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Transformers 4: Age of Extinction': New cast struggles to rejuvenate franchise

The latest sequel of the Transformers movie franchise returns with plenty of explosive action and dramatic battles that fans have come to expect from Michael Bay.

SINGAPORE: After a four-year absence, the Transformers are back with a bang in "Transformers 4: Age of Extinction".

The latest instalment in the series has plenty of explosive action and dramatic battles that fans have come to expect from director Michael Bay.

"Transformers 4: Age of Extinction" sees Mark Wahlberg replace Shia Labeouf as the film's main protagonist.

Wahlberg plays struggling mechanic Cade Yeager who not only has to deal with mounting debts but also parenting issues with his rebellious teenage daughter Tessa Yeager (Nicola Peltz).

But all those struggles are swiftly put aside when Cade unexpectedly discovers a badly wounded Optimus Prime, and uncovers Tessa's secret relationship with professional race-car driver Shane Dyson (Jack Reynor).

They soon unravel a sinister plot that puts the alliance between humans and Autobots to the test.

It turns out that an elite CIA unit headed by Harold Attinger (Kelsey Grammer) is in cahoots with a Transformer bounty hunter Lockdown and business tycoon Joshua Joyce (Stanley Tucci) whose technology firm has discovered the genetics behind the Transformers, and is now developing their own robots.

Cade faces a dilemma - should he fight along the Autobots or betray them to keep his family safe.

Wahlberg is a significant improvement over his predecessor. The 43-year-old's earnest delivery of his lines makes Cade comes across as a likeable, ordinary guy, a welcome change from Labeouf's annoyingly self-centered Sam Witwicky.

Wahlberg's screen presence and charisma also helped to make up for some of the cheesy dialogue between Peltz and Reynor as he tries to keep them apart.

Peltz, last seen on the big screen in M. Shyamalan's "The Last Airbender", takes over from Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and Megan Fox in the earlier "Transformers" films to become this installment's biggest source of eye-candy.

Fans probably won’t form an emotional connection with her character, but will definitely remember how the actress escapes the occasional evil robot in her tight denim jeans and tank tops.

Tutti, in his role as a Steve Job-esque tech entrepreneur, delivers one of the film’s better performances as a tycoon inventor who eventually has to choose between doing the right thing and fulfilling his lofty ambitions.

Chinese actress Li Bingbing, who plays the CEO of a Transformer manufacturing company in China and popular Chinese singer-actor Hangeng on the other hand, don’t get much screen time and seem to be glorified extras in the film.

But let's face it; we don't watch this film for the people in it.

We watch it for the Transformers.

The introduction of the Dinobots - a new class of Transformers which transform into dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures - is a refreshing addition to the Transformers cast and may provide some clues on the movie franchise's future.

"Transformers 4: Age of Extinction" also features several satisfying battles between the Autobots, Lockdown and the hordes of manufactured Transformers over the course of the film.

The destruction of Hong Kong's iconic skyline is definitely one of the highlights in the movie. But, despite its new cast and the introduction of the Dinobots, it seems like a case of one step forward, two steps back in "Transformers 4: Age of Extinction".

A sense of lethargy started to creep in when the movie approached its halfway mark as the audience can more or less guess what's coming next.

The novelty of watching Optimus Prime and Bumblebee fighting against their foes to defend humanity is also starting to wear thin.

It's a real pity that the Dinobots' characters (Grimlock, Slug, Sludge, Snarl and Swoop) were not sufficiently fleshed out as well.

Visuals wise, 'Transformers 4: Age of Extinction' is just as wild as what you'd expect from a Michael Bay film, with plenty of fireworks, close-ups of buff bodies (both human and robot) along with beautiful golden sunsets.

While it's impressive the first time, it really loses its impact later in the film - a reminder that too much of anything is never good.

Yet, at the end of the day, these probably do not matter for Transformers fans.

The sheer thrill of watching giant robots transforming into sports cars and engaging in incredible robot battles will still drive fans to the theatre.

3/5 stars.

'Transformers 4: Age of Extinction' is now showing

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