Transformers: The Last Knight: Film Review
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Laura Haddock, Anthony Hopkins, Josh Duhamel
Director: Michael Bay
Transformers: The Last Knight is relentless.
But in a way that makes your eyes bleed at its bloated spectre as it hovers over you in the cinema and sits on you like a succubus, sucking the very life from you until you yield.
Granted, it's a Transformers film and Bay's not exactly set the bar high before, but in this latest, which starts off in medieval times before heading to modern times where Mark Wahlberg's Cade Yaeger is the world's only hope, sense is not really present.
Loosely, the Decepticons are searching for Merlin's staff which was gifted to the wizard by a Transformer way back when. Believing that staff could help Cybertron regenerate, the race is on. But Transformers have been outlawed on Earth and are being hunted in some form of Skynet style crackdown.
However, Yaeger and his merry bunch of rescued robots (who all live in a scrap yard, called Auto - subtlety ahoy) set out to save the day. But when it appears Optimus Prime has turned against them, it looks like it may all be over...
To be fair to Michael Bay, Transformers: The Last Knight delivers its sense of scale with utter gusto as it tries to power through the endless bloat that is its 150 minute run time.
Opening with a medieval fight that is both Battle of the Bastards and King Arthur all rolled into a degree of epic flair, slow mo and with added Stanley Tucci as the wizard, Transformers: The Last Knight sets out its stall well initially, before caving to the usual problems that blight a Michael Bay action film.
Shifting to present day times where Wahlberg's inventor is pulled into a conspiracy involving Laura Haddock's polo-playing Oxford professor, who may be descended from a magical line of Witwickys, and Anthony Hopkins' bat-shit Basil exposition Sir Edmund Burton (who has a robot butler voiced by Downton Abbey's C3PO type butler Jim Carter).
It's here that sense really does check out of Transformers: The Last Knight and what transpires is akin to car porn, mixed with explosions, slow mo and a feeling that limitless audition tapes for army recruitment are being shot. Bay has an eye for wanton destruction and for maximising the carnage on the screen.
But what he still doesn't have is an eye for character, with once again women being nothing more than objectified (though it's nowhere near as bad as it's been in previous films) or for dialogue being delivered with anything other than shouting and bellicose intonations. Hopkins however, deserves special mention for a combination of both rambling his lines together with such gusto and scene-chewing that his live-wire insanity becomes contagious and gives the film the edge that's needed throughout.
The main problem with the formulaic Transformers: The Last Knight (complete with Optimus AWOL for most of the film) is that it also lacks the fun as endless scenes of action simply segue into another - and with the robots doing their usual one-liners this time, the film feels like it's lacking the fun and going through the motions as it splices Top Gear with robots, Terminator with Robocop, and Skynet with Stand By Me early on.
Granted, it's apparently Bay's last outing in the series, and there's a sense that he's gone all out with with the spectacle and sacrificed it for all else.
As Mark Wahlberg's Cade brilliantly announces early on "I don't do this for the money, I do it for the higher cause"; a mantra that perhaps Bay himself possibly believes as well as he allows the daftness to unfold without any hint of earlier deftness bleeding through.
But respectfully, given the low bar this latest has set in terms of story-telling, one would respectfully ask that it's perhaps time to rest the robots, and to reboot the franchise with more of an eye on character and narrative, rather than simply the spectacle of what children would come up with when faced with both a sugar-fuelled imagination and a line of Hasbro toys at home.