"That's a bad idea!" an Autobot says. "But I'm all about bad ideas."
So is "Transformers: Age of Extinction," Michael Bay's fourth toy car-inspired "Transformers" opus and possibly the stupidest science-fiction action movie I have ever seen.
"Transformers: Age of Extinction"★ ½
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Stanley Tucci, Nicola Peltz, Jack Reynor, Kelsey Grammer
Directed by: Michael Bay
Other: A Paramount Pictures release. Rated PG-13 for language, violence. 165 minutes
Wait. Let me amend that.
The stupidest, longest and most butt-numbing science-fiction action movie I've ever seen.
Sitting through the mercilessly slow-motion metallic carnage of "Age of Extinction" for 165 minutes feels like being trapped in that giant junk compactor scene from the original "Star Wars."
In Bay's last installment, "Transformers: Dark of the Moon," the good Autobots joined humans in fighting off the evil Decepticons while handing the city of Chicago its biggest urban renewal project since the great fire.
Since then, the U.S. officials, led by Kelsey Grammer's security chief Harold Attinger, have gone to war against their old buddies the Autobots, hunting them down and destroying them on sight. Why? "There are no good alien robots or bad alien robots," Attinger says. "Just us vs. them."
Now the Autobots have vanished, just like original star Shia LaBeouf, who traded in hard bore for hard core in Lars Von Trier's adults-only drama "Nymphomaniac."
In his place, Mark Wahlberg creates a new main character: Texan Cade Yeager, a muscle-bound robotics designer and widower who's just as bad at handling money as he is at handling his rebellious 17-year-old daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz).
"You're not 18 yet!" Dad yelps at her. "You have to do what I tell you!"
Yep, that sensitive parenting approach will just about do it.
Tessa announces she has a 20-year-old boyfriend named Shane (Jack Reynor). ("Oh, no you don't!" Dad instantly corrects her.) Shane drives cars, a talent that proves helpful once Cade buys an old diesel truck and discovers that it's really Autobot leader Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen, again), wounded by a missile.
Soon, the government agents (led by Titus Welliver's ruthless, Neo-dressed James Savoy) and the Decepticons hunt for Optimus Prime and a few other Autobots, who come out of hiding to follow their boss.
Of course, Savoy and Attinger aren't really motivated by patriotism. They're sending salvageable Auto-parts to manufacturing mogul Joshua Joyce (Stanley Tucci), who discovers they're made of "Transformium," a substance that works like "programmable matter." He can program matter to become whatever he chooses.
Tucci is the only actor in "Age of Extinction" who seems to have an actual character with depth and the ability to evolve. While Wahlberg communicates emotion by simply speeding up his line delivery, Tucci appears to be acting in some other, better disaster movie that Bay has nothing to do with.
If watching super-slick visual effects change alien robots into brand-name automobiles are all you require from a movie (these effects are the best in the series so far), and if your idea of good entertainment is one never-ending violent video game with robotic characters being eviscerated and their oily mouth discharges raining down on you in glorious 3-D imagery, see "Age of Distinction" and be happy.
But this is a curiously amoral movie where the supposedly good Autobots constantly talk about the violence they want to commit. ("I've been itching to kill something lately!" one mutters. "They will feel my wrath!" another intones.) And, except for Tucci, the humans possess less personality than the robots as they race from one ridiculously mounted action sequence to another.
Sometimes, Ehren Kruger's screenplay doesn't even pay attention to itself. Take the time when Attinger says, "Let's try to use violence as a last resort!"
Uh, too late by about two hours.
Friendly note: I saw "Age of Extinction" Wednesday night on the 3-D IMAX screen at Chicago's Navy Pier. A mistake.
If you must see this movie out of some misguided personal code that requires you to finish the film franchises you start, you should skip the 3-D IMAX version. Although the format does wonders at capturing sweeping cityscapes and landscapes, it cannot comfortably accommodate super close-ups and fast-moving action sequences, which are difficult to watch and tend to scramble your retinas.