|A bit more cinematic justice for the autobots this time around|
"Transformers: age of extinction" is exactly what you would expect from a Michael Bay directed "Transformers" flick. A loud, most of the times overblown sequel with stellar special effects, almost no plot and cool shots. However, much to my surprise, this is by far the best sequel in the franchise. This time around, Michael Bay learnt from the previous mistakes and seemed more restrained here (not on action) when it comes to misplaced humour, racist stereotypes, too many human characters that add nothing to an already empty plot, souless autobots and weak villain characterization - elements that so gracefully were seen in the previous films.
First of all, Mark Wahlberg is a way more interesting choice thatn Shia the Douche. While, Sam Witwicky was a teenager we could relate to in the original movie, in the latter proceedings he became a whiny (overacting) bitch that has no reason to frankly bitch about. Therefore, by shifting the attention towards the far more charismatic Wahlberg was the right thing to do. In addition, the whole father-daughter dynamic is cliched and terrible predictable but at least is a winning formula that has worked for ages. This is a "Trasnformers" film. Better to have formulaic narrative rather try to shoehorn a billion subplots that go nowhere and contain zero intrigue (see Dark of the moon). The other standout here is Stanley Tucci - where clearly he is having a ball with the role and comes close to a solid performance than anybody else. His inventor character has a surprising depth(!) and avoids the trap of one dimensionality towards the climax. Everyone else is doing just ok for what they are supposed to do - looking badass, goofy or scared - and there are no annoying characters. Shame for Li Bingbing as I think she is a talented actress (and gorgeous to look upon) who gets limited screentime and for Kelsey Grammer portraying a rather blunt human villain . So acting part has been fixed at the blockbuster medium range.
As for the autobots here themselves, they are presented nicer with redefined character models and more personalized moments as their number is shrunk down from 10+ to only 5. This allowed the screenwriter (the who) to focus on more what-cool-stuff-this-robot-can-do rather than show generic gun firing and surrounding explosions. Particularly fan favourite Bubblebee steals the show with his child-like persona something that was solely missing in the previous trilogy.
The plot itself is still difficult to understand; the why's and the how's are inexplained as we are taking a leap of faith after 4 years since the battle of Chicago took place with a McGuffin concept called "the seed". Interestingly, the proceedings have a more sinister and serious tone that plays in favor of this installment. There are real stakes here and a proper badass robo-villain with tones of equiment, moves and minions. Sure there are funny moments (most of them do hit the spot) but there is a more menacing atmosphere as the Autobots are being hunted down by Decepticons, humans and alien bounty hunters. No place is safe. There are tones of ? during the film's running time and sense of geography (going from Beijing to Hong Kong by car in the same day?!) but to be honest, do I need to care?
|One of the thrilling set pieces in AOE|
Which brings me to the main attracting point of "T4". The action. I personally love Michael Bay. Nobody stages mayhem the way he does and his camerawork is fantastic. Despite some quick edits during the chase scenes, he cleverly utilizes the slo-mo during inventive car crashes or destructive set pieces powered by long steady shots. Assisted by 3D, the Imax presentation was simply mesmerising and it is a shame really that he does not get the recognition he deserves. He is one of the few filmmakers that does not go overboard with the CGI when it comes to stunts and chases and there is tone of breathtaking stuff. From a skyscraper escape through suspended cables, to a showdown in the overcrowded apartment complexes of Hong Kong to a Texas car chase, Bay throws cars upside down packed with explosions, loud special effects and moments of picture clarity. So much mayhem is impossible not to be appreciated, and with each action scene Bay goes bigger and bigger reaching such an overblown assault in all senses towards the end that would make your ear drums shutter and your eyes feasting on all these disasterous sequences (the ships falling from the sky is a set piece that has to be seen to be believed). The Chicago battle is tiny in comparison with the action in here. Yes, it is brainless but in contrast to the former films, it is not overly insulting with terrible gags or dialogue but towards a step to the direction that made the first one such a good film.
Bay's films have always excelled in performance when it comes to technical stuff but the production design has more character here than the entire (rather generic in this field) previous trilogy. Lockdown's ship should be considered for the respective awards giving a completely alien vibe and it is shot with exquisite cinematography. And speaking of the cinematography, I think by far this is the best looking film of Bay. The capture of sunsets, the swooping shots of the Texas desert, or the crowded streets of Hong Kong are wonderfully lighted by Amir Mokri.
The way I have written this review could imply that I consider the film a masterpiece. Hardly. At least half an hour with the human element could have been left in the editing room and the rather long running time of 3 hours can be quite exhausting even for a fan of the series (like me). While certainly it did not bore, I did think in some occasions that the carnage and mayhem is too much! And again Galvatron has been reduced to a limited screentime (ultimate blasphemy) with a one dimensional personality who shouts a lot of orders but does nothing. Finally, the much rumoured appearance of the Dinobots although it does include certain "awesome" scenes, it has pretty much no depth or any sort of background whatsoever.
|Optimus Prime gets an update|
And pretty much that summarizes AOE. If you like any of the previous films, then you will probably think this one is the best. The cast is way better, the satellite characters have stopped to exist - both humans and Transformers - and the serious tone is more than a plus. Despite the long running time and the overstuffing of action, T4 did not disappoint me. Perhaps because my expectations dropped significantly after T3 and here I found more redeeming values than in the other two. Bay won me over with the fourth installment and made the Autobots look cool again in exquisite action set pieces. Because this is a Trasformers film. If it fails in action, there is no point.
+ breathtaking action
+ great stunts
+ gorgeous cinematography
+ likable although typical main characters
+ Mark Wahlberg, an update in good protagonist
+ great camerawork
+ technical aspects are state of the art: brilliant special effects, production design
+ Bubblebee is cool again
+ sinister tone
+ humour hits the spot
- long running time, easily cut half an hour
- rather blunt human villain
- climax - either will send you away with such an assault or keep you in your seat
- Galvatron - still Megatron has not been seen as awesome