'Transformers: Age of Extinction' grinds critics' gears

Critics say 'Transformers: Age of Extinction' is loud, long and lackluster

Michael Bay's eye-popping, ear-splitting "Transformers" movies have proved themselves essentially critic-proof -- the first three installments all received lackluster reviews while combining for more than $2.7 billion at the worldwide box office -- but that hasn't stopped reviewers from trying.

Once again, film critics are carping that "Transformers: Age of Extinction" makes too much noise and too little sense, while taking too long to do so.

The Times' Betsy Sharkey said "Age of Extinction" is characterized by everyone involved -- robots, human characters and audiences alike -- being "being beaten, blasted, bashed, crushed, melted, morphed, reconstituted and remade over and over and over again."

In what amounted to one of the more measured appraisals, Sharkey added that Bay "has actually built a better 'Transformers' in 'Age of Extinction,' one I'm sure fans of the franchise will adore. It's still not a great movie, but it is, most definitely, full-metal Bay."

The Boston Globe's Peter Keough was less impressed. He summarized the movie as "165 minutes of explosions, car chases, cars turning into robots, images of cars, robots, and tiny human figures spinning in slow motion after an explosion or a car chase, ludicrous bathos, tight shots looking up Nicola Peltz's tiny shorts, stentorian sound effects, cheap Wagnerian music, all shot and edited as if by a Cuisinart. In short, the cinematic equivalent of being tied in a bag and being beaten by pipes."

A.O. Scott of the New York Times warned that for those who "are bored by the sight of giant robots fighting, this will feel like a very long art film. Which, in effect, it is, albeit one that was made with unlimited resources." As for Bay, "You can admire what he does without really enjoying it, and two hours and 46 minutes of pulverized architecture is a lot to endure. But in every Michael Bay movie there are at least a few moments of inspired, kinetic absurdity."

New York magazine's David Edelstein copped to "kinda ... sorta" liking Bay; even so, he wrote, "'Transformers: Age of Extinction' is basically a shambles. If you do see it, I suggest you savor each image on its own terms as a work of CGI art. Dig the bombardment. Forget trying to figure out who's zapping whom and why. Free your mind -- or risk having it transformed into porridge."

Peter Hartlaub of the San Francisco Chronicle offered a thought experiment: "Imagine if instead of creating new music, a recording artist kept putting out the exact same album, just playing the songs a little louder each time. That's what it feels like watching 'Transformers: Age of Extinction.'"

The Chicago Tribune's Christopher Borrelli called "Extinction" an "aggressively charmless act of digital confetti. It is scattered, weightless, impossible to get hold of, and somehow, after seven years and more than 10 hours of screen time, I could not tell you what these films are about."

And Scott Bowles of USA Today wrote: "Deafening, deadening and about two hours too long, 'Extinction' ... would mark the weakest installment yet of the 7-year-old Hasbro franchise -- if the previous three movies were discernible from one another."

Bowles adds that the title is "a cruel hoax. 'Transformers' has no intention of going extinct, not as long as 10-year-old American boys and international audiences crave empty movies that go boom."

He may have a point: Bay has already said "Extinction" is intended to kick off a second "Transformers" trilogy.

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