TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT
DIRECTOR Michael Bay
STARRING Mark Wahlberg, Laura Haddock, Anthony Hopkins
RUNNING TIME 149 minutes
VERDICT Serious bang for your buck
PART explosives expert, part junkyard inventor, director-producer Michael Bay has refashioned a 30-year-old Hasbro toy line into five movie blockbusters that have taken $US3.8 billion between them (and counting).
It’s an extraordinary achievement, as even those who look down upon the Hollywood heavy-hitter’s bang, pow, BOOM, crash brand of filmmaking are forced to admit.
Bay and the franchise’s second hero, Mark Wahlberg, have confirmed that this will be their final Transformers outing. (Shia LaBeouf, who is referenced in this film, shouldered the first three).
Wahlberg masterfully underplays his hand as the titular Last Knight in the sequel to Age Of Extinction (2014) — a wise move in an outsized world where his character has become extremely adept at ducking flying monster parts.
Bay characteristically goes full tilt — and then some.
Clocking in at almost two and a half hours long, his final Transformers movie goes out with a Big Bang rather than a whimper.
And that’s saying something in the current, bloated Marvel, Disney, Dark Universe.
The film begins with an atavistic origin story in which a reclusive Autobot bestows a magical staff upon Stanley Tucci’s drunken Merlin (yep, the Camelot legend plays a major part in the film) to help an outnumbered Arthur vanquish his enemies.
This feeds into an even more archetypal grand Autobot narrative in which the creator of the alien machines sets about fulfilling a centuries-old prophesy in which she saves her own species’ planet by sucking the life out of the earth.
King Arfur in an alien doomsday scenario centuries in the making. Guy Ritchie eat your heart out.
In between, the time-travelling action adventure rolls out a series of increasingly spectacular set pieces, one involving a flotilla of deadly TIE fighters and another that sees our heroes commandeer a WWII submarine to locate Merlin’s tomb in a spaceship 20,000 Leagues under the sea.
In an attempt to persuade us of his feminist credentials, Bay has given Laura Haddock’s very British sidekick Vivian Wembley brains as well as bunch of curve-enhancing outfits (and lines to match.)
Somehow, Haddock escapes with her dignity intact. She and Wahlberg spark in an unforced manner. It’s a sexy, natural fit.
Also in the mix are Isabela Moner’s feisty teenage runaway, Anthony Hopkins’ eccentric English Lord, a couple of unnecessary digressions to Cuba, where John Tuturro hangs out with a bunch of sun-loving autobots, and a whole new bunch of machines.
Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen), Bumblebee (Erik Aadahl) and John Goodman’s stogie-chewing Hound are joined by dozens of assorted good minibots, from fire-burping baby dragons to the Vespa-morphing Sqweeks and C-3P0 lookalike Cogman (Jim Carter), who transforms into a silver Aston Martin.
Transformers: The Last Knight can certainly be challenged on its narrative cohesion — the screenplay is as loosely-jointed as giant autobot. But there’s something oddly appealing about its cowboy-like disregard for storytelling convention.
Bay’s last hoorah is the sci fi equivalent of an all-you-can-eat banquet dinner. The flavours sometimes clash, but there’s no doubting its value for money.
TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT IS NOW SCREENING
Originally published as Bay’s last hoorah finishes with a bang