Skip to main content

Transformers: Age Of Extinction review

Transformers: Age of Extinction is exactly what you think it is.

This statement applies whether you love or hate the Transformers movies. It applies if you think they’re the most run-of-the-mill blockbusters imaginable, or if you think their energon-infused explosions provide consistently prime entertainment. However you slice it, the fact remains that Transformers: Age of Extinction is a Transformers movie. It is as advertised. It is what it is.

In Age of Extinction, four years have passed since the Battle of Chicago. Autobots and Decepticons are known quantities. Civilians are supposed to alert authorities if they have any information concerning the whereabouts of a Transformer. Although it’s not publicly recognized, there are shadow organizations in play specifically designed to hunt and destroy Transformers, breaking them down for parts, selling them to the highest bidder.

Transformers: Age of Extinction is a Transformers movie. It is as advertised. It is what it is.

More often than not, the highest bidder is Joshua Joyce (Stanley Tucci), a Steve Jobs doppelganger intent on pioneering new technology based on Transformers’ physiology. His intentions are pure — mostly, anyway; sure he wants to make a profit, but he wants to profit the human race as well. But you know what they say about good intentions. His race to create new technology directly results in the destruction of innocent Autobots, forcing Optimus Prime and his companions to go dark in order to evade (you guessed it) extinction.

Enter Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg), a single father and dirt-poor inventor with an imagination exceeded only by the size of his biceps. His daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz) and his foundering financial situation are his two greatest concerns, until he discovers a Transformer — the Transformer. When Optimus Prime enters Cade’s life, he and his daughter (joined by her obnoxious race car driver boyfriend Shane, played by newcomer Jack Reynor) are forced on the run, pursued by enemies and an agenda far above their pay-grade. Bayhem ensues.

Even as the Transformers franchise shifts away from the Shia LaBeouf era, Age of Extinction still sports shades of the Witwicky of it all. As with the first film in the series, Age of Extinction begins as a “boy meets car” story. But where the first film had a sense of newness and wonder, Age of Extinction follows the beats established by its predecessors, even with an entirely new cast in place. New coat of paint, same old car.

Transformers: Age Of Extinction
Image used with permission by copyright holder

At 165 minutes in length, Age of Extinction is easily the longest film in the franchise, edging dangerously close to the three-hour mark. In its defense, hardly a moment of the film is wasted on things as arbitrary as “plot” or “character development.” When Michael Bay calls “action,” Wahlberg and the robots do as they’re told. There’s no single “Battle of Chicago” set piece in this one; Age of Extinction is basically one giant set piece broken down into numerous battles, including one almost hour-long sequence that is, believe it or not, once again set in Chicago. It’s an exhausting experience, but you get what you pay for.

Because Transformers is primarily an action figure franchise, there are tons of new toys in play in Age of Extinction, some cooler than others. There’s some actual spark (Get it? Spark?) in one of the new Autobots: Hound, a round-bellied, cigar-chomping, mechanical-bearded hunk of junk voiced by John Goodman. He chews on scenery and robot nemeses in equal measure, and it is legitimately delightful.

Optimus Prime leads the charge as he always does, and he has some moments of greatness, especially in the earliest and latest portions of the movie; if Age of Extinction accomplishes nothing else, it puts a sword-wielding Prime on the back of a cybernetic Tyrannosaurus Rex. It’s just too bad that the cybernetic Tyrannosaurus Rex is Grimlock in name only. The Dinobots are some of the most treasured characters in Transformers lore, thanks mostly to their larger-than-life stature and personalities. Age of Extinction gets the stature part right, at least. Grimlock is devoid of dialogue, and devoid of soul. He’s just the horse that Optimus rides in on.

Hardly a moment of the film is wasted on things as arbitrary as “plot” or “character development.”

At least the film’s villains have a pulse, especially Lockdown, an alien bounty hunter who has come to Earth for Optimus Prime’s head. He is an absolute menace, eviscerating Autobots like it’s his job. (It’s literally his job.) Lockdown is at the heart of the very best scene of the movie, a sequence involving the persecution of stalwart Autobot Ratchet; easily the most thrilling and engaging action scene of the film, if not the entire franchise.

Lockdown works with Harold Attinger, a greedy, warmongering CIA operative played by Kelsey Grammer. The Frasier veteran delivers one of the best human performances in any of the Transformers movies, growling out dialogue and spewing venomous stares out of his piercing cold eyes. He’s wide awake, as is Stanley Tucci’s Joyce, even if he tends to err too far on the side of slapstick as the movie wears on. As for the other humans? Wahlberg’s Yeager exists. That’s more than can be said for Reynor as bland bad boy Shane, or for Peltz as Tessa; she makes Megan Fox’s Mikaela and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley’s Carly look like Sarah Connor and Ellen Ripley, respectively.

But let’s be honest. Who needs warm bodies when you have three hours of robots beating each other up?

Editors' Recommendations

Josh Wigler
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Josh Wigler is a freelance entertainment reporter who has been published by Comic Book Resources, Comics Alliance…
Decision to Leave review: An achingly romantic noir thriller
Tang Wei looks at Park Hae-il in Park Chan-wook's Decision to Leave.

With its lush sets and perpetually probing camera, Decision to Leave looks and moves like any other Park Chan-wook film, but it reverberates with the same untempered passion present in Golden Age noirs like In a Lonely Place and Double Indemnity. Unlike those two films, though, which center their stories around a hot-tempered screenwriter and naïve insurance salesman, respectively, Decision to Leave follows another common noir archetype: the lovelorn detective (played here by Park Hae-il).

In the film’s opening moments, Hae-jun, the detective in question, lands a case involving the mysterious death of a recreational rock climber. The case, in typical noir fashion, leads to Hae-jun crossing paths with Seo-rae (a spellbinding Tang Wei), his victim’s gorgeous but eccentric widow. Perturbed by how disinterested she is in unpacking her abusive husband’s death, Hae-jun begins to tail and spy on Seo-rae, unaware that doing so will only further intensify his attraction to her. As far as noir plots go, this is about as familiar as it gets. With its nods to Hitchcock and lightly self-aware attitude, Decision to Leave makes it clear that it doesn’t mind treading the same narrative terrain as so many of the noir classics that have come before it, either.

Read more
Operation Seawolf review: nice Nazis? No thanks!
Dolph Lundgren holds onto a pipe inside a U-Boat in a scene from Operation Seawolf.

At a time when anti-Semitic extremists are storming the U.S Capitol, running for office, and declaring war on Jewish people via social media, it might not be the best time for a movie that expects you to sympathize with Nazis. And yet, that hasn't stopped Operation Seawolf from sailing into theaters and on-demand streaming services this month.

The film, which follows the crew of a German U-boat during the waning days of World War II, casts Dolph Lundgren (Rocky IV) as German war hero Capt. Hans Kessler, who's ordered to lead the Nazis' remaining U-boats on a desperate (and likely fatal) mission to attack the U.S. on its own soil. As he and his crew make their way toward New York City in one final bid to turn the tide of war, Kessler finds himself struggling with both the internal politics of the ship and his own sense of duty as the Third Reich crumbles around him.

Read more
Conversations with A Killer: The Jeffrey Dahmer Tapes review: killer’s words yield little insight
A superimposed image of Jeffrey Dahmer in Conversations with a Killer.

It’s spooky season this month, and that means the atrocity mine is currently being plundered by content creators across America. The three-episode docuseries Conversations with a Killer: The Jeffrey Dahmer Tapes, directed by noted documentarian Joe Berlinger (Brother's Keeper, Paradise Lost), is Netflix’s second project tackling the infamous cannibal/necrophiliac/serial killer to debut in a matter of weeks. It follows Ryan Murphy’s 10-hour miniseries drama, Dahmer-Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story. This Dahmer double dose mirrors the barrage of Ted Bundy content that Netflix put out in early 2019, following up the Zac Efron-led drama Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile with the docuseries Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes (also directed by Berlinger). 

As was the case with Bundy, Netflix is convinced that a multipronged examination of Dahmer could lead to a better understanding of his psychology and motivations, teaching viewers warning signs or expanding our capacity for empathy. Or maybe they recognize that people are addicted to unspeakable tragedies and will do anything they can to maximize viewers’ compulsion for true crime? Attempting to satisfy on all accounts, The Dahmer Tapes oscillates uneasily between character study, social commentary, and pure shock value, landing somewhere in between all three.
In Dahmer's own words

Read more