Tranformers: Age of Extinction is blowing into theaters worldwide, carrying with it Michael Bay and Paramount’s continued hopes in a billion-dollar (or more) payout. This time however, things are different (as the many advertisements for the film would have you believe). A whole new human cast (led by Mark Wahlberg) has been brought in to replace the actors of the original trilogy; while on the robot side, new Decepticons and Autobots (and Dinobots) will be introduced in order to help push up sagging merchandising sales.

The last week leading up to the release of Transformers 4 has provided any number of previews and trailers – but today brings something more telling: complete reviews of the film. There are those who have seen Age of Extinction (which has premiered overseas already) and have brought back a more complete indication of just what this fourth installment has to offer.

IN SHORT: More of the same, with prettier pictures.

EARLY REVIEWS (SPOILER-FREE)

Screen Daily claims that even with some new elements, it’s pretty much what you expect from the franchise at this point (read: no improvements):

The fourth instalment of Michael Bay’s big screen robot romp offers few surprises but an abundance of the series’ familiar tropes in another marathon-length, narratively vapid action spectacular. Bay’s trademark visual fireworks are as impressive as ever, while an all-new cast promises a new direction for what may become a second trilogy. Otherwise, it’s business as usual for the Autobots and Decepticons, which based on past performance means a huge box office performance everywhere.

According to THR, however, things are looking tired:

Sadly, Age of Extinction is neither controversial nor disturbing, but mostly just dull and middling — which is just so not done with a sci-fi action blockbuster designed to blast and titillate. It has neither the first film’s sporadic comedic pleasures born of the interactions between its humans and robots, nor does it attain the hyper-sensationalism that makes the second and third installments utterly over-the-top showcases of gratuitous demolition.

On the other hand, according to Variety, the new robot characters make up for the weak humans and unfocused story:

It’s not just that the Autobots look more distinctive and easier to tell apart than ever in “Transformers: Age of Extinction” — as Optimus Prime never tires of reminding us, these robots have actual souls. So who cares if the human characters are even more dispensable and the plot even more scattershot than usual?… As the sine qua non of the franchise, it’s the robots — endowed here with character-rich physicality and almost human-scaled facial features — who give the film its emotional heft.

HitFix gets to the heart of the matter – namely why this installment is going for a “fresh start” at all:

Ultimately, these are still just vehicles for the sale of more toys, and Hasbro is poised to clean up once again… Transformers: Age Of Extinction” more than delivers on whatever promises Bay makes to an audience at this point. Giant robots. Giant mayhem. Destruction on a global scale. You know what you’re in for if you buy a ticket, and Bay seems determined to wear you down with the biggest craziest “Transformers” movie yet.

The Early Word (In Summary)

Basically, if you read all of the above reviews they point to one overwhelming conclusion: More of the same Bay-style Transformers, just with new characters there to help sell new toys. No recapture of the coming-of-age magic or initial awe of the first film – but hey, better visuals than ever! Apparently screenwriter Ehren Kruger is still getting paid big bucks to put out the thinnest and most incoherent scripts possible – a tradition he’s carried on since Transformers 2, and will conceivably continue into Transformers 5.

If you have been a staunch critic (or outright hater) of Bay’s Transformers – it’s looking like Age of Extinction is NOT going to be the fresh start you may have secretly been hoping for. (Sorry, Grimlock…) At first it seems almost silly that one of these films can’t get a better script, but then one considers the billions of dollars the franchise has made and it suddenly becomes more a question of why this formula keeps working – as almost every reviewer notes it’s likely to again.

NEXT: Transformers 4 Preview Footage

Transformers: Age of Extinction will be in 2D, 3D and IMAX theaters on June 27th.