Like a nuclear arsenal launched by an insane despot, Michael Bay's "Transformers: Age of Extinction" aims for a million different targets and incinerates them beyond recognition. Nearly everything you've ever seen in a movie, and possibly on Earth, is here -- not just benevolent robots called Autobots, but things like dinosaurs, CIA operatives, spaceships, muscle cars and Stanley Tucci. All are swirled together in an IMAX-sized mushroom-cloud of flame and ash, which means that the fourth "Transformers" movie will probably set the box-office ablaze, too.
This hyperaggressive and rather desperate-seeming production is essentially a reboot with an overhauled cast. Former franchise star Shia LaBeouf has been so thoroughly eradicated that his character might as well have died in the last episode's climactic battle in Chicago. Mark Wahlberg takes the lead as Cade Yeager, a struggling inventor whose sexy teenage daughter, Tessa (Nicola Peltz, always in short-shorts), is secretly dating Shane (Jack Reynor), an Irish-Texan race-car driver. Tucci, as a Jobsian tech-guru named Joshua Joyce, replaces John Turturro in the comic-relief role.
Coherence has never been a priority for these movies, but returning screenwriter Ehren Kruger seems to have given up. The plot includes ruthless government official Harold Attinger (Kelsey Grammer), who is helping an alien called Lockdown chase Optimus Prime (the voice of Peter Cullen) and his Autobots. They're a mostly new crew of voices, including John Goodman as gung-ho Hound and Ken Watanabe as the mecha-samurai Drift.
Everything is engineered for maximum spectacle and overseas profits (the Chinese government is portrayed briefly and glowingly), but the choppy editing and overstuffed story make this nearly three-hour epic feel interminably dull. "Age of Extinction" wreaks such indiscriminate havoc that it ends up blowing itself to smithereens.
PLOT Humans turn against the Autobots, only to find that Earth has a bigger problem.
CAST Mark Wahlberg, Nicola Peltz, Stanley Tucci
BOTTOM LINE Michael Bay's robot franchise finally implodes with this incoherent and interminably long spectacle.