The special effects are sharper, less blurred, and the robots far more defined in “Transformers: Age of Extinction.” Four films into this series and the giant thinking, wise-cracking, lecturing alien robots have a look that finally suggests weight and metallic wear and tear.
Stanley Tucci and T.J. Miller come in as human comic relief, and John Goodman and Ken Watanabe provide new voices, sometimes used for comedy, as new Autobots.
And if “Age of Extinction” makes you feel dumber just for having watched it, well, that’s the price of popcorn these days. If it keeps Michael Bay out of trouble for years at a time (this is the start of a new trilogy), we’ll just grit our teeth and bear it.
Five years since “The Battle of Chicago,” the Decepticons have been wiped out, their metal salvaged by a rich industrialist (Tucci). But an alien robot bounty hunter named Lockdown has come in and teamed with a rogue CIA megalomaniac (Kelsey Grammer) to try to wipe out or capture the last of the Autobots. All aliens must go.
Meanwhile, in rural Texas, inventor/scrap collector Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) is trying to save the farm and his hotsie-totsie daughter’s virtue by salvaging a crashed semi he found stuck in an abandoned cinema. When he and his partner Lucas (T.J. Miller) resurrect the old truck and it burbles to life as an outraged Optimus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen), their world gets complicated. And deadly.
Middle age has not dulled Bay’s passion for photographing nubile starlets from the midriff down. Thus does Nicola Peltz take on the Megan Fox role of hottie-du-jour. Her character – Tessa, Yeager’s high-school-senior daughter – spends the movie in heavy makeup and Daisy Duke cut-off shorts.
The humans and their gathered robot teammates crash from Texas to Chicago, Beijing to Hong Kong, transforming from Camaro/Pagani/Bugatti/etc. into Autobots as they battle Lock Down’s metallic minions and trash those assorted cities as they do.
The wisecracks are pretty worn out by now. But Goodman, as a portly Autobot sergeant chomping an electronic cigar, spits out a few in between gunfights.
Which are plentiful in this “Transformers,” a movie with a staggering, mostly unseen body count. The language is rougher, but it’s the mayhem – much of it on the crowded streets, apartment high rises, ferries and trains of Hong Kong – that boggles the mind. Thousands must be dying as all this real estate and transit are squashed. We almost never see people, even in the Winnebago crushed during an Interstate brawl.
They’re running out of lectures for Optimus to give us about our treacherous, violent nature, running out of ways to transform, running out of Transformers to be turned into toys.
Yet “Age of Extinction” runs on and on, popcorn piffle without end. Two hours and 45 minutes is a pretty steep price to pay for keeping Michael Bay at bay.