If Michael Bay, director of Transformers: Age Of Extinction, were immortalised on-screen as a “robot in disguise”, his mechanised alter-ego might be Maximus Kaboom.
For two decades, the Californian film-maker has been elevating wanton destruction to a blockbusting art form.
In Armageddon, he pitted Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck against a gigantic asteroid on a collision course with earth and orchestrated destruction to the sonic booms of Aerosmith’s I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing.
The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor provided Bay with a turbulent backdrop to his 2001 war opus.
Since 2007, he has been ensconced in the Transformers fold, bringing bombast to live-action adventures of the bestselling Hasbro toys.
This fourth instalment is crammed with Bay’s usual visual excesses and motifs, including gleaming cars and a pouting female protagonist in hilariously short denim shorts.
Five years have passed since the Battle Of Chicago, which provided the pyrotechnic-laden climax to Transformers: Dark Of The Moon.
The alliance between humans and robots lies in tatters and an elite CIA unit named Cemetery Wind under the control of Harold Attinger (Kelsey Grammer) hunts Transformers without mercy.
On a family ranch, struggling inventor Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) discovers that a rusty truck he has just purchased is battle-scarred Optimus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen).
Agents from Cemetery Wind descend on the homestead and Optimus protects Cade, his daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz), her secret boyfriend Shane (Jack Reynor) and Cade’s mechanic sidekick Lucas (TJ Miller) in the ensuing gun fight.
The humans join forces with Optimus to reunite the Autobots - Bumblebee, Crosshairs (John DiMaggio), Drift (Ken Watanabe) and Hound (John Goodman) - and the rebellion plots a swift response to inventor Joshua Joyce (Stanley Tucci), who has created his own Transformer army led by the mighty Galvatron (Frank Welker).
Transformers: Age Of Extinction opens with Cade and Lucas scouring an abandoned cinema for scrap metal.
“Sequels and remakes - bunch of cr*p!” growls the grizzled owner as he surveys memorabilia from bygone blockbusters that litter the tumble-down building.
Never has a truer word been spoken in one of Bay’s exercises in hyperkinetic style over substance.
Screenwriter Ehren Kruger repeatedly defies logic to contrive outlandish scenarios for pyrotechnics and carnage, including an alien spaceship that sucks up metal then drops magnetically charged cars and boats onto terra firma.
Wahlberg punches and leaps through gaping plot holes, trotting out the concerned father routine as younger members of cast perform gravity-defying gymnastics to emerge from clouds of razor-sharp shrapnel without a graze or smudged lip-gloss.
Action sequences are visual vomit: an incomprehensible spew of glistening metal and explosions that hurt the eyes especially in the large-scale IMAX format.
“The war will be over soon,” barks Grammer’s Machiavellian politician during a momentary lull. The buttock-numbing 165-minute running time says otherwise.
Sci-Fi/Action/Thriller/Romance. Mark Wahlberg, Nicola Peltz, Jack Reynor, Stanley Tucci, Kelsey Grammer, TJ Miller and the voices of Peter Cullen, John DiMaggio, Ken Watanabe, John Goodman, Frank Welker. Director: Michael Bay.