By Thomas Griffiths (Cardiff)
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When I heard that Mark Wahlberg was going to be cast in a Michael Bay movie, I was really, really skeptical, I will not lie. On the one hand, I was thinking ‘Wow, that is really, really great casting’. On the other hand, I was thinking ‘What the Hell, Michael Bay! Suck all you want, but don’t drag Mark Wahlberg down with you!’ I think Mark Wahlberg is actually a very talented actor, a very likeable actor and character-portrayer and a very welcoming presence on the screen. However, he did not bar me from clawing my face through this movie.

Transformers: Age of Extinction is directed by Michael Bay, and stars Mark Wahlberg, Nicola Peltz, Peter Cullen, Kelsey Grammer, Stanley Tucci and Mark Ryan. It’s yet another addition to the Transformers film series directed by Michael Bay, and is the fourth live-action film in its franchise. Now, the first thing I want understood about this movie is how much of an opportunity it was for Michael Bay. See, the first Transformers was problematic, but it had its moments. The second Transformers film was just vicious to the eyes and atrocious to the mind. The third Transformers film…I don’t even have the courage to go into that, if I’m honest. This was an opportunity for Michael Bay to create a different perspective and style to his movies, because they have all so far received planetloads of criticism from fans and critics alike, mostly concerning the directing and treatment of the source material.

This was a major opportunity to bring a new light to his Transformers movies, but now…he didn’t take that opportunity. It’s crystal clear, he didn’t take that opportunity. He had a new cast, new story to work on, new heroes and villains…but he decided to make the exact same movie as he has done three times beforehand, and that was what stabbed me the deepest about this movie. I will not lie, when I saw the trailer and saw that Shia LaBeouf and Megan Fox (And especially Rosie Huntington-Whiteley) were no longer going to feature in the Transformers films, I was intrigued. I had been waiting for an entertaining Transformers movie since the first Transformers film, which is also the length of time I’d been waiting for an entertaining Michael Bay movie.

Transformers: Age of Extinction is the exact same movie that we’ve seen three times already. It’s full of brutal, incomprehensible, inexplicable explosions, erratic camerawork, excruciatingly intense visuals that would prove fatal for epileptics, and one-dimensional characters that seem flat, convenient and even like they don’t want to be there. Easily, Mark Wahlberg is the best part of this movie as a whole – you care about his character and his situation, and he actually does stuff. He actually takes part in the battle, as opposed to running around, screaming like a banshee, going through un-survivable explosions and incomprehensible dilemmas. He has a daughter he cares about, played by Nicola Peltz, and he’s just trying to keep her safe throughout this movie.

The rest of the movie just reduced me to tears inside. I mean, there are some other good things about this movie, and I’ll go into them first: The performance of Kelsey Grammer and Stanley Tucci was quite good despite the script, and Peter Cullen did a dynamic job as the voice of Optimus Prime. The highway fight scene was pretty cool, and the reintroduction to Megatron as Galvatron was a very thought-provoking revelation. Also, the score at times was very entertaining. However, that’s probably it, if I’m honest. That’s it. The rest of the movie is just…derivative of Michael Bay movies that we’ve already seen.

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The plot of this movie jumped the shark, so to speak, so many freaking times that I quickly lost track of it the moment I thought I’d gathered what it was. This time, the plot device is this ‘seed’ which somehow enables a person to create an army of Transformers, or something like that. The humans have been using it to create their own transformers, but other people who are after it is the assassin Lockdown and the reincarnated Megatron. That’s the most basic thread in which the plot is knitted, the rest makes precious little sense at all. Now, Lockdown looks and sounds like an awesome new character, and he should be the main villain, but you can’t ever tell if the main villain is Lockdown, Megatron or Kelsey Grammar’s character.

That said, the reincarnation of Megatron should have been really, really cool, really surprising and really well-handled…but neither of these things are ultimately met and Megatron’s return hardly makes sense and hardly impacts that much on the story – there is the highway fight scene, and then this one pretty cool scene at the end where he says ‘We shall meet again, Prime, for I am reborn!’, but that’s it. The return of one of the most badass Transformers in history is not handled that well in this movie, to be completely honest.

The big finale of the movie is one of the most logically baffling final battles I’ve ever seen in an action movie, nay a movie full stop. There are moments when it can be cool, moments where it is kind of exciting, especially the brief, almost forgettable introduction of the Dinobots – seriously, Michael Bay, when you have characters as awesome as the Dinobots, you give them a bigger involvement in the movie and you make the rest of the movie cool and fun so that their presence makes sense and is impactful on the audience and the story. And I’m pretty sure that in real life the battle would have completely trashed the city, like it has done in every previous Transformers movie. Don’t get me started on the racial stereotypes in this movie.

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The biggest, most catastrophic problem about this movie is that it could have been truly awesome, and it could have been made as such, but the problem is that Michael Bay doesn’t care to do this at all anymore. He’s just using the Transformers as a catalyst for his imagined apocalyptic battles, blinding explosions and hopeless overuse of slow-motion – seriously, the best use of slow-motion is in The Matrix, and when I say that, on an unrelated side note, I’m pretty damn glad Michael Bay didn’t direct The Matrix. Actually, the very worst thing about this movie is that it’s made a gigantic amount of money, which is ultimately what it’s all about for directors like Michael Bay.

I did not like this movie, in the end, which was unbelievable because I really like several members of its cast – As I’ve said, Mark Wahlberg is really talented. TJ Miller is awesome. Stanley Tucci is fantastic, and Kelsey Grammer is actually really good. The biggest problem is that the script and the material they have to work with is really, really dumb. If I wanted to see an entertaining Mark Wahlberg movie, I’d go watch Ted. If I wanted to see an entertaining TJ Miller movie, I’d go see Deadpool. Stanley Tucci, I’d go see The Hunger Games. Kelsey Grammer, I’d go see X-Men: the Last Stand.

That being said, the best elements to this movie were Wahlberg’s performance, some decent fight scenes and the odd moment where my interest is raised a little.

Rating: 3/10

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