Michael Bay has done the impossible. With Transformers: Age of Extinction, the start of a – everyone duck! – second trilogy in his metalhead franchise, the Bay-man has made the worst and most worthless Transformers movie yet. I know, hard to believe, right? How could any summer blockbuster be as dull, dumb and soul-sucking as the first three Transformers movies? Step right up.
Bay, with the help of screenwriter Ehren Kruger, is telling the same damn story as he did before. But this time he’s taking more time than ever to do it. Just shy of three hours, Transformers: Age of Extinction, whether you see it in 2D, 3D or IMAX 3D, is a punishing endurance test. Even fans of the series, and they are legion, must know that the Hasbro toys that inspired the films have more complexity and feeling.
The plot? It’s been four years since the war between alien robots left Chicago devastated. In case you need a refresher: Autobots, led by Optimus Prime, are good. Decepticons, inspired by Megatron, are bad. But it doesn’t matter. Since even the human-friendly Autobots are being hunted down and destroyed. The government’s dastardly plan, these plans are always dastardly, is to create their own race of Transformers to achieve the elusive goal of world domination. What it really means is that Bay can start the whole process all over again with robots fighting their own clones. Kill me now.
Maybe I’m being unfair. There is some new stuff. Bay has trashed his old human cast. Shia LaBeouf is gone as Sam Witwicky, the teen pal to all things Autobot. In his place is Mark Wahlberg as Cade Yeager, a nutty Texas robotics inventor who buys an old truck that turns out to be Optimus Prime. Wait, what? Does this mean there’s no Megan Fox or Rosie Huntington-Whiteley for Bay’s camera to slobber over. Never fear. Welcome Nicola Peltz as Tessa, Cade’s 17-year-old daughter, who wears heels and short-shorts even on the run so Bay can have his pervy cinematic way with her. Some things never change.
The acting? There isn’t any. Though I give credit to Stanley Tucci. He plays Joshua Joyce, the head of Kinetic Sciences Institute (KSI) and the tycoon who has isolated a metal called “Transformium” that can mutate anything, short of transforming Bay into a talented filmmaker with the gifts of, say, James Cameron and Christopher Nolan. But I digress. It’s Joshua, in league with CIA baddie Harold Attinger (Kelsey Grammer), who does a Frankenstein number on Galvatron, a Transformer created from the evil DNA inside Megatron’s decapitated head. Anyway, Tucci is the only fully alive presence onscreen, mostly because he seems to laughing inside at every idiot line he’s given to say.
The rest is all sound and fury signifying the usual Bay nothing. If you want to see metal crushing metal with no purpose, logic or letup, stay at home with your X box. At least you’re in control and you can do a dozen other things at the same time. With Transformers: Age of Extinction you’re stuck with Bay’s video console. At one point, the movie introduces the dinobots, a new species of robot that struck fear in my heart that Bay may be contemplating a Jurassic Park reboot. Noooooooo! The dinobots are actually meant to remind us of that calamitous moment in time when the power (called “the seed”) was unleashed to “turn organic life into metal.” In movie terms, Bay has that power. And we are all the worse for it.