Released: June 27, 2014. Directed by: Michael Bay. Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Nicola Peltz, Jack Reynor. Runtime: 165 min.
In an attempt to freshen up the Transformers franchise, director Michael Bay brings in a brand new cast and characters. The first mistake was trying to re-invent the franchise, when it should have just ended. Cade Yaeger (Mark Wahlberg) and his family are thrown into the Autobots’ war when Cade finds a trashed up truck (Optimus Prime from all of his battle wounds from something called the Battle of Chicago) on one of his rides looking for things to fix and sell. He’s a mechanic fixing stuff for friends, and doing what he can do to make ends meet.
It isn’t exactly enough to put his daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz) through college. So when the truck reveals himself as Optimus Prime – the leader of the Autobots – Cade thinks about turning him in to get money to be a successful inventor, and put his daughter through college. When he has a change of heart of turning him in, it doesn’t really matter, because his assistant Lucas (an only mildly funny T.J. Miller) only sees dollar signs, which gets the government, and a lackluster bounty hunter from another world, on their tail.
He’s a lackluster follow-up to Megatron, who got old after being the main villain after three films. His name’s not even worthy enough to remember. The main human villain (including a forgettable Kelsey Grammer) of the film is mainly the government, as there’s a company trying to wipe out the Autobots for whatever reason. It’s all in the aspiration of America to make everything better than it is already. Since this is mostly just a narrative sparked by human ignorance, it’s not compelling in the slightest, and it all lacks logic. Sure, it would be clever if this film was meta in the way that human ignorance might be the cause of humans’ eventual extinction, but this never feels to be the case.
Most of the characters are fine, if a bit boring to a fault. The most amusing characters are Bumble Bee (he and Optimus are the only returning characters) and Stanley Tucci as his character Josh Joyce. Joyce is an owner of a robotics company, and he gets more to do as the film moves along. I like Mark Wahlberg as the new main character, even though the character himself isn’t great. He’s over-protective of his daughter to a point of annoyance. He’s like a big kid so the daughter, Tessa, has to take care of him a bit. Nicola Peltz (TV’s Bates Motel) is pretty good as Tessa.
It’s refreshing that she gets more to do than Megan Fox as Mikayla in the first two films, and she’s in the action more, even though she doesn’t do much to get herself out of stupid situations, just like Fox. Tessa adds some appeal to female audiences because she’s more of a character that’s easy for girls with overprotective fathers to relate to, than the sex appeal Fox or Rosie Huntington-Whitely were in their films. The father-daughter relationship gives the film some bland heart. Also in the Yeager group is Tessa’s extremely boring racer boyfriend Shane. He’s portrayed by Irishman Jack Reynor, who doesn’t seem boring in his own right.
Two of the new Autobots are memorable. One is named Drift, voiced by Ken Watanabe, and he’s a samurai Autobot – and it’s definitely a character to complement the portion of the film taking place in China. John Goodman is also enjoyable as an autobot named Hound, who mostly seems like a replacement for the quick-to-violence Ironhyde. This film is just forgettable, with only a few noteworthy action sequences and some awesome dino-bots. Their presence gets no explanation at all, so they’re random, but they’re no less fun in an otherwise exhausting experience. Everyone going in knows this won’t be a smart blockbuster, so why does it have to be the length of an LOTR movie? The story never finds much coherence in the first place, and when a new artifact gets introduced, Bay goes back to the “Find the artifact before the Decepticons” roots of the franchise. Skip this one, because it still feels familiar.