Transformers 4: Age of Extinction - Can this franchise get a jumpstart? 1.75 stars

The Transformers are getting an overhaul. Even with Mark Wahlburg replacing Shia LaBeouf in the lead, can this tired franchise get transformed into a new cinematic vehicle? 

Walking into the cinema...
Stanley Tucci, Mark Wahlburg and Dinobots, what could go wrong? Based on the trailer this combination seems to be a bit of a dogs breakfast. Michael Bay does not instill confidence of any originality for the foreseeable future. 

Cinematic value:  2 stars
The world has changed significantly since the last chapter in the Transformers anthology. After the destruction of Chicago, the US government has been hunting down all of the aliens. The robots are being hunted down by a secretive partnership between the CIA director, Harold Attinger (Kelsey Grammar) and an extra-terrestrial bounty hunter. This evil pairing have selfish goals in mind, one to find Optimus Prime and the other to develop weapons based on the alien technology. The Yeagers are the new family unit for this edition of the Transformers franchise. Cade and Tessa () who hail from the bastion of American patriotism, Texas, which does not seem to include any Texas accents. Through a series of twists they find Optimus Prime and help to resurrect him. In the process, they are pulled into this new world that is looking destroy all of the Transformers.  The Yeager family and their allies travel from Texas to Chicago and find out they are up against an evil trilogy that exists between the alien, Attinger and the head of KSI, a technology company, played by Stanley Tucci who attempts to channel Steve Jobs. KSI has discovered the secret of the robots and are developing uses for the new metal called Transformia. Once the central plot is established, the battle between good and evil begins. Transformers and humans battle from the US to China to save the worlds of the humans and the Autobots from extinction. Include in this mix Dinobots, dog robots, an explanation of dinosaur extinction on earth and enough product placement to satisfy any marketing executive, you are left with a confusing film. 

The summary may cause confusion and rolling eyes, but the plot is only part of the problem with this film. The first challenge presented by this film is it's length. The story struggles to hold together throughout the 165 minutes. The CGI effects were good, but there is nothing new to cause awe in the effects. Throughout this series, the special effects have helped in carrying the franchise, but they are not enough to make up for the weakness of the script. The Transformers: The Age of Extinction struggles to jumpstart this anthology.  A key difficulty with the film is the style of director Michael Bay (The Rock, Transformers) and his timeline struggles. The plot jumps make it difficult to know where the characters are in the world and the story. Key characters disappear and reappear without explanation or logic and rules of daylight do not seem to apply to Bay's Transformer world. Even with these weaknesses the story is a potential supercharged thrill ride and careens down the highway. It is easy to miss some plot holes, timeline difficulties and poorly timed lines, because of the stories velocity but because this is a 'long road trip' the weaknesses become obvious. There may be a glimmer of hope for the film with the inclusion of new faces like Mark Wahlberg, Stanley Tucci, and even Kelsey Grammer, but it is a false hope. Wahlberg was utilised for his biceps not for his acting ability, Tucci seems to be brought in for his comedic abilities, and Grammer attempts to portray evil but none do much to deliver. The best way to describe this film would be a compare it to a Ferrari driving with a VW beetle engine. 

It is understandable that  most people go to see a Transformers movie to see the robots and see them destroy each other and everything around them. One thing that can be said about Michael Bay, he is the master of product placement and encouraging people to buy General Motors products. His films are not meant to be a lesson in effective story telling, but they do serve as a visual lesson in connecting battle scenes. Unfortunately, these scenes are pieced together by girls in short shorts, muscular male arms, and poorly placed one liners. It was a struggle to find the positive in this cinematic experience. There are hints of family values, but those are dashed within a few minutes of the introduction of the dialogue that includes lies, deception and the 'Romeo & Juliet' laws in Texas. In the end, choosing to see Transformers: The Age of Extinction, remember keep your expectations low,  enjoy the CGI and know there will be another in a couple of years. 

Family value:  1.5 stars
Family seems to be a key component of the story line from the beginning, but that slowly falls apart. The violence and language should give parents of young children pause to go see Transformers. In the film, there is a nod towards honour and fighting against great odds for your beliefs, which does give this some redeeming qualities, but not enough to be recommend it for families. 

Overall Rating:  1.75 stars

Leaving the cinema...
Transformers: Age of Extinction is reminiscent of a long road trip, listening to 80's greatest hits on the radio and sitting on a vinyl seat on a hot summer's day, all you want is for the trip to end. Time to turn the ignition off and leave this one in the car park.  

Bigger questions:
1. What does it mean to be human?  (Genesis 1:31, 2 Corinthians 5:17, 1 John 4:16 )
2. What is the priority of family in your life? (Exodus 20:12, Colossians 3:18-21)
3. Should we fight for a cause and for our beliefs? (1 Timothy 6:12, Mark 8:34)

Written by Russell Matthews based on a five star rating system @ Russelling Reviews #russellingreviews