WATCH: There's a new Transformers: Age of Extinction trailer around - does anyone still care?
Do we really need another instalment of Michael Bay's brainless, CGI-heavy shenanigans?
A new trailer has landed for Transformers: Age of Extinction, the fourth film in Michael Bay's robotic smash-'em-up franchise – you can have a look at it below. Once again, it features a small group of humans caught between two technologically advanced alien races, with a strong emphasis on CGI pyrotechnics to wow and bedazzle multiplex audiences. However, none of this seems like a massive departure from the previous instalments – is anyone really interested in a fourth rehashing of the same idea? Does anyone still care about Transformers?
In fairness to Age of Extinction, the trailer does have some new elements. Shia LaBeouf has left the series (probably for the best considering the negative publicity swirling around him these days) to be replaced by Mark Wahlberg, a working class Texan trying to make money from scrap so he can put his daughter through college – so there's a hint of socio-economic subtext, about small-town Americans struggling to get by in the current financial climate, with concerns about the future jobs market. There's also a hint of fear regarding the overreaching power of big government agencies (hello NSA), represented by the convoy of black SUVs that descends on Wahlberg's house as soon as he discovers he might have an Autobot on his hands.
As well as responding to real-world events and concerns, the new trailer has a few scattered references that show an awareness of what's been going on in movie-land too. A billboard glimpsed early on reads 'Remember Chicago – report alien activity', bringing to mind the anti-alien propaganda of District 9 and Monsters. The massive scale of the Transformers themselves is emphasised by the use of a ship, which seems like a toy crashing against their flanks – a trick also used in Guillermo del Toro's Pacific Rim. And, between the movie's villains, the Decepticons, charging through cities with nary a care for the destruction they're causing, and the new Dinobots, stomping about with a lithe grace that belies their size, there's more than a hint of the Chautari – aka the serpentine, New York-smashing villains of The Avengers.
And yet the criticisms of the older films remain strong with this one. The human element still looks like it'll be easily forgotten in the clash of metal, especially given that Wahlberg is hardly a safe bet in the acting stakes. The overbearing jingoism is still present and correct, with the stars & stripes still shoehorned into every one of Wahlberg's scenes, just to remind us he's an all-American hero. And as special as the special effects sequences can be, are we really still impressed by an overabundance of CGI these days? What with the likes of The Avengers and Iron Man 3 getting more praise for their writing and character development than their special effects, will audiences still be satisfied with a franchise that repeatedly sidelines the former in favour of the latter?
It's hard to argue with the numbers: the series has netted almost $2bn so far, with each successive instalment bringing in increasing profits (Dark of the Moon, the last instalment with LaBeouf, was the first to pass the $1bn mark). This is in spite of increasing critical disapproval – according to Rotten Tomatoes, only the first film received a thumbs up from audiences, with the sequels getting a pasting from both critics and paying punters alike. Even if critical opinion did hold more influence than box office receipts, we've not yet mentioned the lucrative merchandising tie-ins – arguably the reason the films exist at all.
As long as big-budget blockbusters continue to rake in billions at the box office, it won't matter how good or bad the films are – they'll continue to get made. If your first reaction to news of a new trailer was, 'What, another one? When will we see some original ideas?', then vote with your wallet – instead of paying to see the new Transformers, give your money to something more interesting instead (we have a list of those, if you need ideas). If, on the other hand, you look forward to each new rendition of robots tearing each other (and our cities) apart, you're in luck – the world is your oyster, and you can smash it up as many times as you please.
Transformers: Age of Extinction will be on general release from Thu 10 Jul.