Michael Bay’s Transformers movie franchise has a bit of a mixed reputation. On one hand critics and more discerning movie goers have more than their fill of what they consider vapid film making, and on the other hand the series continues to make hundreds of millions of dollars at the box office. The third entry, Dark of the Moon, made about $50 million less than its predecessor and marked the last appearance of series star Shia LaBeouf. As a result the fourth film, Transformers: Age of Extinction, is touted as a sort of soft reboot, continuing the story while using an all new cast, but apparently looking like it is sticking to more of the same formula.
Early reviews read much like reviews for the previous three films. The plot is secondary and not particularly original, taking its usual backseat to the giant robot battles and explosions that people pay for. Even with Mark Wahlberg taking Shia LaBeouf’s place as lead the human characters still barely feel necessary. Standard archetypes and racial stereotypes are reportedly still present, but thankfully the Transformers themselves provide some character charisma. Peter Cullen once again lends his signature voice to the character of Optimus Prime, making more of the same look like a good thing in this Transformers soft reboot. With quality talent like Ken Watanabe (Inception, The Last Samurai) and veteran voice actor John DiMaggio (Futurama, Adventure Time) rounding out the cast the computer generated characters may end up being the life of Age of Extinction.
At 165 minutes, this is the longest Transformers film yet, with many reviewers considering it bloated while others praise its large-scale action. Aside from the voice cast most of the praise Age of Extinction is receiving is for its complicated and destructive action sequences. However this is also where the film is taking quite a bit of criticism. The grand scale of the destruction depicting in the film and its predecessors does not sit well with many critics. Most moviegoers could not care less, however, and the newest Transformers movie will most likely still make a killing at the box office. The film is expected to do especially well in China as many of the climactic scenes were filmed and take place there. Popular Chinese actress Li Bingbing also plays a large role in the film, attracting an even larger audience. More and more Hollywood films like Age of Extinction and Iron Man 3 are looking to China for extra financial backing and viewers, in fact this newest installment in the Transformers franchise was co-produced by Paramount and China Movie Channel.
Transformers: Age of Extinction is set for release on the 27 of June, so not all the reviews are in. So far the consensus is that the new movie is not great by any means, but is at least better than the last one. Critics are notoriously harsh on so called “summer popcorn movies”, but that does not necessarily make them wrong. Paramount and Bay are attempting to bring fresh life to a polarizing franchise, but it remains to be seen if it will be enough to win over fans who felt that the modern take on the 1980’s cartoon/toy ruined the franchise. Whether or not more of the same for this soft reboot of the Transformers movies looks like a good thing is up to the viewer.
By Matt Isaacs