Jun 20, 2017
Wednesday is the first official day of summer, which means it is time for more Transformers — just what you have been asking for, right? It actually has been three years since the fourth installment of the Paramount/Hasbro/Michael Bay goldmine, and though Bay once swore he would quit after that one (Age Of Extinction), he couldn’t stay away from his toys. So the filmmaker is back behind the camera once again for The Last Knight, which is just as big, bloated and long (at 2 1/2 hours) as all that have come before it. But as I say in my video review above, once it calms down a little after the humans-vs.-Transformers battle that opens the film, it is blessed to have Anthony Hopkins back to light this edition up, adding dignity, credibility, wit and his regal presence to make this all tolerable.
I can’t say I am a huge Transformers groupie, but obviously with all the video games, animated series, movies and, lest we forget, the reason for it all — toys — there are a lot of people out there waiting breathlessly for another go-round in the cinema. Seeing it as I did — at Paramount’s wait-until-the-last-minute press screening Monday night (it opens tonight in previews before going everywhere tomorrow) — in Imax and 3D is the way to go with something as gargantuan as this. And though the battles are just too much of a good thing for fanatics, the middle section dominated by Hopkins’ return as Lord Edmund Burton, the Brit out to help save Earth by exploring the history of Transformers on this planet, grabbed my attention right away.
Bay, and his screenwriters Art Marcum & Matt Holloway & Ken Nolan (with further story credits for all and Akiva Goldsman), are playing with time in this one, going back again to the age of Camelot and King Arthur (thankfully more lightheartedly than the recent unwatchable Guy Ritchie bomb) to find the key to saving the planet, and that involves Merlin’s magical Staff. But there is much more to tell warrior Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg, back again), a “chosen one” as well as Oxford Professor Viviane (Laura Haddock) and of course the ever-present metal wonder known as Bumblebee. This group is the core of those entrusted with finding the answer and solution to save us from evil forces.
Optimus Prime (voiced eloquently as always by Peter Cullen) is out of the picture for a long time, having succumbed to darker forces, as the humans are led into battle by intense Lt. Col William Lennox (Josh Duhamel) and other fighters, chiefly Yeager, who has new sidekicks in 15-year-old Izabella (Isabella Moner) and, for comic relief, “Jimmy” played for laughs by Jerrod Carmichael. Bay’s big production takes us back to key historical events to show how Transformers have had an impact on Earth over hundreds of years, particularly in an impressive sequence where they mow down Nazis in World War II. And there is lots of fun to be had in this edition with a decommissioned old wartime submarine that becomes a central hub in this new-age battle for control. Special effects and sound work are again state of the art.
The Transformers themselves are given uniquely recognizable personalities, none better than John Goodman’s Hound, a badass commando right out of a John Wayne movie. There also are nice moments with Drift (Ken Watanabe’s voice), a samurai designer bot; Hot Rod (Omar Sy), a slick French-accented newer model; and Cogman (Downton Abbey’s Jim Carter), the smart-talking butler bot to Lord Burton. Of course, in all these movies there has to be a little baby version, and that comes in the form of Sqweeks, an autobot put into service by Izabella.
Other humans have screen time as well, including Stanley Tucci’s Merlin, John Turturro’s Agent Seymour Simmons and a very funny turn by Veep‘s Tony Hale as a JPL engineer know-it-all who has one word for everyone: “physics.” Ultimately this is, as always, all about the Transformers, and fans won’t be disappointed. One thing you can say for Bay is he gives the audience what it came to see and knows how to get on the largest screen imaginable. Producers are Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Don Murphy, Ian Bryce and Tom DeSanto.