Transformers: Age of Extinction

It’s as simple as this: If watching any of the previous three Transformers movies filled you with even a moderate level of joy, the fourth one won’t leave you disappointed. A little hard-of-hearing, sure, but not disappointed.

Transformers: Age of Extinction is predictably getting savaged by critics, but it’s also (just as predictably) making a ton of cash. Why? Because it’s the most mindless fun you’ll have in a theater this year. And sometimes mindless fun is what you want. And Michael Bay is the undisputed king of mindless fun.

There’s a reason that he’s the third highest-grossing director of all time. (Yes, of all time—trailing only Spielberg and Zemeckis.) His unique (though often copied) visual style is instantly recognizable, from Victoria’s Secret commercials to summer blockbusters. He spares no expense when it comes to showcasing visual effects and incredible sound. (The Transformers franchise has actually earned seven Oscar nominations in those categories). And though only two of his 11 movies enjoy a Rotten Tomatoes rating higher than 50%, his entire catalog has brought in more than two billion dollars.

The critics may hate his films, but dammit, the regular Joes and Janes of the world unarguably love them. And, frankly, there’s no real good reason not to.

Sure, we can quibble all day about the hopelessly convoluted plot lines (you’ll finally begin to “get” Age of Extinction about 2/3 of the way through), the egregious product placements (Bud Light, Pagani, and Beats by Dre are just a few of the brands who have their glaring moments in the sun), and the nonsensical characters (the bad guys wear ridiculous, long black trench coats in the hot Texas sun throughout)… but if I wanted to sit in a theater and revel in the believability of a film, I sure as heck wouldn’t pick a Transformers movie in which to do it.

If it matters (and it really doesn’t), Extinction’s plot centers around a down-on-his-luck robotics inventor named Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) who’s living with his model-hot, though (as we’re reminded frequently) underage, daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz). It’s been five years since the Battle of Chicago that closed out the third film, and the Transformers are now robota-non-grata, being hunted down by a government/business coalition headed by Kelsey Grammer and Stanley Tucci.

When Cade trips on a decrepit, rusted Optimus Prime while refurbishing a run-down movie theater (yes, you did read that right), the bad guys come running, and Extinction is off to the races.

There will be moments during the film when you will roll your eyes, but there will be even more times when you just sit back and marvel at what Bay is able to accomplish. The special effects are crazy-amazing—the DVD’s behind-the-scenes featurette could be a three-hour movie all on its own.

Though none of the actors offer anything beyond what you’d expect, there aren’t any weak links. Even Peltz, who is obviously just here as eye candy, doesn’t embarrass herself.

Your ears will ring, your eyes may bleed, and your brain will surely melt a little, but you’ll also have a ton of fun. And there’s not a thing wrong with that.

4/5 stars