TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT
OUT 4 OCTOBER RATED M / 149 MINS
DIRECTOR Michael Bay
CAST Mark Wahlberg, Josh Duhamel, Stanley Tucci, Isabela Moner, Laura Haddock, Anthony Hopkins
PLOT The war between Transformers and the TRF (Transformers Reaction Force) is raging. In a last-ditch effort to save humanity, inventor Cade Yeager (Wahlberg) and Bumblebee join forces with an English earl (Hopkins) and Oxford professor (Haddock). BELIEVE IT OR not, transformers, in its live-action movie iteration, is 10 years old. For its first hour at least, there was something human, relatable and — whisper it — charming in Michael Bay’s original, a boy (Shia Labeouf) who loved his car (Bumblebee) and wanted the unattainable girl (Megan Fox). Now, fifth time out, the knack of coming up with anything so simple and likeable has eluded Bay. As in Revenge Of The Fallen, Dark Of The Moon and Age Of Extinction, The Last Knight is bogged down in backstory, lacks a real feel for its characters and still can’t find a way to make its robot-on-robot action exhilarating.
The first project to emerge from the Transformers writers room, The Last Knight starts well in the Dark Ages. After fireballs wittily fly over the Paramount mountain, Bay mounts a full-on Arthurian battle far more exciting than Guy Ritchie’s, featuring trebuchets, knights blasted sky-high into the air and a three-headed mechanical dragon. This prologue gives rise to the Macguffin, a talisman that will lead you to the staff that gives you ultimate power in the universe. Of course, the talisman quickly falls into the hands of inventor/autobot sympathiser Cade Yeager (Wahlberg) who has saved Izabella (Moner), a Rey-from-the-force-awakens-alike who fixes things alongside Bb-8-alike robot Sqweeks and now hides out in a junkyard.
The plot, as it is, sees various parties hunt Yeager to find the talisman: the hardnut military TRF, Decepticons, Optimus Prime — who goes rogue after a visit to Cybertron — and Anthony Hopkins as batshit-crazy earl Sir Edmund Burton, keeper of Transformers lore, who whisks Cade and Bumblebee to England (you’ll note Izabella has been forgotten about). Here, Cade is introduced to Laura Haddock’s polo-playing Professor of Seemingly Everything at Oxford University, Vivian Wembley, who turns out to be a descendant of a society of luminaries who have worked over the ages to keep the transformers a secret on Earth: other members include (spot the odd one out) Shakespeare, Mozart, Einstein and Sam Witwicky.
If you are playing Transformers Bingo, you can tick off military porn, tin-eared exposition, Josh Duhamel as Colonel Thingamy, onedimensional characters, painful banter, John Turturro as Agent Whatsisname, sunsets, slow-mo every other shot and a bombastic score. The comedy robot duties this time are carried by Burton’s sociopathic butler Cogman (voiced by Downton’s Jim Carter) who is brazenly described as a“c-3p0ri p-off” and quickly grates.
This is reputedly Bay’s (as a director at least) last go-round on the series. Few filmmakers work harder to entertain, throwing in drone chases, car chases, submarine shenanigans as well as roboaction, all before a third-act climax at Stonehenge. ILM’S work remains peerless — Bumblebee re-piecing himself back together again is immaculate — but the effect is often deadening. It is amazing how a series with so much nostalgic goodwill, technical finesse and behind-the-scenes talent has led so often to experiences that are so joyless. Bay has many talents; smart, sharp bouncy summer fun isn’t one of them. IAN FREER
VERDICT Bay’s determination to give you a good time doesn’t result in fun. Overlong, overstuffed and soulless, for fans who grew up with Optimus, The Last Knight will sting like a bee.