- Joe Gross American-Statesman Staff
So, yeah, there’s a scene in “Transformers: Age of Extinction,” the fourth bazooka shell in Michael Bay’s numbing Transformers franchise, in which Autobot leader Optimus Prime rides a giant Dinobot (a dinosaur Transformer) like a horse while swinging a massive sword.
If that particular brand of robot-on-robot action is on your cinematic bucket list, knock yourself out.
If it is not, well, know that this rampaging, confusing beast of a movie is two hours and 45 minutes long, Yes, you read that correctly.
“Extinction” is 165 minutes of Mark Wahlberg and Prime fighting a combination of evil giant robots, Stanley Tucci as a sleazy tech-billionaire and Kelsey Grammer (with a very Dick Cheney vibe) as a CIA middle manager determined to rid the planet of all Transformers.
With a script that feels not so much written as just typed out by longtime Transformers scribe Ehren Kruger, “Extinction” opens with the end of the dinosaurs, which were apparently killed not by a meteor but the Transformers alien creators, who changed them all into the metal Transformers are made of. This metal is called “transformium.” No, really.
Cut to “Texas, U.S.A.” (the movie was partially shot in Austin, Pflugerville and elsewhere in the state) where Wahlberg, an inventor with the very movie name of Cade Yeager, lives with his daughter Tessa (Nicola Platz, remarkably lifelike). Tessa has had it with her dad’s failing business and even his pal Lucas (T.J. Miller, providing comic relief that is gone far too quickly) is beginning to lose faith.
When Yeager discovers that the beat-up semi he bought for parts is actually Optimus Prime in hiding, well, the government cannot be far behind. Add Tessa’s exceptionally obnoxious boyfriend (Jack Reynor), an obligatory scene of Optimus getting the proverbial Autobot band back together (they were all hiding in Monument Valley and Moab) and we’re off.
Turns out the CIA guy (Grammer) and Tucci’s tech company are building their own Transformer army, mechanical killers that prove harder to control than an Italian sports car.
And then there’s the Transformer bounty hunter Lockdown who is determined to capture Prime. Lockdown has a spaceship the size of Manhattan that people on the ground seem to never see coming. There are three or four movies here, they are all happening at once, and none of them makes much sense.
Since this is three or four Michael Bay movies, there are plenty of Michael Bay moments: flaring sunlight; slow-motion robots in midair, tanned; sweaty leads at magic hour; and whole sequences that look like a well-shot beer ad. (Actually, some scenes look like literal beer ads; there’s Bud Light everywhere).
Then there are the bits of exposition to explain the plot between the fight scenes: “We’ve got to get the seed before Galvatron does,” “We’re done defending the humans” and my personal favorite, “We’re giving you freedom!,” which Prime says to a Dinobot he is also punching. (You may insert your own foreign policy joke here.)
And then there are the explosions. Lots and lots of explosions. We are well into the Age of City Extinction as far as blockbusters go (see also “Man of Steel,” “Avengers,” other Transformers movies) and after a brief fight in Chicago, the serious property destruction takes place in Hong Kong. For all of Prime’s talk of not killing humans, the bystander body count must be in the tens of thousands.
The two younger leads are negligible, but not even Wahlberg, Tucci and Grammer, all strong screen presences, can compete with the rote incoherence here. Go for the robot punching if you like, but don’t expect anything more than meets the eye.View full experience