Released digitally on the 12th of September and physically on the 26th; Transformers: The Last Knight is the fifth film in the Transformers series and the second of the soft rebooted string of stories starring Mark Wahlberg as Cade Yeager, a father and inventor. Although there are callbacks to the earlier films starring Shia Labeouf as Sam Whitwickey, the current arc feels like a different beast to it’s predecessors in that the mythology of the Autobots and Decepticons is further expanded and explored here.
The film opens cold on a medieval battle in which the forces of Camelot are warring against the Saxons. It is end times stuff here, and King Arthur is desperately awaiting Merlin’s return to battle with ‘magical’ aid. He does return, but we quickly see that what they consider magical aid, is actually Cybertronian in nature. Yes, the Transformers have been part of society (albeit in a covert manor) since the dark ages. And to be honest, I found this bit of exposition perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of this film. We’re effectively treated to a re-contextualisation of the Transformers relationship with the human race and it’s a much more interesting direction than the earlier “Transformers fall to earth, Megatron wakes up, they all fight” malarchy that the first trilogy relied upon. It seems as though this extra world building might well be as a reaction to linked universes like the Marvel and DC efforts of recent years, and this expansion is a welcome one at that.
Mechanically though, this film feels a little off, and I particularly had issue with the pacing and the format the film takes. Frequently Imax shots are mixed with standard widescreen shots and it happens so much that it begins to feel a little tedious, having the opposite effect that an Imax shot is supposed to have in immersing the viewer further into the picture. In the end it feels like a TV show and a film have been merged together, which I’m sure isn’t the intended effect of the Director, Michael Bay. There’s also the pacing, which I found a little lackadaisical, and a little muddled. This is unavoidable when considering what I feel this film was trying to do for the franchise, which is to introduce much bigger story elements for possible future use; i.e. a bridge movie. And what with the news of there being a Bumblebee spin-off as well as a sequel to this movie coming out soon, it seems as though my thoughts are at least not unwarranted.
I’m happy to say that the trademark unashamed action of the previous films is here in abundance, and as far as the characterisations of the Transformers, there’s still a good balance of light humour to them which matches well against the pathos Optimus brings to proceedings in his usual role of giving rousing speeches just before jumping into battle. Though the Decepticons fair less well here, with Megatron feeling like nothing more than a lackey as well as there not being much of a focus on giving the main villain much time to shine, in fact you’d be forgiven for thinking the main villain was the CG sequence of the earth being slowly drained of geothermal energy. The goals are a little wishy washy too, but this doesn’t matter when you consider it’s just a means to an end to feed the audience more and more spectacle over the two and a half hours.
As far as the human characters, most are likeable if not a little underserved here and there. Although Anthony Hopkins is the stand out performer here, because it truly looks like he relished hamming it up here; I love that. Laura Haddock gives a fine performance too, giving Wahlberg a run for his money, and the interplay between the two is nice and catty, until it lands itself into standard love interest fare.
Oh, and there’s a giant dragon made out of the 12 Transformer Knights of the Round Table. Which, I’m not above saying was pretty rad.
I guess I’m left feeling that if you’re not a fan of any of the previous films, this one does nothing different to change that, save for the extra exposition. It still commits the same sins as its forebears, but if you’re okay with that then you’re going to have a good time. Once people start realising that these movies are just big budget B-Movies the better. I love B-Movies, and giant robots. And I’m under no illusion that they strive to be anything more than goofy entertainment.
I must also add, the little sting at the end featuring Gemma Chan (from Channel 4’s “Humans”) was a lovely touch.
Joe Crouch is a crusty mollusc with delusions of grandeur and pretensions of artistic endeavour. His tea is served between two and four. He tweets, infrequently @itsJoeCrouch and Instagrams his food @Sourcrouch.