The first hour is essentially ‘Maxim: the Movie’, a parade of sweaty denim, product placement and gadgets, punctuated with eardrum-rupturing action and increasingly tiresome gags. The story is largely absent, as Shia LaBeouf’s Sam Witwicky heads to college, only to find himself suffering spasmodic, brain-scrambling visions which seem to have some connection to the ongoing Transformer war.
Somehow, a total absence of narrative logic doesn’t feel like an insult to the viewers’ intelligence: it’s not that the writers believe their audience are too stupid to notice the gaping holes in the plot; it’s just that they know they don’t give a damn. And Bay’s direction offers sparks of genuine invention, including a stunning break-in involving a metallic cougar and a herd of smart ball bearings.
Then somewhere around the mid point, it begins to come together. A smash-and-plunder forest battle ups the action ante, and the return of John Turturro adds a lightness of tone which is totally lacking in LaBeouf and Megan Fox. Perhaps it’s just that the sheer volume and ferocity of the thing becomes impossible to resist, but by the climactic desert conflict, in which the entire Valley of the Kings is razed to the ground, the film has become so utterly lunatic, so breathtakingly, boneheadedly brazen, that it’s easier just to give in.