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Transformers: Age of Extinction

by Giovanni Fazio

My least favorite part of being a film critic is probably going to see Michael Bay movies. And the most horrific Michael Bay movies of all are the “Transformers” ones. So when I heard that Bay’s latest, “Transformers: Age of Extinction,” clocked in at nearly three punishing hours filled with fireballs, flag-waving, and giant alien robots, I had to resist the sudden and nearly uncontrollable urge to swallow rat poison.

Thrilled by the fact I am still alive on this glorious summer afternoon, I resolved to take the advice of Thumper from Walt Disney’s “Bambi”: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.” Well, here goes …

People who played with Hasbro’s “Transformers” toys as kids — and still think that cars changing into robots is the coolest thing ever — can rest comfortably while viewing “Transformers: Age of Extinction,” knowing that despite having grown older, hairier and wider of girth, their emotional maturity hasn’t progressed a bit since the 1980s. Forever young, dude!

It gets better. The insufferable Shia LaBeouf is nowhere to be seen in the film, replaced by the tolerable Mark Wahlberg, playing a Texan robotics inventor (with a Boston accent) who hooks up with good-guy Autobot Optimus Prime to save the world and his daughter’s virginity. The blurry, drunk-with-a-cellphone cinematography from previous films is somewhat improved, and editor Roger Barton seems to be taking his Ritalin for a change. The 3-D won’t give you a headache this time.

Chicago gets destroyed again, but Bay doesn’t repeat the 9/11 porn of his previous “Transformers” film, “Dark of the Moon,” where people jumped from skyscrapers as they toppled.

The continued racial stereotyping and jive-talking, along with the product placement — for Beats headphones, Red Bull, Bud Light, Victoria’s Secret and China’s Shuhua Milk, to name but a few — is so ridiculously obvious and in-your-face it becomes the film’s best running joke.

This hits a hilarious peak when, as the giant robots run amok in Kowloon, somebody yells, “Call the central government!” and there’s a cutaway to a stern-faced, suited Communist Party official, flanked by a bevy of concerned-looking assistants yelling into a phone, “The central government will protect Hong Kong at all costs!” There is nothing in the story either before or after to justify this scene, no epic followup where the PLA takes on the evil Decepticons, just the awful scent of Bay bending over for the “central government” in order to get his American-Chinese coproduction onto as many screens as possible in China.

There, I’ve done it, an almost entirely positive review of a Michael Bay film.

For a chance to win a “Transformers: Age of Extinction” computer mouse visit jtimes.jp/film.