Hard as it is to believe, there is actually a ghost of a good film in there somewhere. A clean character slate, an alien bounty hunter sent to capture Optimus, and a nefarious CIA plot to reverse engineer Transformer tech could have been interesting. But as usual, Bay squanders any possible storytelling potential on tedious family drama, crude political allegory, anti-science moralising and kindergarten existentialism- all expressed in his usual incomprehensible frenetic and lurid directorial manner. The battles are incoherent and neverending, especially during the movie’s punishing second half. It's so long it could be measured in epochs; we're talking about a geological running time that is just unendurably long.
Once again script and characters- both human and robot- are truly offensive; and most hateful is Optimus Prime himself (in my opinion the true villain of the saga). He’s a callous, judgemental, warmongering cyber-despot who kills mercilessly, lets people die by the thousand then chastises ‘the humans’ for their bad ways, all the while vomiting platitudes about ‘freedom’ and ‘the soul’. Yet there is no freedom on offer from Prime and there is literally no reason for him and his band of cartwheeling, military-grade-stupid autobots to be on Earth at all. Its a relief when he remembers he can fly and sods off.
The human characters fare little better. Mark Wahlberg's (Bostonian) Texan inventor Cade Yeager is barely an improvement on Labeouf's Sam; his teenage daughter provides yet more opportunities for Bay to leer and drool, as well as introducing unwanted and repellent references to statuatory rape laws. Titus Welliver, Kelsey Grammar and Stanley Tucci provide the best characterisation, but even they get overwhelmed by the sheer hideousness of Bay's script and the monstrous amounts of CGI mayhem and stupidity around them.
And it gets worse. There are no decepticons, the anticipated dinobots are laughably crap, the other autobots are irritating fools. It's racially and sexually offensive, the new transformation effects are rubbish, the fights are too brutal for kids, the humour is infantile, and there are no set pieces or money shots to speak of; just endless, mindless, boring destruction, stupidy hammering away at your consciousness in what can only be described as a psychological assault.
Any hopes (that might have been kindled slightly by the 'slightly better' third film and the rebooted cast) that Michael Bay might take on board some of his criticisms are quickly dashed. It is quite simply an orgy of trash.
Our only hope is that the next director takes the series in a radically new direction.