Stinger and Galvatron (voiced by Frank Welker)! Meanwhile, in rural Texas, Cade Yaeger (Mark Wahlberg), an unemployed salvager and robotics inventor has found what is left of Optimus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen) after a battle which left him nonfunctional. As Cade tries to repair Optimus, the government becomes aware of Optimus' location and send the Black Ops team to destroy him. Now Cade, his daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz), and her boyfriend Jack (Shane Dyson) are on the run with Optimus to try and find what is left of the Autobots and stop Lockdown!
Along with Autobot favorite Bumblebee, there a few new additions to the Transformers roster including original G1 favorite Hound (voiced by John Goodman), the samurai-bot Drift (voiced by Ken Watanabe) and Crosshairs (voiced by John DiMaggio) not to mention this movies biggest surprise is the inclusion of the Dinobots, (fan-favorites from the cartoon/toys) including Grimlock! Despite all the violence, explosions, exotic locations (Hong Kong) and all-out Autobot-action, this movie seemed to be a much more satisfying successor to the last few Transformers movies, especially the disappointing sequel Revenge of the Fallen (2009). Aside from the obvious improvements, this movie however has a very ominous and darker tone than the other movies some of the humor that pervades the movies is lessened somewhat in favor of a much grittier feel as the Transformers, particularly the Autobots were regarded as heros in the others, now they are fugitives! Even Optimus Prime, whose character has always been the honorable, stalwart protector has been defeated both physically and in spirit that he has become an angry killer, bent on revenge for his fallen comrades. The dark/violent atmosphere is present in the more-violent battles, and the surprising repetition of lines like "I'm going to kill you!" and "Die!" from Optimus himself! While it is understandable how Optimus must feel after the literal genocide of his Autobot allies, it is to some extreme how his character has changed drastically. As for fan-service the inclusion of the Dinobots (which I myself have been looking forward to seeing ever since the trailer: Optimus riding Grimlock! Awesome!) is very satisfying as well as the inclusion of celebrity voices like John Goodman and Ken Watanabe in the cast. The biggest surprise was the return of famous voice actor Frank Welker to the Transformers cast who was the voice of Megatron in the cartoons (in the last three movies Megatron was voiced by actor Hugo Weaving) now as Galvatron, ironically played by Leonard Nimoy in the 1986 animated movie, who voiced in Sentinel Prime in Dark of the Moon. While I am pleased to no longer have to see Shia's hyperactive screaming on screen I was not too excited to have Marky Mark be the new human star of the Transformers franchise for his former failures in movies like Planet of the Apes (2001), The Happening and Ted, he has more popular screen credits than Shia anyway. Overall Age of Extinction is an impressive, action-packed, special-effects nightmare, thrill ride! As a fan of the Transformers since my childhood in the 80's I can see these movies not as the over-budgeted, CGI-crazy blockbusters that they are and relish in the pure fun and excitement that my inner child and adult self can enjoy and have fun watching them.I still smile every time I see a Transformer transform, and I cheer quietly to myself when I see Optimus defeat a Decepticon. While the success of these films may vary from movie to movie and Michael Bay enjoys the mixed criticisms of his film franchise, I will still keep wanting to come back to see them. (unless he tries to kill off Optimus again!)

LINKS: TransformersMovie.com, Hasbro, BotCon