The big problem with the movie is the dialogue. It's SO bad. There bad that's so bad it's good (aka, The Room), and then there's just bad. This movie was firmly in the latter category. If you want a taste, check out Christopher Orr's piece on the movie - he gave up on reviewing it and just provided a series of quotes. I mean, I usually love cheesy dialogue - I enjoy puns, for goddsakes - but this was horrific.
But bad dialogue won't sink your film, so long as you somehow manage to make at least some of your characters likeable. Or at least something akin to human. But the people in this movie are such absurd pastiches of poor dialogue that there's really nothing even remotely believable about them, which made it basically impossible to engage with them on any sort of human level. There's Duke, the totally wooden and humorless "hero". There's Shana "Scarlett" O'Hara, who's supposed to be an intelligent woman, which apparently involves being an android, because, you know, emotions are irrational, so therefore she as an intellectual cannot have them. There's McCullen, the deranged Scot who's hellbent on destroying the world, because that's just how Scots roll. The movie clearly establishes this by setting up a tradition of arms dealings and atavism going back to 1641. There's the token black guy, who comes action-packed with plenty of self-deprecating humor (he's dumb! and inept! he gets arrested!) and lots of slang so that he can keep it real***. And of course, there's the deformed evil scientist. We don't really ever find out why he's evil. I won't spoil the plot by lingering over some of the many other plot problems connected with him, but I shouldn't need to - if you do see the movie, they'll be clear enough.
Look, I don't demand that action movies be realistic. But within the constraints they set themselves - digging a hole to the center of the Earth, fighting a race of evil robots, an ancient shark, a mummy, etc - I do expect them to be at least somewhat consistent. If you are attempting to steal a case full of warheads, it is really, really dumb to go about it by blowing up the vehicle transporting it, because, well, that seems likely to destroy it. If you are an elite fighting force pursuing somebody who intends to release a warhead containing metal-eating nanonites somewhere in Paris, it should not be a startling discovery that their target is the Eiffel Tower. If someone is brainwashed by nanonites in their body, they can't just get kinda partially unbrainwashed by suddenly having flashbacks of cuddling scenes. Ugh. I could go on, but why bother.
Ok, so finally, the special effects. The fighting scenes were pretty badass, I have to admit. If I hadn't been so irritated and had cared even a smidgeon about the characters, I probably would have been perfectly happy with them. The technology was pretty neato but to me, it was a little too neat and shiny - it just looked cartoonish and fake. I wasn't as thrilled by it, because it just wasn't believable, even if it was kind of cool. As the movie progressed, I found myself rolling my eyes - especially at the costumes, which were just preposterous and impractical. I know that's standard, but like I said, I had lost all willingness to suspend disbelief.
Overall - worst. movie. ever. 2 hours of my life I will never get back.
***I honestly am not sure what bothers me more, his character or Michael Bay's illiterate afro-bots. I mean, Micheal Bay is racist as fuck, but he's so over the top about it that it becomes kind of ludicrous and extravagant. For instance, my boyfriend and I were discussing the scene in Bad Boys II where Will Smith does this amazing parody of a dude from the 'hood grilling his niece's date. That scene is completely over the top and absolutely hilarious, as it is clearly intended to be. Now, if you want to be extremely charitable, you could argue that the over-the-top minstrelsy of the Transformers movies is intended in the same way. Myself, I'd say it goes too far and crosses a line, but let's pretend for a minute. That, to my mind, is far preferable to Marlon Wayans' character in this movie, which does not in any way signal itself to be a parody or exaggeration. Whereas in the Transformers movies, pretty much EVERYTHING is. Nothing in those movies is taken seriously, it's all tongue in cheek and poking fun at all kinds of stereotypes. Or at least, one can see it that way. There's just no charitable reading of this one. It's perhaps less blatantly offensive, but that's part of what's so infuriating about it. It's so nonchalantly stupid.