Transformers: The Last Knight – Film Review
Director: Michael Bay
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Anthony Hopkins, Laura Haddock
by Roger Crow
So here we go then. Round five of Michael Bay’s clash of the tight nuts.
We open in England’s dark ages, which looks like a mash-up of Gladiator’s opening conflict and Excalibur. A drunken Merlin seeks help from a shadowy robot, who gifts him a giant multi-headed robodragon to help fight his battles.
Fast forward to now. Optimus Prime (the truck) is lost in space; Mark Wahlberg (ripped inventor Cade) is defending the Earth with John Goodman-bot, Steve Buscemi-droid and other random shapeshifting Autobots, including everyone’s favourite, Bumblebee (the yellow one with the damaged voice box).
After enemy forces try to kill them and a maverick teenager (who looks like Megan Fox’s daughter), they escape to Cade’s junkyard where his litter of robot dogs try and add comic relief. Meanwhile, Optimus arrives on his home world, where a floating HR Giger-style antagonist turns him evil and they set course for Earth.
Cut to England, or a version of England featuring a beautiful hockey player (Laura Haddock’s boffin, Wembley); a bonkers Lord (Anthony Hopkins) and his schizophrenic steampunk butler (voiced by Jim Carter). Cade and Wembley are brought together at Downton Abbey (or the equivalent), which sadly doesn’t turn into a giant brick robot.
Oh, then there’s a chase through London, taking in all the major landmarks naturally, and enemy forces try to take out our eclectic heroes at every possible turn. Bad guys the Decepticons are also on the warpath (in case there was any doubt).
A split second later Cade, Wembley and Jim Carter-droid are in a submarine, followed by Josh Duhamel’s army of government forces-turned Autobot hunters. (Kind of like a mash-up of The Abyss and The Hunt for Red October).
As bad Optimus Prime and his planet arrive on Earth, Cade’s weird ancient artefact (from the prologue) attaches to his arm for a pay off which is as stupid as anything that comes before. But by that point Hopkins could start tap dancing to Radiohead’s version of The Muppet Show theme and I’d buy it. Anything goes.
Stonehenge also plays a major part as Bay recreates more scenes from The Abyss and Avatar as an alien spaceship surfaces from the watery depths and hovers overhead, offering Independence Day-style destruction.
If all of this sounds random, breathless and a little disjointed, that’s intentional. The film sounds like a kid wrote the screenplay while telling his folks about his adventures with his toy collection.
“And then this plane takes off, and kaboom! It blows up. But it’s okay, because this robot catches it, and then, and then…”
“Yes dear, take a breath”.
Having seen all of the Transformers movies on the big screen over the past decade, I feel a sense of fidelity to Paramount’s money-spinning, critic-proof franchise. I was even there at the launch of the ride in LA five years ago, and loved every second of it, probably because it summed up what the movies are. Big, stupid theme park attractions disguised as movies.
The Last Knight may be suffering from franchise fatigue, and the editing is so rapid it looks like I blinked and missed entire scenes, but it hardly matters. Bay’s formula for making cash obviously works, and while the plot often makes no sense, it’s put together with such energy, you feel like you’re watching three films at once, along with countless adverts for super cars, Transformers toys and a London travelogue.
Wahlberg’s ability to sell this glorious nonsense is remarkable, while it’s good to see Haddock add much needed gravitas. She’s one of the few women under 40 who aren’t treated like lingerie models in the saga. Thankfully there’s few of the uncomfortable, voyeuristic shots from previous films which made Megan Fox and Rosie Huntington Whitely look like they’d escaped from a Hugh Hefner video.
For all its faults, and countless nods to Star Wars (even the drones look like Darth Vader’s TIE fighter), this is shameless fun.
A little blue BB8-style droid wastes screen time with a pay off that goes nowhere, and John Turturro returns for pointless scenes set in Cuba, but Bay throws so much at the screen, with a typically OTT finale, I wondered if an actual day had passed by the time the closing credits rolled.
It’s intriguing that this movie had a weak opening across the Pond, but if you have almost three hours to spare, leave your brain in neutral, let it wash over you, and just be thankful it’s more entertaining than Tom Cruise’s The Mummy.
We have at least two years until Transformers 6. It might take that long for my brain to recover.