Struggling inventor Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) rifles through the remains of a dusty old movie theatre. In Michael Bay’s fourth instalment to the Transformers franchise, cinema is dying and sequels are to blame. It’s a neat little jibe from Bay, whose reputation as a creator of loud, exhausting action movies riddled with bad jokes and sun drenched skin, is now branded on modern consciousness. But, with Bay’s first Transformers trilogy making over $2.7 billion at the box office, Age Of Extinction is already a guaranteed box office success. Critics might accuse him of ruining the blockbuster, but cinemas are certainly alive when Michael Bay’s movies come to town.

© 2014 Paramount Pictures

© 2014 Paramount Pictures

Does this Transformers movie break the mould? “I think history is about to change,” says Cade Jaeger as if ushering in Bay’s revamped cast and brand new bad guys. Decepticons are on their way out. Man made and prehistoric Transformers are in. The Transformers franchise has always delighted in writing itself in to turning points of human history, from the Moon landing to Chernobyl. Here it’s the extinction of the dinosaurs. But for all the billboards of Optimus Prime riding a metallic T-Rex there’s precious little screen time for the mechanised dinosaurs. Somewhere here is a story about creation – while humans put their faith in technology, the creator of the Transformers wants to “wipe the slate clean” – but as the action builds, any semblance of a reasonable message is buried deep beneath the rubble.

“Bay’s Transformers aren’t dying out anytime soon – whether you like it or not”

Instead, stepping in with a vapid human storyline is Mark Wahlberg as Cade Yeager, an overprotective father who obsesses about the length of his daughter’s shorts. It’s as if he knows she’s starring in a Michael Bay movie. The director’s fascination with sun tanned legs is far from over. Bay sets the camera on the ground and pans up to give us a leering view. Reaching a new low for Bay movies, 19 year old Shane (Jack Reynor) pulls out the Romeo and Juliet law – excusing his relationship with the 17 year old minor on the basis of a pre-existing juvenile relationship.

Thank goodness Stanley Tucci is here to save us from the perpetual eye roll. Tucci, who can seemingly make any material work, runs away with the movie, stealing the final act with his unique blend of ‘awkward but nice’ as scientist Joshua Joyce. It feels like Bay gives up on Cade and family too, whose dull problems diminish the finale’s peril, placing Joyce centre stage instead.

© 2014 Paramount Pictures

© 2014 Paramount Pictures.

But what of the car chases, showdowns and Transformer warfare? Catching us off guard with a few cool action sequences early on – including a slow motion car jump that swipes a bloke’s face with a mid air wheel – Bay returns to predictable ‘machine-into-robot’ metamorphosis and threatens to wear out slow motion for good. 165 minutes is a long time to feel 3D glasses pinching your head and, in usual Bay style, the action is long-winded stuff indeed, knocking all the fun out of the spectacle. Age Of Extinction is big, loud and takes forever. It’s everything we’ve come to expect from a Transformers movie.

“Tucci saves us from the perpetual eye roll”

“One day I’m going to build something that matters,” says Cade. In the case of Bay, he’s going to China to build it. Setting his sights on the fastest growing market for cinema, Bay uproots the final act of his latest instalment and transplants it in cinema’s new land of dreams. It’s a decision that works, visually at least, in marking Age Of Extinction out from the plethora of city destruction movies we see every year.

And so, in it’s pioneering efforts to embrace the future of film, the Transformers franchise might matter after all. Maybe cinema even needs Michael Bay’s particular brand of gigantic action in order to survive. Age Of Extinction is a throwaway blockbuster at best, but with another sequel already on the way, it’s clear Bay’s Transformers aren’t dying out anytime soon – whether you like it or not.

VERDICT: ✭ ✭ 2/5
Images: Andrew Cooper – © 2014 Paramount Pictures. All Rights Reserved. HASBRO, TRANSFORMERS, and all related characters are trademarks of Hasbro.2
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