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Transformers: The Last Knight

(2017)  1/2 Pg-13
149 min. Paramount Pictures. Director: Michael Bay. Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Anthony Hopkins, Josh Duhamel, Laura Haddock, Stanley Tucci, John Turturro, John Goodman.

/content/films/5064/1.jpgOnly the Transformers franchise could make the threat “Millions will die” utterly weightless. Transformers: The Last Knight, Michael Bay’s fifth movie about shape-shifting alien robots, tries to whip up tension by having some character or other remind us every five minutes that “The whole world’s at stake,” unless a few choice humans can ally with a few good Autobots and save the day.

But Bay makes it very, very difficult to care. Rather than thinking or feeling anything, Transformers fans will be too focused on the ADHD spectacle—filmed with IMAX 3D cameras, don’cha know—while anyone else who stumbles onto this movie will gladly welcome the world’s end if it also means this interminable movie’s end.

The Last Knight postulates plenty about the roles of Transformers in human history, beginning with a prologue set in Dark Ages England and featuring a drunken Merlin negotiating with aliens. The sequence sets the tone for the numbing, clanging mega-action that is the franchise’s stock in trade. Mark Wahlberg returns as unlikeably thick hero Cade Yeager, Texan inventor on the skids and good buddy to the Autobot called Bumblebee (among other robot jocks). As the plot lumbers on about Yeager being the “last knight,” on a quest to recover an ancient staff of power, Wahlberg’s muscles and eyes appear to be in a competition to see which can bulge more.

Though surely it’s not what he had in mind when he studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, Sir Anthony Hopkins yells “Shut up!” a lot as Sir Edmund Burton, cheeky expert in Transformers history. And of course, there’s a Bay-watch babe outfitted in skin-tight clothes: Laura Haddock’s Oxford professor Viviane Wembly. The $260 million production also throws money at Josh Duhamel, Stanley Tucci, and John Turturro to reprise their franchise roles, not to mention robot-voicing John Goodman, Ken Watanabe, Omar Sy, and Peter Cullen, as beloved noble blowhard Optimus Prime.

One is meant to practice willing suspension of disbelief to consume a movie like Transformers: The Last Knight, but the persistent idiocy of the enterprise keeps intruding on that task. Set aside the Da Vinci Code b.s. and consider Goodman’s bearded robot (you read that right), who chomps on a robot cigar and growls, “I love violence.” Or the robot whose knuckles sport robot bling. Or the fact that several of the robots remain jive-talking ethnic stereotypes.

Ever the jingoist, Bay stays resolutely Military-Industrial Uncomplicated, evoking the dusty heartland and positioning soldiers in front of a giant American flag. You won’t have heard the word “bitch” so much since the last Bay movie you watched (even Hopkins slings it). Despite the theme that “Magic does exist” (“It was found long ago. Inside a crashed alien ship”), The Last Knight is all mirthless jokes and thrill-less mayhem.

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