"Transformers: Age of Extinction" is the crown jewel in director Michael Bay's career of making bloated and juvenile action pictures that put more emphasis on product placement than script. This isn't as much entertainment as an attempt to beat the moviegoer into submission with repetitive action scenes and two-dimensional characters.
Unlike Bay's overblown way of making movies, here's a succinct evaluation of "Extinction" — it stinks.
It takes pure genius to make a 2-hours, 37-minute movie without one line of dialogue that sounds real, one character who isn't cartoonish or one storyline that isn't confusing. The story is so bad that the writers deem it necessary to identify Texas as being in the United States.
The fourth installment in the franchise brings new careers to destroy. Mark Wahlberg — who plays master tinkerer Cade Yeager — replaces Shia Lebeouf as the human buddy to the giant robots known as Autobots. This friendship is sparked when Cade finds a badly beaten Optimus Prime, disguised in his semi-truck state, hiding in a rundown theater. He manages to bring Prime back to life, setting off a battle with a Black Op CIA group run by the overly melodramatic Harold Attinger (Kelsey Grammer).
Attinger is working with billionaire inventor Joshua Joyce (Stanley Tucci), who wants to build a bigger and better line of giant robots.
This puts Cade, his inappropriately clad daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz) and her much older boyfriend Shane (Jack Reynor), in danger. It's really hard to get a sense of any real danger when the dialogue is so laughable. When the Black Op's team shows up at Cade's ranch, Cade tells them they can't search the place without a warrant.
"My face is my warrant," growls the group's leader played by Titus Welliver.
This sets off a never-ending barrage of chase scenes and fights waged in the clouded mist of a confusing array of villains. There was nothing wrong with the Autobots and Decpticons being mortal enemies. That clarity gets muddled by the addition of the government, which now hates all robots, and big business trying to make a buck off the bots.
Of course, nothing in this movie makes sense. The movie opens painfully slow to establish that Wahlberg's character is a brilliant inventor. Instead of using that skill, he suddenly turns into a killing machine who can best any robot or slimy federal agent who gets in his way.
Then there are Cade's traveling buddies. Peltz turns in such a stiff and forgettable performance, she makes former "Transformers" eye candy Megan Fox look like Meryl Streep. And to make sure Reynor doesn't come across as the real leading man of the film, he's reduced to being part of the comic relief.
Even attempts to give the film a few actual jokes crashes and burns. When Cade crash lands a spacecraft on a busy street, the driver of a car he hits shouts, "I hope you have insurance." It's as if the film was written by a kindergarten class just before nap time.
Plot and dialogue are just distractions for a movie that's designed to sell merchandise and appeal to the growing foreign market. There are more brand names than Autobots in the movie. And the final battle sequence that unfolds in China feels tacked on just to give the movie more of an international feel.
"Transformers" movies aren't meant to be taken seriously. But there's a point where the joy of mindless entertainment gets supplanted by a movie that is disgustingly too long, absurdly written and boringly filled with cookie-cutter fight scenes.
It's going to be hard for Bay to make a movie that's more disappointing.
"Transformers: Age of Extinction," rated PG-13 for language, violence. Stars Mark Wahlberg, Nicola Peltz, Jack Reynor, Stanley Tucci. Directed by Michael Bay. Running time: 2 hours, 37 minutes. Grade: F