Ten years since the first "Transformers" film and the franchise is showing no signs of slowing down or even pausing for breath. Michael Bay's eardrum-shattering, butt-numbing, mind-scrambling movie series about highly advanced giant alien robots continues to put CGI over story, and action over characters. As a result the films remain an incoherent orgy of special effects and explosions.
Fifth installment "Transformers: The Last Knight" unfolds over an excruciating 2 hours and 28 minutes although the convoluted plot, one-dimensional characters, and uninspired acting makes it feel an awful lot longer. I won't deny there's a real thrill in watching these hulking machines pummel each other with all their might, but the excitement wears out quickly in the absence of a compelling story.
To be fair, the new film opens with some promise. We're in medieval England and a bloody battle is underway. King Arthur, Lancelot, and their armies are fighting back against a barbarian invasion with little luck…that is until a Transformer intervenes. It's a bold idea.
But then we cut to Michael Bay's singularly cynical version of present day where Mark Wahlberg, back as Cade Yeager, is hiding out in the desert trading pithy one-liners with various Autobots. On the Transformers' home planet Cybertron, meanwhile, Quintessa, a giant iron lady in the shape of a floating squid, is torturing Optimus Prime and brainwashing him into destroying Earth. Somewhere in England, Anthony Hopkins, hamming it up as an eccentric lord, is pacing up and down his castle. All parties are connected by the search for a mystical staff that links the Transformers' origins with that chapter from medieval history.
As you can see, there's a lot going on in the film, and as usual it's accompanied by dizzying special effects, a deafening background score, and such zip-zap editing that it's impossible to remember or register anything even a few minutes later. Wahlberg spends most of the film looking confused, as if wondering whether any paycheck could be big enough to embarrass oneself in this manner, while Hopkins wait, Sir Anthony Hopkins, lest one forget appears to have decided to at least have fun with the part, having cashed his check.
There is the perfunctory female lead too, in this case Laura Haddock playing an Oxford professor who exists precisely to look sexy in high heels while ducking and dodging the metallic mayhem.
Speaking of which, the film's real stars, the Transformers themselves, are so lacking in charm and personality that it's hard to be invested in them or their fate. Oddly, the big draws Optimus Prime and Megatron get limited screen-time in this outing, which amounts to giving Robert Downey Jr only 20 minutes in an "Iron Man" film. Why would you do that?
But perhaps it's silly to expect logic from a franchise and a filmmaker who's shown scant regard for viewers' patience, taste, and common sense, choosing instead to bludgeon them repeatedly and exhaust them into submission. This movie made me pray for a world where this franchise was dead and buried. "Transformers: The Last Knight"..? Naah, "The Last Transformers". It's got a much better ring to it. I'm going with one-and-a-half out of five.
Rating: 1.5 / 5