Transformers: Age of Extinction review – “over-cranked, relentless audio-visual pummelling”

"Returning scriptwriter Ehren Kruger clearly knows his main job is to keep Hasbro toy sales buoyant"

Are you ready for another overlong fetishisation of heavy, whirring metal courtesy of mega macho action director Michael Bay?


Good, because over-cranked, supersized, bombastic, relentless audio-visual pummelling is all you really get out of the fourth instalment of the blockbuster series based on the Hasbro toy line with Bay simply content to hold his audience firmly in his dazzling, but restricting, technophilic embrace.

Something of a franchise reboot as struggling engineer Mark Wahlberg replaces Shia LaBeouf as the main protagonist, the action picks up four years after the devastating battle between the Autobots and Decepticons that left Chicago in ruins. Because of the mass destruction caused, rogue Autobots are being hunted down in a series of black ops raids masterminded by CIA agent Harold Attinger (Kelsey Grammer).

It’s not patriotic justice Attinger wants though; it’s payment for their body parts by KSI corporate entrepreneur Joshua Joyce (Stanley Tucci, channeling Steve Jobs) who is updating their alien Transformium-based technology to build a more malleable robot army to revolutionise US defence.

But both Attinger and Joyce are being manipulated by Decepticon Megatron, camouflaged as the Galvatron upgrade still seeking world domination, and it’s this power struggle that Cade Yeager (Wahlberg), his tearaway daughter Tessa (Nichola Peltz) and her race-car driver boyfriend Shane (Jack Reynor) get embroiled in when Cade discovers a beaten-up truck disguising Optimus Prime in a condemned cinema. That latter venue actually sets the depressing scene when a former employee comments about rubbish sequels and trashes Bay’s own Armageddon and the director blithely seems to adhere to both pithy observations as his 165 minute marathon staggers on. Because while Bay does indeed pile on the impressive shape-shifting spectacle and ever more bloated face-offs in a series of stunningly rendered locations – a Jurassic dawn introducing the Dinobots, the Giger-style steel maze of an alien spaceship, a vertigo-inducing Hong Kong tenement block, a warship-to-skyscraper tightrope walk and Monument Valley in a wonky tribute to iconic western director John Ford – the overall effect becomes exhausting metal fatigue.

Returning scriptwriter Ehren Kruger clearly knows his main job is to keep Hasbro toy sales buoyant and pad out the time between the hugely thrilling sound-and-fury set pieces so any plot logic is barely followed as incessant one-liners and deep thoughts trip from capable Wahlberg’s lips, political correctness takes a back seat – get a load of Tucci’s office staff! – and the ethical dilemmas evaporate the moment they are raised. Case in point being Attinger’s motivations for still defending Galvatron despite knowing his payday has already gone south.

At this stage in the TRANSFORMERS heritage though what more can be said than you know exactly what to expect – totally senseless sensory bombardment – so take it or leave it. Michael Bay doesn’t care what anybody thinks as he’s already in prep on number five.


Transformers: Age of Extinction is in UK cinemas 5 July.