With each film in the Transformer saga, Michael Bay makes it clear that all he's interested in are massive metallic special effects bashing into each other and usually exploding. Because otherwise this is a vacuous thriller without any characters to speak of, no sense of plot coherence and an appallingly simplistic sense of geography. There's plenty in this franchise to enjoy (just watch the original 2007 film again), but Bay takes everything so seriously that only die-hard fans will have any fun this time.
The story picks up five years after the cataclysmic Transformers' battle in Chicago, as Texas inventor and overprotective single dad Cade (Mark Wahlberg) builds gadgets in his rural barn, oblivious to the fact that his 17-year-old daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz) is secretly seeing 20-year-old Shane (Jack Reynor). Luckily, Shane is a race driver, so he's handy to have around when black ops agents commanded by shadowy CIA director Attinger (Kelsey Grammer) raid Cade's farm looking for an old truck that turns out to actually be Optimus Prime in hiding. This sparks a return to Chicago for more mayhem, followed by a hop to Beijing and Hong Kong, where Optimus Prime and a handful of remaining good-guy Autobots take on the villainous Lockdown. Helped of course by Cade, Tessa and Shane, plus billionaire inventor Joshua (Stanley Tucci).
The new gimmick this time is dinosaurs, building on a prologue showing the real reason they went extinct. This comes back in the climactic battle in the form of Dinobots, ancient Transformers that will have fanboys squirming in their seats with joy while everyone else yawns and looks at their watches, astounded that Bay has somehow managed to stretch this paper-thin story out over nearly three hours of metal-on-metal chaos. As in the earlier films, the action is quite literally cartoonish, purely animated mayhem that's not easy to decipher. At least the humans help keep it vaguely approachable, as they provide running commentary in their dialogue and bounce through the air like plastic action figures who never get hurt.
Wahlberg is sturdy in the central role, the film's only truly heroic character who charges into every situation to save the planet. Reynor and Peltz get to do a few things, but spend most of the movie quivering on the sidelines. Tucci and Miller do a nice job with the steady flow of comic relief, but everyone else is pretty thankless. Especially the women, as Bay indulges in fairly blatant misogyny every time a female is on-screen, including anatomical close-ups and a discussion of when statutory rape is OK (yes, really). It's becoming impossible not to see these films for what they are: children's cartoons bloated into behemoth blockbusters by boyish filmmakers who have too much money at their disposal. But then, if audiences are happy with cool-looking gibberish like this, part 5 can't be too far behind.
Watch 'Transformers: Age of Extinction' Trailer
Run time: 165 mins
In Theaters: Friday 27th June 2014
Box Office USA: $245.4M
Box Office Worldwide: $245.5M
Distributed by: Paramount Pictures
Production compaines: Ian Bryce Productions, Paramount Pictures, Di Bonaventura Pictures, Hasbro, Tom DeSanto/Don Murphy Production
Contactmusic.com: 2 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 18%
Fresh: 32 Rotten: 146
IMDB: 5.9 / 10
Director: Michael Bay
Screenwriter: Ehren Kruger
Starring: Mark Wahlberg as Cade Yeager, Stanley Tucci as Joshua, Nicola Peltz as Tessa Yeager, Jack Reynor as Shane, Li Bingbing as Su Yueming, Frank Welker as Galvatron (voice), Miguel Ferrer as Scourge (voice), Jeffrey Combs as Powerglide (voice), Mark Rolston as Thrust (voice), Sophia Myles as Darcy, Titus Welliver as Savoy, Peter Cullen as Optimus Prime (voice), John Goodman as Hound (voice), Ken Watanabe as Drift (voice), Kelsey Grammer as Harold Attinger, Geng Han as Convertible Passenger, Charles Parnell as CIA Director, Erika Fong as CIA Analyst, David Midthunder as Arctic Site Guard, Glenn Keogh as Arctic Site Foreman, Richard Gallion as Air Force Operator