I liked the first Transformers. In fact, I liked the first Transformers a hell of a lot. I found an old notebook the other day, which had in it the scribbles that would eventually become my Top Ten list for 2007, and although Transformers didn't make the cut, it was still there as I culled the list down from twenty or so. The magic of that film was that it arrived with every expectation of being absolutely lousy. But, some smart casting, genuinely ground-breaking special effects, and a whole lot of scenes and dialogue that were about 200% smarter than they really needed to be got T1 over the line like a champion.
REVIEW: Of course it made money like forty bandits, and a franchise was assured. But Transformers 2 and 3, not so much. As someone said at the time, the sequels were exactly the films we expected the first installment to be: cynical, flatulent, underwritten, and braindead.
But I walked into Transformers: Age of Extinction prepared to give this new film a fair go. A few years have passed, and a franchise re-boot can be a terrific thing.
But, nah. Schlockmeister Michael Bay and his gang of collaborators are only serving up more of the same here, to woefully diminishing returns. Transformers 4 is a hugely overlong, incoherent and witless slab of naked product placement with a cash register and stock ticker where its heart and soul should be.
Bay has replaced the human cast from the first episodes, and shifted the action to China via Texas, but the film is nothing we haven't seen before, only worse.
And oddly, the film feels quite unfinished. I'm occasionally asked to watch an early edit rough-cut of a local movie, to share an opinion on what's working, and what isn't. A rough-cut usually clocks in at over two hours, and is a lumpy sort of a thing. The story lines aren't quite singing together, and the editor hasn't yet massaged the material into its optimum shape. Transformers: Age of Extinction is exactly like that. The big set pieces are complete, and the special effects have all been coloured in, but the transitions between the scenes are either missing, or non-sensical. Character arcs appear and vanish at random, nothing coherent drives the film from beginning to end. And the result is the film bludgeons its audience into eventual boredom.
A month back I saw Godzilla, which I liked a lot. At the finale of that film, as the big fella picked himself up for one last battle with the baddies, the audience were literally whooping and cheering. Tonight, as Optimus Prime saddled up a Dinobot - which should have been the bring-the-house-down moment - nothing. No one cheered, no one stamped their feet. We had sat through near three hours to get to that scene, and we just wanted it to end.
Transformers: Age of Extinction is a faulty product, rushed on to the shelves before it was finished. In a pretty good blockbuster season so far, this is the clear turkey.
Transformers: Age of Extinction (M) 165 mins