Twenty years ago, no movie archetype was more persistent than the overprotective father, with an entire subgenre of threat-to-the-family-unit action movies built upon his shoulders.
Films such as Fear – in which Mark Wahlberg preyed on America’s adolescent female population – provided justification for all manner of paternal paranoia, and Hollywood was overflowing with domineering dads ready to take up the cause.
In the new millennium, though, cinema’s overprotective fathers took a step back and made way for their arch nemeses: hormonal teenage boys. This shift towards a younger, spunkier action hero was perhaps most evident in Michael Bay’s Transformers, which 10 years earlier might have starred Sylvester Stallone or Mel Gibson, but in 2007 provided a launchpad for a scrawny Disney Channel star by the name of Shia LaBeouf.
The result was a lively, youthful and only occasionally irritating underdog story, with LaBeouf a relatable proxy for the film’s teenage target demographic. But as the franchise progressed, old habits began to reassert themselves. LaBeouf got older and colder; the high schools and sleepy suburbs of the first film were replaced by penthouse suites and military bases. Finally, Bay hit the action genre’s proverbial reset button and exchanged his teenage lead for a middle-aged Mark Wahlberg in the saga’s fourth entry, Age Of Extinction.
Now old enough to play the weary dads he terrorised in Fear, Wahlberg furnishes Bay’s latest with an overprotective father of almost mythic proportions. Nominally the hero of the film, he spends more time fixating on the integrity of his daughter’s hymen than he does aiding the Autobots in their fight for humanity. As he is confronted by his young progeny’s bullheaded boyfriend, the film slowly mutates into an epic struggle for control over a teenage girl’s reproductive organs.
Paramount, DVD & Blu-ray
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