Being a Transformers fan for as long as they’ve existed, I enjoyed the first trilogy of the live action adaptations of the infamous toy line and animated series. When I learned that a new trilogy was in the works and would change a few things such as the look of the Transformers and the cast, I was more than excited. Sadly while Transformers: Age of Extinction has plenty of action and amazing special effects made even better in this 4K with HDR re-release, you can’t help but feel that some of the spark (pun intended) is missing from this film franchise.
Picking up a few years after the events of the last film, Chicago and the rest of the United States is still recovering from the horrific battle that took place between the Autobots and Deceptions. A CIA Agent named Harold Attinger (Kelsey Grammer) has formed a black ops team lead by James Savoy (Titus Welliver) to hunt and kill all remaining Transformers on Earth, good or bad so they can be recycled into man-made Transformers under the control of humans. To make matters worse is that they’re being aided by a bounty hunter Transformer named Lockdown, which sends the last of the heroic Autobots into hiding and planning for a way to leave the planet. During his last battle with the black ops team, Optimus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen) is injured badly and is near death while being stuck in an old tractor truck form (which happens to be a nod to the classic 80’s animated series).
Enter Cade Yaeger (Mark Walhberg) a struggling inventor and single father who just so happens to find and purchase the truck in hopes of fixing and selling it. While working on it, he learns that it’s actually Optimus and agrees to help him find the rest of the Autobots and stop Lockdown and the humans from destroying all of them. As with the previous films, this is easier said than done as Cade’s daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz) and her boyfriend tag along for the ride, and the Autobots will have to give everything they have and more when newly man-made Deceptions come along that are lead by their leader Galvatron (voiced by Frank Welker).
While I enjoyed the previous set of films, despite their decline in some parts, this film seems to really lose a lot of what made other movies fun and exciting. I feel torn, as though one part of me loved the special effects and awesome actions scenes which are now made even better thanks to 4K UHD and HDR color, but the other part of me knows that all of that is just masking the emptiness of the movie. One of my biggest gripes with the film is how they’ve made Optimus Prime this yelling, crazed, bad-ass Transformer which is nothing like the honorable, quiet yet strong one most grew up with in the 80’s. Yes, I get that this is a new Prime for a new generation of people, and I don’t mind him being a little bad-ass, but the way he is presented here is just way out of proportion. It goes against everything Peter Cullen’s brother (which he based Prime of off) telling him what a true leader needs to be, which I remember reading as something on the lines of being a leader without shouting, and being a real hero without all the flashy Hollywood stuff. But to be fair, I do remember seeing some video of him where he acknowledged he didn’t want to do Prime like this, but was pretty much forced to.
I think another thing that hurts the movie is that is tries to do too much in too long of a time frame. Running at nearly three hours, the film mostly comes off as a bunch of mindless action scenes that are just there to kill time. So while the action part of you is all excited while taking the film in, the other part is looking at your watch. Watching the movie in 4K was pretty nice though, as all of the amazing visuals and sound effects come in better than ever and makes for a great film to test your home theater setup with.
If nearly three hours of Transformer action wasn’t enough for you, then you’ll be happy to know there’s three more hours of special features. “Bay on Action” has the infamous director talking about some of the key shots for the film, and gives viewers a chance to see how he puts them all together to make things interesting. The biggest extra here is the feature length “Evolution Within Extinction”, which runs just as long as the movie itself and goes extensively behind-the-scenes on the making of the film. There’s also a few other extras such as “Just Another Giant Effin’ Movie” where Michael Bay’s Mom shows up on set with some cookies for the crew followed by some fun behind the scenes antics, and “A Spark of Design” which sees some of the crew taking a trip to the Hasbro headquarters in Pawtucket, Rhode Island and coming up with the look of the new Transformers featured in the movie, and more.
While I did like Transformers: Age of Extinction for the most part thanks to the 4K UHD and HDR enhancements, I’ll never be able to shake the feeling that there’s a lot missing from the movie that made the previous ones so likable and fun. This combined with the long running length and the yelling, macho Optimus presented here just serve to bring it down even further. I can only hope that the next entry gets things right (make the Dinobots talk for starters, and get Gregg Berger back as Grimlock) and that there’s equal amounts of exciting story and action, and a less testosterone fueled Optimus Prime leading things. Until then, fans of the series will want to pick this up for their 4K Blu-ray collection, but others will most likely find it to be a good rental at best.