Movie Review: 'Transformers' ages well
"Transformers: Age Of Extinction" is a transformative movie-going experience.
It's one of those movies that make you feel differently after you depart the movie theater.
The fourth installment of "Transformers" (seen in Imax 3D for this review), delivers for fans of the series as this summer's No. 1 blockbuster movie so far.
Whether you like blockbuster special effects science fiction films or not, "Transformers" director Michael Bay (director, "Transformers: Dark Of The Moon," 2011; "Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen," 2009; "Transformers," 2007; "Pearl Harbor," 2001; "Armageddon," 1998; "Bad Boys I, II," 1995, 2003) deserves respect for creating a franchise that continues to amaze visually and financially ("Transformers 5" is in pre-production).
This time around, the action is bigger, there are more action set pieces and most of the action scenes have an unusual setting.
Bay creates visuals that you nor I would even think of. And he makes them seem real.
A key element to the enjoyment of "Transformers" is the casting, with several well-known actors in leading roles and several good lesser known actors in leading roles.
Bay, directing from a screenplay by Ehren Kruger ("Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen," "Transformers: Dark Of The Moon"), creates moments within the action scenes that emphasize the characters' emotional components.
Bay builds a rapport with the movie-goer by taking his time with character development scenes early on in the movie. It's a long-standing cinematic technique, yet one which film-makers sometimes forget, that provides an emotional payoff later on for viewers.
Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) is a backyard inventor (think a much younger, shorter-haired and extremely buff Christopher Lloyd).
His Paris, Texas, barn is filled with all manner of robots, gadgets and electronics and computer gear, much of which he has rescued from the junk pile and refurbishes to make money for Yeager Development.
Cade is a widower, sharing a single bungalow house with his daughter, Tessa (Nicola Peltz), a high school senior graduating with hopes of attending college. She has a boyfriend, Shane (Jack Reynor), unbeknown to her father.
A family friend, Lucas (T.J. Miller), helps Cade with his fix-up projects.
Cade tows home a cab-over tractor truck (without the trailer) that was mysteriously housed inside the town's movie palace which closed (because of "sequels and remakes bunch of crap," grumbles the building's owner).
Cade's daughter is outraged because, since their farm is in foreclosure, the truck project seems yet another one of dad's hair-brained schemes that will never get out of the barn (which dad calls the "Temple of Technology").
In attempting to get the truck running, Cade discovers it is an Autobot (a robot vehicle), none other than Optimus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen).
Meanwhile, government forces, namely, Harold Atinger (Kelsey Grammer), a CIA agent, and corporate interests, mainly, Joshua Joyce (Stanley Tucci), have declared the Autobots and Decepticons terrorists, after the destruction of Chicago (had it been Detroit, who could tell?).
And so the chase is on, from Chicago, to Hong Kong to Beijing, with good guys and bad guys (though it's sometimes difficult to tell the difference) and good bots and bad bots (though it's sometimes difficult to tell the difference) and a damsel in distress, Tessa, at the center of much of the action.
This, the fourth "Transformers," integrates computer-generated imagery seamlessly into actual backdrops of iconic Monument Valley, eye-level perspectives of cornfields, aerial views of skyscrapers, modern building interiors and factory building exteriors.
Here again, Bay seems to have a penchant for post-industrial settings, which drew him to the former Bethlehem Steel south side plant blast furnaces and abandoned buildings for on-location filming for "Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen."
Crucial to the enjoyment of "Transformers 4" is the casting of boyish-faced Wahlberg, who brings a lot of likeability and some deadpan humor to the Mr. Fix-It dad role. His biceps, which are so huge they have dimples, seem to have their own zip code. He certainly has credibility when he moves into action-hero mode.
Peltz is fine as the daughter Tessa. Reynor is excellent as her boyfriend.
Grammer is intense and convincing as the CIA operative.
Tucci has some over-the-top fun as the corporate type.
John Goodman's voice is recognizable as that of the Autobot Hound.
"Transformers: Age Of Extinction" should more than please fans of the series.
Other movie-goers may feel their own age or extinction approaching because of the movie's two and one-half hour length.
"Transformers: Age Of Extinction," MPAA Rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned. Some Material May Be Inappropriate For Children Under 13.) for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, language and brief innuendo; Genre: Action, Adventure, Science Fiction; Run Time: 2 hrs., 35 min.; Distributed by Paramount Pictures.
Credit Readers Anonymous: "Transformers: Age Of Extinction" was filmed on location in Texas, Utah, Illinois, Michigan, and Hong Kong. China.
Box Office, July 4: There was nothing extinct about "Transformers: Age of Extinction," which continued at No. 1 for the three-day July 4th holiday weekend, with $36.4 million, $174.7 million, two weeks; tripping up "Tammy," the Melissa McCarthy-Susan Sarandon road-trip comedy, opening at No. 2, with $21.2 million, for the weekend, $32.9 million, since opening, one week; and delivering "Deliver Us From Evil," to No. 3, $9.5 million, weekend, $15 million, since opening, one week;
4. "22 Jump Street," $9.4 million, $158.8 million, four weeks; 5. "How To Train Your Dragon 2," $8.7 million, $140 million, four weeks; 6."Earth To Echo," $8.2 million, weekend, $13.5 million, since opening, one week; 7. "Maleficent," $6.1 million, $213.8 million, six weeks; 8. "Jersey Boys," $5.1 million, $36.7 million, three weeks; 9. "Think Like A Man Too," $4.9 million, $57.1 million, three weeks; 10."Edge Of Tomorrow," $3.6 million, $90.8 million, five weeks
Unreel, July 11:
"Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes," PG-13: These apes are now aping humans. Who's betting the apes win? Gary Oldman, Keri Russell and Andy Serkis star in the science-fiction thriller.
"Boyhood," R: Richard Linklater ("Before Midnight," 2013; "Before Sunset," 2004; "Before Sunrise," 1995; "A Scanner Darkly," 2006; "School Of Rock," 2003; "SubUrbia," 1996; "Dazed And Confused," 1993; "Slacker," 1991) directs the drama about the life of a boy from age five to 18. Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke, Ellar Coltrane and Elijah Smith star.
Read Paul Willistein's movie reviews at the Lehigh Valley Press web site, thelehighvalley-press.com; the Times-News web site, tnonline.com; and hear them on "Lehigh Valley Art Salon," 6 - 6:30 p.m. Mondays, WDIY 88.1 FM, and wdiy.org, where they're archived. Email Paul Willistein: pwillistein@ tnonline.com. You can follow Paul Willistein on Twitter and friend Paul Willistein on facebook.
Three Popcorn Boxes out of Five Popcorn Boxes