Ro­bots in de­cline

Michael Bay’s lat­est is a two-and-a-half-hour flood of raw effluent, writes Don­ald Clarke

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FILM REVIEWS -

TRANS­FORM­ERS: THE LAST KNIGHT Di­rected by Michael Bay. Star­ring Mark Wahlberg, Josh Duhamel, Stan­ley Tucci, An­thony Hop­kins, Laura Had­dock, John Tur­turro, Is­abella Moner. 12A cert, gen re­lease, 149 min It’s worth re­mind­ing your­self that the Trans­form­ers films ac­tu­ally ex­ist. Most of the time, Michael Bay’s Un­ac­cept­able Face of Cap­i­tal­ism – a poi­sonously bad thing that makes oo­dles of cash – is treated as a semi-real crit­i­cal bo­gey­man. Su­per-Per­son VI may be aw­ful, but hap­pily it’s not in the Trans­form­ers league. I’d rather sit through a Trans­form­ers marathon than en­dure another Harry the Mam­moth film. Those sorts of things. It’s a tale to keep baby film re­view­ers awake at night.

This week we have the real thing back on our screens. The fifth episode of­fers another two-and-a-half-hour flood of raw effluent. With noth­ing worse to set be­side it, we are forced to ad­mit that it’s as bad as a Trans­form­ers film. I’d rather sit through a shorter Trans­form­ers film than watch The Last Knight again. I’m sorry. The store of com­par­isons is empty.

The film be­gins in mildly promis­ing fash­ion. That’s to say there seems a chance that it might be merely id­i­otic, rather than of­fen­sive, in­co­her­ent and alien­at­ing. We are in the Eng­land of King Arthur. Set­ting new stan­dards for mo­ronic ex­po­si­tion, a voiceover tells us that: “Magic does ex­ist. It was found in a crashed alien ship.”

Af­ter some jig­gery pok­ery with a metal dragon – which, sadly, doesn’t turn into a ce­ment mixer – we are pulled for­ward to Bay’s char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally sick­en­ing ver­sion of the present day. Will this film make you feel as if you’ve gone on a chairo­plane af­ter drink­ing a vat of Bai­ley’s Ir­ish Cream? You’d bet­ter be­lieve it.

Now wear­ing Richard ‘Top Gear’ Ham­mond’s sad dad hair­cut (al­most cer­tainly a com­pli­ment in this con­text), the char­ac­ter played by Mark Wahlberg is liv­ing in the desert with var­i­ous ro­bots. On another planet, a gi­ant iron lady who wishes us all ill is tor­tur­ing one of the more fa­mous Trans­form­ers. Some­where in Eng­land, Lord An­thony Hop­kins of Hamshire (get it?) is prowl­ing his cas­tle and pon­der­ing Arthurian leg­ends. All are con­nected by the search for a magic staff that may help turn com­bine har­vesters into cy­borgs.

The film is, as usual, al­most im­pos­si­ble to fol­low if your mind func­tions as most drug­less minds do. One thinks of the sen­sory over­loads that the CIA folded around Gen­eral Nor­iega’s com­pounds. The mu­sic is deafen­ing. The di­a­logue is bel­lowed. The com­puter graph­ics are so dizzy­ing and un­real that the brain strug­gles to make co­her­ent sense of them. Few shots last longer than 10 sec­onds. It’s as if Bay and his crew are asymp­tot­i­cally mov­ing to­wards a per­fect mon­tage of still images that stay on the screen for no time at all.

To add to the con­fu­sion, the di­rec­tor cares not a whit for ge­o­graph­i­cal logic. Hop­kins emerges from a li­brary in Ox­ford to nau­se­at­ing ed­its of bustling West­min­ster. John Tur­turro lit­er­ally phones it in from an un­con­vinc­ing ver­sion of Cuba.

What does seem clear is that Bay’s sex­ual pol­i­tics have ad­vanced not a Planck length since the gross rape gags of the dis­gust­ing last episode. Laura Had­dock, who doesn’t nor­mally look much like Me­gan Fox, has been styled as Trans­form­ers’ early fe­male lead to play a posh English aca­demic called (I’m not mak­ing this up) Vi­viane Wem­bly.

A name from Austin Pow­ers is the least of her worries. The un­for­tu­nate ac­tress is asked to ad­dress an Ox­ford class wear­ing some­thing that no­body but a pig would re­fer to as a “strip­per’s dress”. Don’t com­plain to me. Com­plain to Michael Bay. Those are the ac­tual words that Wahlberg’s char­ac­ter uses. Some­body wrote them down. Some­body (well, Mark Wahlberg ob­vi­ously) said them out loud be­fore a film crew. Now mil­lions of peo­ple will pay to hear them.

There is a rea­son why the Trans­former re­mains the SI unit of cin­e­matic un­der­per­for­mance. No other film series is so shame­lessly wretched on such a grand scale. Few make quite so much money. If they were all washed down the uni­verse’s great­est drain the stench would re­main for cen­turies.

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