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After three sci-fi blockbusters based on the shape-changing toys, you would imagine that either director Michael Bay or the global cinema audience would finally be exhausted by the spectacle of ever more humongous giant robot smackdowns.

But no, Bay is back with instalment number four, Transformers: Age of Extinction, and so undoubtedly will be the franchise’s tireless fans. Not returning, though, is Shia LaBoeuf’s irritatingly whiny Sam Witwicky – who said there were no silver linings left?

The series’ new leading man is Bay’s Pain & Gain star Mark Wahlberg, playing a widowed amateur inventor, Cade Yeager, who divides his time between tinkering with unwanted gizmos in his Texas barn and trying to preserve the chastity of his leggy teenage daughter, Tessa (Nicola Peltz).

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Five years have passed since the events of Transformers: Dark of the Moon and the now ostracised Autobots (the good alien robots) are in hiding. When the rusting truck Cade finds in an abandoned cinema (don’t ask how or why it got there) turns out to be Autobot leader Optimus Prime, he and Tessa, plus her hunky Irish rally driver boyfriend (Jack Reynor), end up being hunted down by shifty CIA boss Kelsey Grammer’s black ops team.

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Confusingly, the CIA appear to be in league with some kind of extraterrestrial robot bounty hunter. Even more confusingly, everyone lands up in China – an acknowledgment of China’s box-office muscle rather than plot necessity – where Bay wreaks his customary metal-crunching skyscraper-shattering slow-mo destruction.

The film reportedly cost $165million and is 165-minute long (do the maths), but the story and the spectacle are both instantly forgettable. What might just snag your attention, though, are a pair of supporting performances that somehow stand out amid the special-effects-driven mayhem. Stanley Tucci is fabulously droll as a megalomaniac tech gazillionaire who wants to build his own line of shape-changing robots, and Chinese superstar Li Bingbing supplies slinky cool as his business partner, proving again that if you want an example of real clout look to China not giant robots.

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Certificate 12A. Runtime 165 mins. Director Michael Bay.