It’s like, they never learn.
There’s an overwhelming sense of deja vu coming from the plot beats mixed with annoyance at the jarring and pace-breaking reliance on comedic bits. It also doesn’t help that the production suffers from its driven decision to appeal to its target audience — those pubescent teens with all of their hormones.
Transformers 4 plays to director Michael Bay’s strengths which turn ultimately into weaknesses. The sheen and epic visuals might convey a visual sense of something awesome, but what for? Underneath the hood of Transformers 4: Age of Extinction is a roaring engine, but the car can only go in a straight line. Though there’s a good bit of fun to be had, you’ll have to leave your brain at the door before it starts picking up all the things going wrong.
Transformers 3 ended with an epic battle between Autobots and Decepticons. In Transformers 4, the referenced Battle of Chicago is the new 9/11, and the government has cut ties with the Autobots while extending them amnesty for their help.
That doesn’t mean all is fine and dandy — a black ops team works behind the scenes with a mysterious Transformer to hunt down all others.
Now, it wouldn’t be a Transformer movie without humans, and we’re introduced to struggling inventor Cade Yaeger (Mark Wahlberg) who finds a semi-truck riddled with bullet holes and a destroyed engine block. When the truck turns out to be an angry and betrayed Optimus Prime, the government blows up Cade’s home, sending him and his daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz) on the run as the Autobots discover the Transformer Creators have sent a bounty hunter to scour the universe to recover their prized legendary creations — Optimus being one of them.
If you want more Transformer characters, you’ve got the dual sword-wielding samurai Drift (who’s inexplicably a Bugatti Veyron and not, you know, a Japanese car), the bearded and portly soldier Hound, and the trenchcoat-wearing jewel thief Crosshairs. There’s also the martial arts fighting Su Yueming (Li Bingbing), and the grumpy black ops leader James Savoy (Titus Welliver) whose one-liners on second look aren’t as great as their delivery — “My face is my warrant.” While the acting seems genuine and sincere enough, the roles are cardboard cutouts playing up stereotypes — in this case you’re supposed to judge these books by their covers.
The conflicts are also weak and sometimes awkward — Cade’s relationship with his 17-year-old daughter becomes more complicated when her 20-year-old boyfriend Shane Dyson (Jack Reynor) comes into play. When the father threatens statutory rape claims, Dyson argues he’s protected under Romeo and Juliet laws — in fact, he’s got a card in his wallet in case anyone ever called him on it.
That’s all mixed in with the cinematic trademarks — rotating slow-motion, the tilted undershots, the dramatic pans — and in the end, it’s just too much. Clocking in 15 minutes shy of three hours, Transformers 4 is an overload of everything except for the characters we really want to see — it spends too much time with chatty humans and not enough time just letting the conflict surge. Had it done at least that, it could have glossed over the sheer amount of plot holes in the script — enough to write an entire new movie explaining mind-boggling moments, like how a 15-minute trip to get supplies coincides with a morning to evening trip to Texas by the CIA or why Lockdown and his high-tech surveillance crew simply stand around watching their targets drive off. And don’t get me started on how Optimus Prime gets the ability to fly at the end of the movie for no apparent reason.
Because Transformers. That’s why.