It’s been a decade since the first entry into the Transformers cinematic franchise came into the hearts of the billions of fans it has accrued and like the giant robots that populate the film, the series has become a monolithic symbol of the ultimate summer blockbuster ever since. But ten years on does The Last Knight bring us full circle to the first film and give us a treat that’s most stimulating and visually impressive?
Well, for the first hour or so, its actual all rather good fun. It’s the typical Bay-hem you would expect but there is some actual story work going on with some characters, new and old, that make for some compelling moments – the world has disowned the Transformers since Optimus Prime’s defeat at the end of Age of Extinction. Cade Yeager (Wahlberg) has become an outlaw, heading off the grid leaving his daughter in the “real world”, instead rallying the remaining Autobots to keep them out of the hands of the Government’s new task force. But new clues about the of the robots in disguise have been unlocked, leading back to the Knights of the Round Table, King Arthur and Merlin (a hilarious cameo by Stanley Tucci) – secrets that eccentric British dignitary Sir Edmund Burton (Hopkins) and local historian Victoria Wembley (Haddock) may be able to help crack.
But once said secrets are brought the light and Wahlberg is moved from a dusty Texas desert to the English countryside everything returns to type and the nonsensical, emotionless and unsatisfying elements that have become so intrinsically linked to the franchise bring proceedings crashing back down to Earth with a huge, thunderous crash. It’s not that the sights we are treated to from Bay are bad, far from it – no-one does this kind of kinetic, sweeping, bombastic action cinema like him and on seeing some of the things he captures on IMAX here (over 95% of the film) is nothing short of breathtaking. But such wonder and ferocity mean nothing if you don’t care about those involved in the end-of-the-world face-off nor when the story and dialogue is as dreadful as it is here particularly in the second half.
You can almost see the moment when the two ideas that were suggested in the now famous writer’s room and subsequently smashed together in the crudest possible way – so disjointed and incoherent is the film after that first hour that it all becomes slightly embarrassing to watch despite all the noise that surrounds it. Some would say that those sins can (and should) be forgiven when ensconced in a film that is intended to be as deliriously action-packed as this one, but five films in surely someone thought of adding some substance in this time around but sadly its just more of the same.
The power of Transformers has always been in the visuals and the “global event” it creates through the most scorching months of the year and like those before it, The Last Knight will be a global phenomenon once more. Everything that fans want is here, but with a sixth and indeed seventh entry already planned, as well as the countless spin-off, it will send many of them home exceedingly happy. But like the Pirates of the Caribbean and X-Men franchises, isn’t it time now to give the robots a few years rest before pouring more on us?
Transformers: The Last Knight is released on June 22nd