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'Transformers: Age of Extinction': What's the verdict?

By Breeanna Hare, CNN
updated 3:14 PM EDT, Fri June 27, 2014
"Transformers: Age of Extinction" is the fourth film in Michael Bay's franchise.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • "Transformers: Age of Extinction" isn't winning fans among critics
  • At least one reviewer found it to be painfully bad
  • But fans of the franchise will likely enjoy it

(CNN) -- "Transformers: Age of Extinction" is being called so bad, it hurts.

"Hello, police? I'd like to report an assault," begins The Seattle Times review. "Down at the MegaGigaGrandePlex, and it's still going on. Come quick! I barely escaped with my life. The perp? Michael Bay. He gave me a full-body beatdown. His weapon? 'Transformers: Age of Extinction.' "

The fourth installment of Michael Bay's toys-to-big-screen franchise is supposed to press reset on the story with a new leading man -- Mark Wahlberg in for Shia LaBeouf -- but critics haven't fallen for it. While Bay has said that he envisions "Age of Extinction" to be the launching pad for a new "Transformers" trilogy to follow the one led by LaBeouf -- which included "Transformers" (2007); "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" (2009); and "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" (2011) -- the question critics have asked is whether there needs to be a new trilogy at all.

Wahlberg stars in "Age of Extinction" as Texan Cade Yeager, an inventor and single dad of a teen daughter (Nicola Peltz). He accidentally stumbles upon Optimus Prime when he picks up an old truck.

Set four years after the events of "Dark of the Moon," Optimus Prime and the rest of the Autobots are now being targeted for elimination, spearheading showdowns between the Autobots and their allies -- Cade, his daughter, and her boyfriend (Jack Reynor) -- and, well, everyone else.

As Wahlberg said at the premiere, "Age of Extinction" is built to be "bigger and better, but also (with) more story (and) more character. And a whole new threat not only to the humans but also to the Autobots."

The good news is that more than one critic thought "Extinction" really is better than some of the prior "Transformers" installments, although that sentiment wasn't shared by all. USA Today, for example, found "Extinction" to be "deafening, deadening and about two hours too long ... (the) weakest installment yet of the 7-year-old Hasbro franchise if the previous three movies were discernible from one another."

But the real issue, as several point out, is the absurdly long running time.

"You can admire what (Bay) does without really enjoying it," says the New York Times' A.O. Scott. "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."

The Hollywood Reporter acknowledges that there is "a lot of state-of-the-art 3-D chicanery, and the film is a marked improvement over the wholesale inhuman chaos of the last two installments. But the bloat of this latest entry -- at 165 minutes, the longest of the lot -- suggests that Michael Bay and his team are struggling to rejuvenate the whole premise."

At the very least, says the Los Angeles Times, fans of the franchise will adore the movie. "It's still not a great movie, but it is, most definitely, full-metal Bay."

And if you're not already sold on Bay, or the film series? Good luck (and we hope you like CGI).

The movie "is basically a shambles," says New York Magazine's David Edelstein. "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."

Actor Shia LaBeouf arrested and released after outburst in Broadway theater

CNN's Joan Yeam contributed to this report.

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