There was a time — and it really wasn’t that long ago — when you could say that Michael Bay made good movies with a straight face. Action flicks like The Rock, Bad Boys, and Armageddon were never seen as capital-c Cinema, but they were incredibly entertaining and bombastic summer rides, packed with an attention to visual detail and style that were uniquely the director’s own. In many ways, he was the second coming of Tony Scott, reinventing the action movie for a generation that wanted bigger, louder, faster, more.

And then Transformers happened. (Well, Pearl Harbor happened first, but Bad Boys 2 was a delightfully insane course correction.) With giant robots taking center stage, the Hasbro toy adaptations have lacked any semblance of coherent story or characters, leaving audiences with little to hold on to beyond the visuals — save for the gut-level disdain many felt for Shia LaBeouf and Megan Fox. But with Transformers: Age of Extinction, it's felt like that could be changing. There's Mark Wahlberg, injecting new blood and a new dynamic into the mix. There's the introduction of the Dinobots, creatures so bizarre that they seem uniquely suited to the director’s larger-than-life sensibilities. And there's Bay himself, who recently stretched outside his comfort zone with Pain & Gain. As the lights went down in the theater, I thought that this might be the Transformers film to break the cycle, upending all expectations by actually being good.

I was wrong.