Film review: Transformers: The Last Knight is full of clichés but has a few redeeming moments
Mar Wahlberg adds some stability to the franchise, but there's little else to love about the latest string in the Transformers bow.
Transformers: The Last Knight
Director: Michael Bay
Stars: Mark Wahlberg, Anthony Hopkins, Laura Haddock, Josh Duhamel, Peter Cullen
‘Something’s coming," says blue-collar hero Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg), "and you can’t shoot your way out of it".
He should know better than that, given he was in the middle of the previous Michael Bay-directed Transformers movie, 2014’s Age of Extinction.
Now on his fifth (and reportedly last) outing with the shape-changing robots, Bay likes nothing better than firing off endless rounds of ammunition into the sky, as the American military take on the Autobots and the Decepticons, those mechanical beings that transform in the blink of an eye into cars, jet planes, lorries and other vehicles.
This latest effort begins in medieval times, pauses for a pit-stop during the Second World War, then winds up underneath the ocean for a mega-showdown. In the midst of it all, Sir Anthony Hopkins presumably collects a sizeable pay-packet for playing an eccentric English aristocrat who just happens to be in tune with the Transformers (he has his own robot butler) and a catastrophe that is about to strike the planet.
To save the world, he needs the help of Yeager and Oxford University history boffin Vivian Wembley (Laura Haddock).
When the story proper kicks in, Autobots leader Optimus Prime is floating through space (half-frozen, in one of the film’s choice shots). His Decepticon rival Megatron is nowhere to be seen and a law has been passed making the Transformers illegal (no, do not expect Bay to be making any trenchant political statements about refugees and immigrants here).
Yeager, meanwhile, is hiding out in a Dakota junkyard, unable to even visit his college-bound daughter for fear of arrest.
Out in space, Optimus (voiced as ever with authority by Peter Cullen) arrives on his desolate home planet, Cybertron, to find his "creator", Quintessa (Gemma Chan), who forces him to return to Earth to seek out a magic staff – last seen being used by the mythical Merlin in England’s Dark Ages – which might help restore life to his homeworld.
This puts him on a collision course with a hostile Earth and means good old Optimus looks set to destroy his adopted planet. With help from Bumblebee, Hound and the other Transformers, Yeager – "the chosen one" – must stop him.
Scripted by a trio of writers, The Last Knight is an absolute endurance test across its 149-minute running time. Full of tasteless moments – not least a battle that takes place around ancient English monument Stonehenge – it is about as sophisticated as a 9-year-old boy’s secret diary outpourings.
England, where much of the second half of the film is set, is a land of polo-playing, Barbour-wearing, upper-class idiots, who look like they’ve parachuted in from the Made In Chelsea reality television show.
In fairness, things gallop along well for the first hour or so, and Wahlberg does add a reliable, stabilising presence. And while Haddock is saddled with a cliché-riddled love-interest role, she does inject some zest into her character.
But no human actor can overcome Bay’s turned-up-to-11 sound design. With the film full of metal-mashing carnage, particularly during an interminable final act, this is the loudest blockbuster of the summer.
If you value your ears, you would be advised to sit well away from the surround-sound speakers for this one.
Published: June 25, 2017 02:16 PM