I have always said that action scenes are only as good as the rest of the movie. As well-filmed and clever as they may be, you only care about them if the rest of the movie is good and you care about the characters and why they are fighting/escaping/chasing etc. I would not care about the toys in 'Toy Story 3' escaping from Sunnyside Daycare if I didn't like the characters. That being said, Transformers 2 and 3 are examples of how cool-looking action scenes can be crazy boring if the movie is stupid and the hero is whiny and his mother tries to be funny by eating hash brownies and talking about sex.
Now we have 'Transformers: Age of Extinction' (TF4), a semi-reboot where Sam Witwicky, played by Shia LeBeouf has been replaced with Mark Wahlberg's character. Marky Mark is an inventor who is a bit over-protective of his 17-year-old daughter who is secretly dating a 20-year-old race car driver. The events of TF3 are referenced breifly as a reason why the government is hunting down Autobots, as the battle at the end of the last movie destroyed Chicago (5 years ago in movie time). Marky Mark finds a rusty old truck that is really Autobot leader Optimus Prime in hiding. The government, led by a very entertaining Kelsey Grammar as a villianous CIA agent, finds Prime on the farm. So, Mark, his daughter and the boyfriend that Marky Mark doesn't like are on the run from Evil Fraiser with the few remaining Autobots hiding on the planet. His new Funky Bunch.
Meanwhile, Stanley Tucci plays a much richer inventor who has his own tech company. His company has been reverse engineering the remains of the Decepticons that were destroyed at the end of TF3, creating robots that he believes will protect mankind. Iconic TF villian Megatron has been influencing the construction of these new robots, tricking this businessman into rebuilding his Decepticon army. Megatron is reborn in a new body and renamed Galvatron. Yes, just like in the 1986 cartoon film. Only cooler, because these new Decpticons transform by breaking up into a million pieces and coming back together.
Yes, the special effects are great and being a Michael Bay movie, the cool ideas do make way for some really loooooong, loud action scenes where a bunch of stuff gets destroyed, but it is far more entertaining this time around simply because both the characters and the cool ideas are better developed. Yes, this still a pointless 'rock 'em, sock 'em' action movie with a paper-thin plot, but by the time this movie deteriorates into the loud action scenes, you ar least care enough about whose fighting to be invested in who is in danger. And that makes this movie better than TF 2 and 3. The first one is still the best. That might be because I related more to a young boy who wants a car and Megan Fox than a father protecting his daughter. There are a few characters here who flirt with each other without their relationship being developed (which is annoying), but I liked most of the characters. And the humor is better/darker too. Nothing as ridiculous as the Twins or Sam's parents in this film.
I remember thinking, when TF2 came out, that the seven pieces of construction equipment that came together to form one enormous robot (like that TF toy I wanted as a kid...I think it was called a Constructicon)...would have been a cool way to end a better film. Well,at the end of this movie, we get the Dinobots, the origins of which are explained believably well (for a TF film). They are very cool and the rest of the movie is good enough so that they are enjoyable instead of causing you to look at your watch and groan the way I did with the Constructicons in part 2.
Silly, but non-confusing plot. Likeable human characters with some decent acting and tender moments. Better humor. Cool parts with robot dinosaurs. Ridiculous ending where Optimus Prime just flies off the planet when doing so earlier would have solved a bunch of problems. 2.5 Dinobots out of 5.