(M, 149 MINS) DIRECTED BY MICHAEL BAY
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.