Director Michael Bay, known for blockbusters, regularly churns out “Transformer” films that net Paramount Studios enormous worldwide sales. This time the film’s awkward script and inferior dialog burden the sharply detailed digital effects that sometimes transfix.
But in between — and, at three hours long, there’s lots of in between — the film is a grueling marathon. It’s a rare achievement to spend this much money creating this much spectacle and bore viewers to distraction.
The franchise, based on the Hasbro Toy that has amused young and not-so-young boys since 1984, is comprised of robot warriors able to transform into trucks and muscle cars. The toys, reshaped by refolding and reconfiguring their parts, were invented in Japan. The origin makes sense, since transforming them seems based on principles of origami. American company Hasbro bought the toy line and proceeded to do what Americans do best — market the heck out of it.
The Transformers are extraterrestrial aliens that come to Earth for battles with one another. Decepticon Transformers are hell bent on wiping out the Autobots, or good Transformers, and would happily dispense with mankind. Fortunately for us, during the past three films, the Autobots have defeated the Decepticons. Hint: You can identify an Autobot because it transforms into the cars and trucks favored by high school teens.
In this fourth installment, some nasty bureaucratic types decide all Transformers must be destroyed, including the protective Autobots. Kelsey Grammar appears as the government official in charge of overseeing this destruction, while Stanley Tucci plays the CEO of a company receiving the lucrative government contract.
With only a handful of Autobots remaining, it’s good one of them is Autobot leader Optimus Prime, hidden out in the guise of a rusty, inoperable freight truck. Purchased for $150 by inventor/mechanic Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg), Optimus’ faith in humanity is restored when Yeager risks his own life to repair and protect the Autobot.
The script, penned by Ere Kruger, casts Yeager as a politically correct redneck running his repair service and inventing gizmos out of his barn. Yeager, who loves tinkering but is mystified by business, is equally clueless about the activities of his pretty daughter, 17-year-old Tessa (Nicola Peltz). Playing Tessa’s boyfriend Shane, Jack Reynor fills the young-buck shoes vacated by Shia LeBeouf.
The first two hours of the film are peppered with action sequences tenuously connected within its loose plot. Shaky as this construction is, it improves during the final 40 minutes. While choreographing an endless Transformer battle where many skyscrapers are smashed does sounds intriguing, in actual practice the monochromatic metal-on-metal action becomes tiresome after 10 minutes. That reality leaves 30 minutes of more of the same and me wishing the movie would transform itself into practically any other movie. Try this one, “There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home.”