First, I have to tell you the trilogy that comes before this film is both loved and hated. The first one was pretty awesome, the second was dreary and not awesome, while the third rebounded quite nicely to make a good--not great--film... think of it how "Ocean's Twelve" was just awful, leading into a watchable "Ocean's Thirteen"... only with more explosions, less casinos and no Pacino.
After the events of the previous film, "Transformers: Dark of the Moon", which by the way, they make no mention of anything that happened in the first two films, other than a Megatron reference here and there... anyway, Chicago was wasted in that last film, and now the Autobots are the enemy. A CIA agent, played very d-baggedly by Kelsey Grammer, a dirty ops leader (character actor Titus Welliver, who you would know if you saw him) and a scientist (played by Stanley Tucci, naturally) are all working together to gather the metal from the Transformers to create a new kind of metal so they... you know what, it doesn't matter.
The film is good. It's not great. It's not very good. It's just good and satisfying. The first hour is a little slower, setting up new lead Mark Wahlberg (No Shia! No Shia! No Shia!) and his family as the heroes, with Optimus Prime returning for battle.
What I liked about this film is the story was actually understandable and cohesive, with only a few plot holes this time around, plus the action is done in a way where you don't lose sight of what you are watching. The first film, and especially the second, had a habit of blending the CGI together so badly that when robots fought, you couldn't tell who was what. This is a more of a broader picture, so you can actually see who you are rooting for... and the transforming is also better. Again, in previous films, it was just one big blur of special effects and sounds to turn a robot into a Ferrari, but here, I could actually see Optimus Prime's moving parts as he turned into a big rig truck.
Mark Wahlberg is good, as is Stanley "The Tuch" Tucci, while comedian TJ Miller is in danger of stealing the movie with his funny one liners. The dialogue was also good, without the constant silliness, sometimes a little dirty and mostly stupid lines we got from Shia LaBeouf and Megan Fox. Sure, the bad guy robot at the end, yelling at the top of his lungs, "YOU HAVE RUINED EVERYTHING!!!" was a little much, but overall, it was pretty good.
(Sidebar: One of my favorite podcasts is Doug Benson's "Doug Loves Movies", which actually features TJ Miller as a guest frequently... and it also has a running gag about Mark Wahlberg which, as my buddy Mikey pointed out, "Marky Mark is hard for me to take seriously amymore. Doug Loves Movies podcast has completely ruined him for me.")
The bad news? It's long. It's so, so long. Our movie started tonight at 945pm... and no lie, we were done at 12:54am. Its just over 3 hour running time with trailers included. This film did not need to be this long for any reason... it just kept going and going, with several parts that could have easily been cut out, or pared down. Michael Bay seemingly did us the courteousy of having the first two films, this one and the next one, in his new trilogy all crammed into one film... its overindulgent and explody (my friend Hurricane Rhett used these terms which I thought fit the bill precisely)
The Dinobots do make an appearance, but by the time they showed up, I almost didn't care because it was so far into the movie. When they do come in, while extremely cool, it struck me to be similar to the Army of the Dead, coming in to do their thing at Minis Tirith in "Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King." (nerd alert! nerd alert!)
The question of the day--is it worth the money? If you are diehard Transformers fan, yes. If you are a casual fan, maybe not. Try to catch a matinee, and leave yourself plenty of time to get in and get out. Will the kids like it? Depends on how patient yours is... it's a slow start, and though the action is plenty, there are long spells of conversation and exposition in between the action scenes.