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Transformers: Age of Extinction

They’re back – and busting the block harder than ever.

England wimped out of the World Cup and Murray faded out of Wimbledon but, don’t worry, you can be sure of the Transformers giving their all as they slug it out on our screens this summer.

Yes, Transformers: Age of Extinction opens in the UK this weekend having already broken records worldwide. We saw it a week ago and can happily report that our ears are still ringing and eyes still adjusting to everyday 3D.

While detractors of director Michael Bay enjoy being snide over thin plots and a thunderous assault of CGI, fans of the franchise love him precisely for that.

If you want emotional depth, The Fault in Our Stars is probably the movie for you. If you want imaginative visual destruction on a massive scale that pushes effects to the limit, Transformers just cannot be beaten. That’s what summer blockbusters are all about. Not robots talking about their feelings.

Bay is a visual filmmaker with a flare for unbridled excess and no-one puts more on screen for the budget than him. He burns through nearly a quarter of a billion dollars in 165 minutes to provide the best whizz bang money can buy. And, while these films have always been about spectacle, in a shock move for this fourth installment there’s actually an enjoyable plot to (almost) follow and interesting human characters.

After the initial fan outcry of Shia LaBeouf not returning, thankfully that means his parents and associated awkward ‘comedy’ moments have gone too. It also means double the hunks as Mark Wahlberg and Jack Reynor now provide the non-CGI eye candy along with Nicola Peltz as the obligatory Supermodel Girlfriend.

They are the ‘everyday American Joes’ that discover a Transformer in hiding before setting off to battle around the globe. And while that introduction is familiar, the reasons for dashing around the globe are the most cohesive and well written so far. Which, admittedly, is a welcome change for Transformers. The humans are also given one of the film’s most memorable fight sequences, down the side of a Chinese slum, with no robots in sight.

Luckily, as far as the franchises finances are concerned, the Transformers shift most of their action to the huge emerging market that is China. While there are the obvious commercial benefits to that – there’s even Chinese product placement – Bay has always loved his luscious landscape shots and China certainly delivers on location.

From Hong Kong Harbour to the Great Wall, the landscapes provide beautiful, epic backdrops for the equally epic CGI flash bang – and where better to introduce the dragon-like Dinobots? Who doesn’t want to see huge robot dinosaurs tearing through the streets of Hong Kong? With ships being dropped on them. Subtle this is not.

It may be very, very long and have more baddies than one movie can skillfully handle, but they are obviously being introduced to cause future mayhem – or ‘Bayhem’ – in later films. Simply put, it’s the best of the bunch so far and makes us very excited at the prospect of the rest of the trilogy. 4/5

Transformers: Age of Extinction In cinemas and IMAX from 5 June
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Words Mark King
Image © 2014 Paramount Pictures

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