The good news about the latest Transformers movie is that — spoiler alert! — the world gets saved at the conclusion. The bad news is that it leaves the opportunity for more Transformers movies.
This profitable franchise has not exactly enjoyed critical praise since its first installment in 2007, and Transformers: The Last Knight is unlikely to change that. But bad reviews are unlikely to dissuade the series’ fans, who enjoy seeing lots of things blown up, with director Michael Bay once again happy to oblige. That the film required no less than six editors doesn't come as a surprise.
Anyone capable of explaining the near-incomprehensible storyline deserves a prize of some sort. Suffice it to say that the world is very much in peril; there are lots of large-scale battles involving robots good and bad; and Mark Wahlberg, who returns after making his first appearance in 2014’s Transformers: Age of Extinction, hasn’t forgone his rigorous exercise routine.
There’s no denying the narrative ambitions of the screenplay penned by three writers, with Akiva Goldsman contributing to the story. It includes a prologue set in the Middle Ages, with appearances by the Knights of the Round Table, a soused Merlin (an unrecognizable Stanley Tucci) and the Transformers, who apparently arrived on Earth a lot earlier than we thought. The action then shifts to the present day — or, as we’re helpfully informed, “1,600 years later” — with an English lord, Sir Edmond Burton (Anthony Hopkins), desperate to find an all-important talisman. Said mystical object just happens to wind up in the possession of Cade Yeager (Wahlberg), whose junkyard provides a perfect place for the Autobots to hang out.
Joined by such allies as Izabella (Isabel Moner), a plucky 14-year-old girl, and Viviane (Laura Haddock), a sexy Oxford professor, Cade goes about the business of trying to thwart the evil Megatron (Frank Welker). Although such Autobot allies as Bumblebee (Erik Aadahl), Hound (John Goodman), Hot Rod (Omar Sy), Drift (Ken Watanabe) and Daytrader (Steve Buscemi) pitch in to help, Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen) has gone AWOL. And when he finally does show up, he seems to be having an identity crisis.
Among the characters returning from previous installments are Colonel Lennox (Josh Duhamel), who makes the military look good, and Agent Simmons (John Turturro), now unhappily cooling his heels in Cuba. Newcomers include Cogman (Jim Carter), Sir Edmond’s personal robot, who bears a strong resemblance to C-3PO, and Cade’s friend Jimmy (Jerrod Carmichael), whose main purpose seems to be providing comic relief … a task at which he fails.
The sprawling action includes a flashback depicting the Transformers battling Nazis and an explosive battle at Stonehenge that keeps you on the edge of your seat with concern for the ancient stones. And while there’s no shortage of large-scale set pieces, the storyline provides so many opportunities for attempts at droll humor, most of it involving Hopkins' dotty character, that the proceedings start to resemble drawing-room comedy. It’s all an overstuffed mess, but that was true of the previous entries as well, and audiences obviously don’t seem to mind.
Wahlberg, as usual, gives it his all, although he’s already announced that he’s departing the series after this. Haddock makes for a fun, sexy foil, and Hopkins, who’s clearly entered the baroque phase of his career, seems to be having a great deal of fun — although every time he smiles, it seems less organic to his character and more about the new beach house he’s going to buy with the money he’s raking in.
Production companies: Huahua Media, Weying Galaxy, The H Collective, Hasbro
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Josh Duhamel, Stanley Tucci, Anthony Hopkins, Laura Haddock, Jerrod Carmichael, Isabela Moner, Santiago Cabrera, Glenn Morshower, John Turturro, Tony Hale
Director: Michael Bay
Screenwriters: Art Marcum, Matt Holloway, Ken Nolan
Producers: Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Tom DeSanto, Don Murphy, Ian Bryce
Executive producers: Steven Spielberg, Michael Bay, Brian Goldner, Mark Vahradian
Director of photography: Jonathan Sela
Production designer: Jeffrey Beecroft
Editors: Mark Sanger, John Refoua, Debra Neil-Fisher, Roger Barton, Adam Gerstel, Calvin Wimmer
Costume designer: Lisa Nora Lovaas
Composer: Steve Jablonsky
Casting: Denise Chamian
Rated PG-13, 149 minutes