Transformers: The Last Knight

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Transformers: The Last Knight

Clangorous and nonsensical, the fifth installment of the toys-to-world-saviors franchise still has a spark of grandeur that could only come from one director.

For all their whirling metal parts, the Transformers movies haven't run like clockwork. Michael Bay, Hollywood's poet laureate of pyrotechnics, wants them to play like global pageants—something he was able to pull off with Armageddon—but rarely has he gotten these 'bot epics to sing, much less flow in a coherent way. Regardless, all the films bear his undeniable signature (something that can't be said for most action directors): gorgeous moments of billowing catastrophe, lens-flared beauty and pure lunkheadedness.

Transformers: The Last Knight, the fifth and (likely) final chapter of a series that doesn't reward binging, is the cuckoo clock of a well-tooled collection of contraptions. You can't say it builds to a colossal climax, so much as start right away in a heightened state of dumb, shifting every few minutes to an equally stupefying new register. Defying plot summary, it begins in Arthurian legend, as Merlin (Stanley Tucci, having a blast) summons a metallic dragon to save the better elements of humanity from a horde equipped with fireballs. Merlin's staff becomes a powerful object searched for, 1600 years later, by gorgeous Oxford skeptic Vivian (Laura Haddock), who's conveniently single, so Cade (Mark Wahlberg), a longtime ally of robot Optimus Prime, has someone to drool over.

Without getting too deeply into details you don't need to know, there are bad robots who want to scrape the planet clean of pesky humans. Literally—they have a scraper, about the size of Newark, New Jersey. There's a whirring, fussy butler (voiced by Downton Abbey's plum-throated Jim Carter), a caretaker with a penchant for melodrama. And perhaps most ridiculously, there is Anthony Hopkins, heehawing his way through low-slung London car chases and reams of pretentious dialogue with a commitment that must have melted Bay's heart.

None of what you see adds up to a gripping story (or even a semigripping one), but the script's constant spirit of cheesy invention gives this usually sober franchise a kick. Bay has earned a bit of irreverence over the years—best expressed in his savage, underrated 2013 comedy Pain & Gain—and it's thrilling to see him try to apply that strain of anarchic glee to this inert series. If Bay is done making Transformers movies, he's having the last laugh: He's been able to spend over a billion dollars of studio coin in the service of furthering his wham-bam visual panache, which is close to peerless. Regardless of our opinions, we all know what a Michael Bay film is. This one's his most Baysome.

By: Joshua Rothkopf

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Release details

Rated: PG-13
Release date: Wednesday June 21 2017
Duration: 149 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Michael Bay
Cast: Mark Wahlberg
Anthony Hopkins
Laura Haddock