The car chases are repetitive and the battle scenes are virtually indistinguishable from one another.
THE high-tech demolition derby that is the Transformers movie series is nothing if not thoroughly predictable. Viewers come expecting a sensory assault on an epic scale - and director Michael Bay readily delivers it in his trademark excess-is-best style. Transformers: Age of Extinction is his latest unsubtle instalment - the fourth in a megabucks enterprise that began in 2007 (US$2.7 billion and counting at the global box office) - to feature the metallic mutating robot-machines with a penchant for breaking things.
A city-as-battleground scenario is standard operating procedure in Transformers 4 but before the over-long, explosion-filled finale where Hong Kong gets its close-up, there is also a two-hour prologue and attendant action sequences to endure. Bombardment by Bay is comprehensive and severe, and not even hard-core fans will emerge from the cinema unscathed.
It's worth remembering that this is a noisy, numbing, effects-driven summer blockbuster where most of the primary characters are based on toys - so there will be no distractions in the form of character development or thought-provoking dialogue. Although the Transformers universe has grown to include humans, they don't matter nearly as much as the assembled Autobots and Decepticons.
This episode features an all-new cast of human characters but viewers will barely notice that the Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) character from previous films has been consigned to the archives and replaced by Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg), a down-on-his-luck inventor, repairman and serial tinkerer who is about to lose his Texas spread to creditors.
"One day I'm going to build something that matters," says Cade, a single dad with obligatory hot teen daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz) and the usual dad-daughter issues in tow ("This is a non-dating household").
While rummaging through a disused cinema hall for spare parts, Cade stumbles on an abandoned truck which he and buddy Lucas (TJ Miller) bring back to his barn. Of course, this is no ordinary truck - it is injured Autobot leader Optimus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen) - and the federal government wants Optimus dead (or de-registered at least), sending a team of black ops heavies to recover the vehicle.
It seems the alliance between humans and Autobots is over, and the machines are now being hunted into extinction by an otherworldly killing machine called Lockdown (Mark Ryan). It's all part of a sinister plot between government official Harold Attinger (Kelsey Grammer) and robot designer Joshua Joyce (Stanley Tucci) to build their own Transformers - made from programmable, shape-shifting matter called (what else?) Transformium - that will render Optimus and his mates redundant. Worse, these so-called upgrades have dreaded Decepticon DNA in them.
Cade, Tessa and Shane (Jack Reynor), Tessa's racecar-driving boyfriend, are considered surplus to the government's requirements and hunted down together with Optimus and fellow Autobots Bumblebee, Hound (John Goodman) and Drift (Ken Watanabe). Just when Optimus has lost faith in the human race, Cade delivers a timely we're-flawed-but-there's good-in-us speech to bolster the troops.
The car chases are repetitive and the battle scenes are virtually indistinguishable from one another. In 3D Imax format, Transformers: Age of Extinction is an exhausting, interminable experience. Viewers will leave the cinema shell-shocked and with explosions still ringing in their ears, wondering what Bay has in store for the next two films in the series. The answer of course, is more - much, much more - of the same.