(M, 149 MINS) DI­RECTED BY MICHAEL BAY

Central Otago Mirror - - FUTURE FARMING EXPO -

I’ve been cat-sit­ting the last few weeks. And the cat lives in a pretty nice place with more mod­cons than I’m used to.

She even has Sky and Net­flix on her enor­mous TV. Which for me, more used to be­ing hunched over a lap­top in a noisy bar with my Sennheis­ers on, feels like an al­most in­de­cent amount of lux­ury. So as some sort of prep for writ­ing this re­view, I de­cided to re­visit Trans­form­ers, the film that kicked off this money-print­ing fran­chise in 2007. It’s aged well too. There’s some truly funny lines and a whole­hearted em­brace of its own lu­di­crous­ness that’s al­ways en­deared me to that first film.

But af­ter that promis­ing open­ing, the Trans­form­ers fran­chise went off a cliff. Episodes 2, 3 and 4 were pro­gres­sively more lurid, noisy and over-in­flated, with direc­tor Michael Bay los­ing the hu­mour and the hu­man touch along the way.

It’s no easy feat to make a series of movies about an­i­mated kids’ toys into some­thing this hu­mour­less and grim, but Bay could rack you up a body­count and an R rat­ing if you put him in charge of My Lit­tle Pony.

So, I walked into Trans­form­ers: The Last Knight ex­pect­ing Bay­busi­ness as usual; prod­uct place­ment, plenty of set-piece bom­bast, but noth­ing much con­nect­ing the film to the heart and the funny bone.

But some­how, maybe be­cause my stan­dards fall even faster than my ex­pec­ta­tions, The Last Knight ac­tu­ally kind of de­liv­ers.

If I tell you that The Last Knight opens with a lengthy pro­logue fea­tur­ing King Arthur, Mer­lin, a bat­tle ripped off from Glad­i­a­tor and a whack­ing great dragon, then you’ll at least un­der­stand that this is not a film to be pre­judged. For the first few min­utes at least I truly thought I was watch­ing the trailer for an­other film.

The story has the Trans­form­ers’ home planet un­der the con­trol of some sort of multi- limbed cos­mic witch and on a col­li­sion course with Earth. Stand­ing be­tween us and doom are Mark Wahlberg, joined by polo-play­ing pro­fes­sor of his­tory Laura Had­dock and a cra­vatwear­ing An­thony Hop­kins as a cas­tle-dwelling aris­to­crat with the se­crets of the ages in his li­braries.

John Tur­turro and Stan­ley Tucci re­turn from pre­vi­ous in­stal­ments. And Bay fi­nally

Trans­form­ers: The Last Knight fi­nally gives Mark Wahlberg some­thing to do ex­cept look angsty and get beaten up.

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