In 2013 Michael Bay tried to make a real movie: the underrated ‘Pain & Gain’, a Miami crime comedy with actual performances and a satirical bite. He was mocked. So it feels like Bay has returned to his normal beat – big robots, explosions and tush shots – with a vengeance and a chip on his shoulder. It’s as if he’s saying: fine, here’s what you expect from me. Choke on it. For this fourth film in the series, Bay deadens our senses with spectacle, but it’s impossible for a director this committed to creating visual fireworks not to pull off a megablast once in a while. The action is cut cleaner than in any other film he’s done. And as Optimus Prime whirls down highways in a blaze of metal, Bay comes up with genius shots, perhaps at the expense of logic.
I could tell you a bunch of boring plot stuff, about how Shia LaBeouf is gone, making way for Mark Wahlberg’s widower with a teenage daughter (Nicola Peltz, much ogled by the camera). Or about how the evil CEO of a tech giant (Stanley Tucci) has plans to make his own robots. Or that most of the destruction takes place in China. But what matters to Bay are fluttering American flags, sentimental sunsets and actors rappelling across the Chicago skyline as mechanical dogs chase them. You’re either awestruck, dumbstruck or just plain struck in the face.