Hopefully, the last one

by Shane Dillon

WHAT can you say about this latest Transformers film (Transformers: The Last Knight; Cert 12A, 150 mins) which hasn’t already been said about all of its predecessors?
When you get into the nuts and bolts of it, T5 – the fifth in the interminable series – shifts things around a bit, but in essence it’s just a variation on the Transformers theme.
Were it not for the addition of Anthony Hopkins delivering key exposition dumps (slumming it big-time after his charismatic turn in TV’s superb Westworld) and an almost Monty Pythonian sledgehammering of King Arthur into the franchise’s lore, you’d be hard-pressed to spot the difference between this and director Michael Bay’s previous Transformer films.
This time round, Bay throws the Transformer multiverse wide open, lobbing in a plot McGuffin to send the film careening along from spectacle to spectacle.
Turns out that the Transformers have been fighting their interminable war for a very long time, with Merry Olde Englande – courtesy of King Arfurr and pals – also playing a key role in their age-old battle of the planets.
That McGuffin I just mentioned? Some ancient Transformer high-tech gadgetry (in effect, a magic staff) which could change the fate of the Transformer civil war in our time – but which proved very handy back then when given to Arthur, and his bumbling Merlin, to get their act together and forge their legend.
Flash forward to today, and we return to Cade Yeager (a scruffy and often confused-looking Mark Wahlberg) as the regular joe (and awesome all-American-hero) mechanic-inventor once again at the centre of everything.
After decimating Chicago, the Transformers are hiding out at Yeager’s junkyard, as they’re now regarded as dangerous and illegal aliens by the powers that be. Still, they’re continuing to fight against the evil Decepticon robots, and keep trying to protect Earth.
Out of nowhere, said high-tech but hidden staff is now the key to winning the Transformers war (because, y’know, plot McGuffin), and so the race is on to find it, with twists and scraps a-plenty along the way.
There’s more to the plot than that, of course – much, much more, with the film’s bum-numbing run time dragging things on and on and on – but if you’re looking for an engrossing plot in a Transformers tale, brother, this ain’t the film for you.
Instead, director Bay has just followed his usual shtick, creating another film that couldn’t be anything but a Transformers tale, with everything from admittedly terrific special effects to casual sexism, product placements and endless slo-mo shots and explosions to get through.
As such, as a two hour-plus FX reel, Transformers rocks! But as an actual film with a compelling plot, a strong narrative, likeable characters, sharp dialogue or cohesive editing, however … not so much.
Ultimately it’s almost impossible to score a Transformers tale like this – people know they’re truly terrible films, but will still go to see it in their droves.
So, I’ll give it one mark for Tony Hopkins, one for some terrific special effects, one for its mildly entertaining King Arthur stuff, and one for the merciful arrival of the end credits. That gives us .. 4/10

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