TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION (TBC)
165 minutes/Opens tomorrow/**1/2
The story: Self-styled inventor Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) and his teen daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz) find an old hauler. He repairs it only to find that he has revived Optimus Prime, badly damaged after the battles of the last movie. Now, the threat to Cade and his daughter is not from the Decepticons but from a ruthless bounty hunter Lockdown and a shadowy but powerful branch of the American government harnessing Transformers weapons technology.
It seems unbelievable but it appears that director Michael Bay has taken on board what critics have been telling him, about how out of touch he is with reality when it comes to minorities and women.
In this, the fourth instalment in the current run of Transformers movies helmed by Bay, it was a given that it would be longer (true) and feature bigger, louder battles (also true).
What was not expected is how much less aggravatingly boorish it now is. Gone are the crude racial stereotypes; there are no from-the-hood ghetto-speak Autobots, for example.
But it is not a full conversion yet. The camera still tracks across Peltz's body as if she were in a three-hour-long Sports Illustrated swimsuit shoot, not a movie. In the end, she is just another pair of legs in ultra-short shorts, just as Rosie Huntington-Whitely was in the previous film and Megan Fox before that.
If you feel that Frozen (2013) or Maleficent (2014) gave you an overdose of positive female role models, then Tessa's wailing and waiting for her father (Wahlberg) and boyfriend Shane (Jack Reynor) to prove their masculinity by saving her will be just the antidote you need.
It is not just the assumption that viewers want to leer at her that is irritating, it is also how the leering yanks the viewer out of the movie and lets you know, in a 2,000-decibel shriek, that you are watching a Bay production.
If those factors are not jarring enough, there is the product placement for American cars and beer. A large jar of China- made protein powder makes an appearance on an American table for no reason, as does a prominently placed packet of a China juice drink.
For all the improvements, it would be too early to call Bay reformed. Traces of the stereotyping are still not completely gone. He is the American version of Top Gear's Jeremy Clarkson; he believes that as long as it is all in good fun, anything is permissible. So here we have a samurai Transformer voiced by Ken Watanabe.
Someone should point out to Bay what he is missing by not having an Irish Transformer who chucks bottles of Guinness at Decepticons.