★ out of four stars
The usual quota of star rating points is insufficient for “Transformers: Age of Extinction.” It is a jolting, seizure-inducing, stamina-testing physical experience that should be scored on the Richter scale, or in terms of megatons.
Michael Bay outdoes himself here, creating the biggest, bloatiest, Michael Bay-est film ever. There is scarcely a moment in its 165 minutes that does not involve frenzied screaming, smashing or shooting. Correction: As we are in Bay country, there are also scenes of sexy jailbait, appalling dialogue, product placement and tasteless racial stereotyping amid the metallic mayhem.
There is good news. Shia LaBeouf is gone. So is his vapid girlfriend. And his other vapid girlfriend. And his annoying parents. In their place is Mark Wahlberg as an inventor. If you believe giant robots can metamorphose into swanky cars, you can believe anything, I guess. Like the fact that he finds a cobwebbed heavy transport truck (the noble shape-shifting Autobot Optimus Prime) in a derelict movie theater. Well, of course you would. After the big rig responds in unorthodox ways to his tinkering, Wahlberg announces, “I think we’ve found a Transformer.”
There are many lines of that caliber. When Wahlberg demands to see a government agent’s search warrant, Titus Welliver barks, “My face is my warrant.” My favorite comes when a rocket blasts into the Wahlberg home, just missing Nicola Peltz. “Dad,” she whines, “there’s a missile in the living room.” The film’s out-of-control special-effects expenditures left little for Peltz’s costuming; she is forced to wear barely-there cutoff jeans in most of her important running-and-shrieking scenes.
The film has no more plot than a string of firecrackers, but oh, the explosions. Bay has never seen a vehicle he didn’t want to flip or a sheet of glass he didn’t want to shatter. The smithereens budget on this production must dwarf the GNP of Singapore. There is more pandemonium per square inch of film than the last 10 blockbusters combined. This is quite deliberately designed for overseas audiences. The film’s reverent portrait of the Chinese government and endless Hong Kong action finale seem designed to pack ’em in at the AMC Tiananmen Square. It’s also sure to delight the series’ fans, who’d complain if a small child kicked the back of their seat throughout a movie, but will pay $20 for a 3-D movie that continuously kicks them in the head.