‘I’ ON CULTURE
The new Transformers: The Last Knight — which might be called Transformers Infinity — is the usual hodgepodge of strange plot elements mixed with a bit of humor, all overwhelmed by so much action that you never have time to sit back and realize that it is all nonsense.
Director Michael Bay is a master of the absurd, fast-moving film that fills a long period of time, and more or less repeats most of what has happened in all the previous movies in the series.
The movie takes watchers back and forth through time. It starts with knights in the age of King Arthur being attacked by strange beings and waiting for Merlin to use his magic. The battle between the Autobots and the Decepticons goes back that far.
Then we come back to the more or less present day, with most of the “good Transformers” in some sort of detention as the world is threatened. Bay lets us meet the key players. Izabella (Isabela Moner) is a key center of the plot, a believer in the essential goodness of the robots. She hooks up with Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg), who runs a junkyard where he rescues and protects the good robots.
But the world is going to end. There are huge horns growing out of the Earth, and a giant junk meteor is coming. What mankind needs is Merlin’s staff, which might or might not exist. Although, considering what we know about these movies, you know the answer to that one.
Cade is sent, along with Viviane Wembley (Laura Haddock), a British professor, to find the staff. Sir Edmund Burton (Anthony Hopkins) instructs them on the whole long history of those who have protected the Transformers. That includes Shakespeare and Mozart. They are called Witwiccans, a cute tribute to the character played by Shia LaBeouf in earlier installments.
With the staff, Optimus Prime can be brought back and they can fight the final battle, not at Armageddon but Stonehenge. And, of course, we have some American soldiers who will be handling some of the action as Col. Lennox (Josh Duhamel) and Sgt. Epps (Tyrese Gibson).
All of this is clearly nonsense, but Bay keeps moving so quickly that there is no time for introspection. The film feels a lot like a video game, jumping from place to place. The visual images keep coming and prevent rational examination.
Perhaps they should have made the special-effects supervisor the key person rather than the director because, frankly, the story makes almost no sense. It is a form of gigantism — each of the stories has larger and weirder machines, ideal for selling toys. The previous movie featured mechanical dinosaurs. Here we have asteroids and just about anything else that really looks large and dangerous.
And, of course, we know that the young girl will never be hurt, nor probably most of the heroes. They might be needed if Paramount decides it wants another sequel. Please, please, no.
This franchise suffers from the sequelitis that has infected so many movies this year. It is visually spectacular enough that it is not quite as bad as the latest Pirates flick. On the other hand, Wahlberg is no Johnny Depp.
Wahlberg is OK as a hero, but he presents no real depth. He likes the robots and is good at the action scenes but, frankly, there is no challenge at all for him. Haddock is a typical Bay heroine: tough, and, while not able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, she can run long distances on cobblestones in 5-inch heels.
Hopkins, on his long-running “I’ll do any role for a paycheck” tour, chews scenery up and down. His explanations make no sense at all, but he seems to be having a lot of fun. I did like Moner, who does a really nice job of playing the spunky kid. She, at least, seemed to demonstrate some real emotion. Duhamel and Gibson had a chance for some manly wisecracks.
If ticket prices were in a low range, I might recommend the film as a way of sitting back and wasting a couple of hours. But prices are high, and the movie is just not worth it.