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Transformers: Age of Extinction (3D Blu-ray Review)

26 Sep, 2014 By: John Latchem

Street 9/30/14
Box Office $245.27 million
$29.99 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray, $49.99 3D BD
Rated ‘PG-13’ for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, language and brief innuendo.
Stars Mark Wahlberg, Stanley Tucci, Nicola Peltz, Kelsey Grammer, Jack Reynor, Sophia Myles, Li Bingbing, Titus Welliver, T.J. Miller, Thomas Lennon, James Bachman. Voices of Peter Cullen, John Goodman, Ken Watanabe, John DiMaggio, Frank Welker, Mark Ryan.

New characters. New villains. New robots. Same ol’ “Transformers.”

Director Michael Bay and screenwriter Ehren Kruger tweak the particulars for this fourth live-action “Transformers” film, but stay true to the formula that defined the first three: aggressive action, relentless explosions and a variety of human characters whose everyday problems are upended by armies of robots at war with each other.

Buried beneath all the mayhem, the screenplay actually contains the nugget of an interesting idea exploring humanity’s relationship with technology, which helps make this the best in the series since the 2007 original.

Age of Extinction resets the table with a whole new cast of human characters, led by Mark Wahlberg as hard-luck Texas inventor Cade Yeager, who stumbles upon an abandoned truck that turns out to be Autobot leader Optimus Prime. Five years after the events of the previous film, the Autobots are being hunted by a CIA black ops team led by Harold Attinger (Kelsey Grammer at his nefarious best) on behalf of Transformer bounty hunter Lockdown, who wants to bring Prime back to the alien race that created them.

Attinger hopes to gain alien technology to aid industrialist Joshua Joyce (Stanley Tucci, who gets to anchor some of the film’s funniest moments) create a new race of human-built Transformers, including Galvatron (who, in keeping with long-established “Transformers” lore, turns out to be the reincarnated form of Decepticon leader Megatron, the baddie of the previous three films).

Prime brings Cade and his family under the protection of the remaining Autobots, who stay hidden by disguising themselves as ultra-rare sports cars and other custom vehicles. They include the stalwart Bumblebee and the militaristic Hound, wonderfully voiced by John Goodman as almost a robot version of his Walter persona from The Big Lebowski.

The quest to evade Lockdown and stop Attinger and Joyce takes Cade, Prime and the other Autobots from Texas to Chicago to Hong Kong, and it wouldn’t be a “Transformers” film without them leaving a trail of destruction in their wake, culminating in a final battle that introduces characters “Transformers” fans have been waiting four films for.

As with the other “Transformers” films, Age of Extinction requires its audience to embrace the absurdity of it all as much as the filmmakers did, but this obviously isn’t going to appeal to everyone, and it might be easier to accept the film’s campier aspects at face value if Bay weren’t so deadly serious about dragging out the film’s tenser moments. However, Bay’s style, with an abundance of slow motion action, sweeping long shots and landscapes, and seamless visual effects, does lend itself to some effective 3D sequences.

Having a significant portion of the film set in China isn’t a surprise given the well-publicized involvement of Chinese investors to finance the production. But at times the film seems almost like Chinese propaganda, with scenes of Chinese government officials vowing to protect Hong Kong in ways that ultimately have no bearing on the plot, which is all the more baffling considering the film runs just 15 minutes shy of three hours. American audiences will also be clueless about several cameos from Chinese celebrities, which are detailed in one of the three-hours worth of behind-the-scenes featurettes included on the Blu-ray’s bonus disc.

Other interesting featurettes include a tour of the Hasbro facility for the creation of a new “Transformers” toy, and a hilarious video from comedian T.J. Miller (“Silicon Valley”) trying to thank Bay, Wahlberg and Grammer for his small role in the film.

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