Wednesday, 9 July 2014


By Brian Hannan

ALIENS never learn. Every year, round about this time, they invade Planet Earth.

Sometimes, they rise up from within, having buried themselves deep within the earth millions of years ago, waiting for an alarm clock to ring from outer space.

They used to focus on the United States, but now, clearly conscious of how important the overseas market has become to Hollywood, they have an air of interplanetary tourists, and might decide that instead of blowing up the White House, they should take in the Eiffel Tower or Big Ben or (as inTransformers: Age of Extinction) the Great Wall of China.

In this film, aliens have gone decidedly upmarket and in the middle of one battle the camera freezes so that we can register skyscraper-high posters advertising Vogue magazine or Tom Ford clothing. A Victoria’s Secret bus is inexplicably caught up in the carnage.

In the past, aliens could be seen off by giving them a dose of the cold or its modern equivalent, a computer virus, or by an ordinary bloke who is just too clever for them. But, these days, we are more likely to enlist the help of other aliens, such as here, headed by Optimus Prime and his gang of Dirty Dozen sound-alikes.

Curiously, at the start of this Transformers movie, the good aliens, as a result of shenanigans so ridiculous I won’t waste space explaining them, are actually bad aliens.

Mark Wahlberg is the said ordinary bloke, though, after years of deceptively convincing acting, he has reverted to his previous shouty persona. There’s a sultry teenager (Nicola Peltz), her make-up done by a girl of ten, and, shades of Armageddon, a boyfriend Wahlberg intensely dislikes but has to work with.

And there’s a ship. There’s always a big ship in this kind of blockbuster, often dragged along the ground like a Neanderthal knuckle as a weapon by the warring combatants.

In movies like this, Hollywood generally gets away with the “bigger is better” argument, but I think we have to draw the line at “longer is better.”

This is an epic two-and-three-quarter hours (the same running time as The Dark Knight Rises) but with all the gravity of a meringue.

I have a sneaky feeling that in the past Hollywood used to employ the Logic Police. But when franchises get this long past their sell-by date, it is clear there is no point employing any logic.

Screenwriter Ehren Kruger was educated at the Jefferson High School for Science and Technology where, presumably, he was taught to baffle people with science.

The plot, such as it is, involves Stanley Tucci. He’s paid double for looking both stern and smug, (never mind that, Kelsey Grammar, another bad guy, thinks acting is growing a beard and not twitching) as a billionaire bad guy who sees the error of his ways and is then forced to drag around a “seed” that is the equivalent to an atomic bomb (work that one out).

Without logic to get in the way, our ordinary bloke is able to penetrate a top-secret, most highly-guarded factory and also to loiter uninterrupted on the enemy spacecraft.

Mostly, people run, or shout, or in the case of the Peltz, look doll-faced. Aliens run and shout, but luckily, so far, we have not been treated to any female aliens. Maybe next time. Perhaps Victoria’s Secret was the hint.