The latest big Summer movie is Michael Bay's fourth entry in the Transformers franchise. How does it stack up against its predecessors? I'm here to tell you.
The story begins in Texas five years after the battle of Chicago in Dark of the Moon. Mechanic and amateur engineer Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) buys a big rig from a dilapidated theater and brings it home to his garage in the hopes of salvaging parts from it. His teenage daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz) disapproves, saying he's wasting his life and not providing for them. However, things go crazy when the truck springs to life and declares that he is none other than Optimus Prime (the incomparable voice of Peter Cullen). He is badly damaged as a result of an ambush by the American government who have turned against the Autobots after Chicago and are hunting down all Transformers. The Decepticon known as Lockdown (Mark Ryan) is working with them because he wants to capture Optimus for their mysterious creators, and has promised a valuable piece of Transformer technology in exchange for their cooperation. But the Autobots won't give up without a fight, and a host of new allies join Optimus in their most dangerous battle yet. There's rotund badass Hound (John Goodman), samurai Autobot Drift (Ken Watanabe), Crosshairs (Bender himself, John DiMaggio), and the Dinobots finally make their debut. They'll need all the help they can get when they go up against the human-manufactured Transformers, Galvatron (Scooby Doo's Frank Welker), and human bad guy Harold Attinger (Kelsey Grammer). Who will survive this mother of all giant robot beat-downs?
Transformers: Age of Extinction takes few risks. Despite a completely new human cast, it delivers the same explosive action as the first three films. If you liked those, you'll like this one. Finally having the Dinobots enter the fray is most welcome, and Marky Mark is a solid addition to the cast. I also enjoyed John Goodman doing his thing and giving us a gruff but lovable character.
But the real star of the movie, as always, is Optimus Prime, and now he's totally PO'd at the humans who have betrayed him. This time around, we see a darker Optimus who is willing to break his rule against killing humans. He's had enough, and he's ready to leave Earth for good. I like seeing this transformation in his character and his struggle to balance his rage with the fatherly figure he used to be.
However, this may be too much Transformers for some. At nearly three hours, the story drags on and on as Michael Bay takes us from one robot battle to the next. The story breaks up the action with Cade telling people about his family life, but I really didn't give a crap about any of that. We came here to see giant robots killing one another, but we got too much of it. Honestly, after the first two hours, I just wanted Optimus to hurry up and kill the bad guys already. In the first three movies Bay knew where to draw the line, so I don't know what went wrong here. Really, this film just serves as a lead-in to a much better story in the next one.
Bottom line: It's the same Transformers you know and love. Just be prepared to sit in the theater for a while.