Transformers: Age of Extinction is movie four in the series that probably should have skipped two and three. With this one series, director Michael Bay -- who owns the franchise -- and series writer Ehren Kruger take a left turn and move the franchise in a new direction.
Bye, bye Shia LaBeouf's Sam Witwicky and hello Mark Wahlberg -- who continues to be one of Hollywood's busiest actors -- who plays Cade Yeager. Other than the cast of leading humans, Transformers: Age of Extinction isn't that transformed.
Yeager is a forever optimistic but failed inventor looking for that one big break. The not-so-together Yeager lives with his totally together high school age daughter, Tessa. The business is about to crash and foreclosure on the home and barn are in the works when Yeager buys an old truck he find sitting in a soon-to-be demolished theater.
Truck? In a theater? Hmmmm.
The vehicle turns out to be Optimus Prime in disguise. He and the Autobots are hiding from a CIA operative who, with robots from space, are systematically destroying them. The robots come from the never really defined creators of the transformers and their ilk.
That plot thread and a couple of others hint that there will be at least one more -- heavy sigh -- sequel.
The CIA operative is played by Kelsey Grammer, and he teams with industrialist Joshua Joyce -- done with tongue-in-cheek good humor by the always amazing Stanley Tucci - to A) do away with the Autobots and B) create his own version of them.
Joyce has uncovered via a mining operation, the metal that created the Autobots and has improved upon it.
Those are the basics. Once the set-up is done -- or about an hour into the movie -- the chase and action begins. It's nothing you haven't already seen before. And at 165 minutes, Transformers: Age of Extinction is the longest of the four movies.
There are positives in a film that could use at least a 30-minute trim. Wahlberg is impossible not to like. He's good in everything and does the film's comedy sequences and dramatic turns perfectly. Grammar doesn't have much to do, but Tucci shines in the scenes at the lab where he's a very funny control freak. Grammer's character needs more work. He's a brilliant comedian, and adding a dose of good humor to his character would help make a long movie more fun.
Newcomer Nicola Peltz (The Bates Motel) plays Wahlberg's daughter. Though interchangeable with the other love interests who've dotted the Transformer landscape, she's terrific. Tessa was an "accident" and her father doesn't want her to have a similar problem and have to get married out of high school, so he bans her from dating. The kid ignores the order and has a boyfriend who, along with dad, helps save the Autobots.
Peter Cullen reprises his work as the voice of Optimist Prime and he's joined by Frank Welker who does a new villain, Galvatron. Other known stars doing Autobot voices are John Goodman and Ken Watanabe.
Another positive is Bay's tight direction. That sounds contradictory when complaining about the movie's length, but Bay is a great director whose sense of the visual is best seen in shots at sunset and the scenery around Yeager's farm, some Arctic scenes and the other scenery shots that dot the landscape. He's also very good at special effects and almost -- and almost is the key word -- makes you believe the Autobots and their enemies are real.
Unfortunately, he and Kruger fail to reign in an excessive plot. Though the effects are, in many cases, amazing, the violence just goes on and on and destroys cities much like every other effects-laden action film.
As a title, Transformers: Age of Extinction is misleading. The series is anything but extinct. Optimist Prime's fourth trip into prime time looks better than its predecessors but still suffers from a predictable plot, predictable cliff-hanging moments, predictable heroes and villains and -- to tie it all back to extinction -- all road in this one lead to a predictable series fifth film.
Director: Michael Bay
Stars: Mark Wahlberg, Stanley Tucci, Kelsey Grammer, Peter Cullen, John Goodman, Ken Watanabe, Frank Welker, Nicola Peltz, Jack Reynor, Thomas Lennon
Mr. Movie rating: 3 1/2 stars
Rated PG-13 for violence and mature themes. It's playing at Regal's Columbia Center 8, the Fairchild Cinemas 12 and at Walla Walla Grand Cinemas.
5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen
4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.
3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on DVD.
2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself.