Far away on Cybertron, heroic Autobot leader Optimus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen) confronts his supposed creator Quintessa (Gemma Chan). He does not like what he finds. Meanwhile on Earth one-time Autobot ally Colonel William Lennox (Josh Duhamel) infiltrates the TRL, an elite military unit hunting down all Transformers, good and bad, now unwelcome amongst humanity. In the midst of war-torn Chicago, streetwise youngster Izabella (Isabela Moner) and her Transformer companion Squeaks team with fugitive inventor Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) to save some school kids caught in the crossfire. Later on Cade is summoned to England by the mysterious Sir Edmund Burton (Anthony Hopkins) whose family have for centuries helped the Autobots protect humanity. Also dragged into this mess is sexy literature professor Viviane Wembley (Laura Haddock) whom Sir Edmund claims is descended from the legendary wizard Merlin (Stanley Tucci). Together with Cade, Viviane holds the key to fulfilling an ancient prophecy to save mankind from a Quintessa-induced planet-destroying catastrophe. Oh, and Megatron (Frank Welker) is at it again.
Having long since reached its nadir Michael Bay's interminable Transformers franchise rumbles onto its fifth installment The Last Knight. While the previous film: Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014) marked a low point even for this series, Bay's canny if blatant targeting of the Chinese market raked in the cash. This time however even their new Asian fan-base could not stop The Last Knight from under-performing, although a worldwide gross of six hundred million dollars plus is hardly worth crying over. Few had kind words to say about the movie. Yet perversely The Last Knight is far less offensive than previous entries and spins a plot so outrageously daffy it is almost endearing. Spearheaded by divisive scribe Akiva Goldsman a high-profile writers' room fling seemingly any zany idea they can think of at the screen: alien invasion, Arthurian legend, a turncoat Optimus Prime, Sir Anthony Hopkins as an eccentric secret agent, and a kung-fu kicking robot butler voiced by Downton Abbey's Jim Carter! By all rights this should be barnstorming albeit brainless fun were things not repeatedly undercut by Bay's inane attempts at humour (including the familiar misplaced profanity. Aren't these supposed to be kids' movies?) and stupefying inability to craft sympathetic characters. Characterization consists of characters sniping at each other endlessly and even minor players (e.g. Tony Hale's scientist constantly ranting about physics, the obnoxious children who ought to be sympathetic given the intro involves Cade trying to save them) are annoying. Young newcomer Isabela Moner impresses as a spunky survivor but the script short-shrifts her arc to the point where she is a virtually superfluous character. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) veteran Laura Haddock upholds the Transformers film tradition of pneumatic female lead in a push-up bra and slinky dress. The script fashions an elaborate backstory for Vivian that still fails to expand the character beyond token eye-candy. Mark Wahlberg coasts through another action man turn while Sir Anthony Hopkins (who gets to use the words 'bitchin'' and 'dude' and tell the British Prime Minister to shut up) goes wildly over the top but seems to be enjoying himself.
Interweaving multiple plotlines, including a bizarre Brit sitcom episode involving Vivian's family reacting to Mark Wahlberg's studly arrival, the film suffers from Bay's usual choppy A.D.D.-afflicted storytelling. His scattergun approach leaves things barely coherent even as it yields the odd inspired moment. Bay can still choreograph a dizzying action sequence when he needs to and The Last Knight does have some standout scenes: e.g. Bumblebee's disassemble/reassemble trick (bonus points for the sound clip from John Wayne in El Dorado (1967)); the time-stopping gun that periodically slings the cast into slow-mo floaty business; a three-headed robot dragon descending onto a Medieval battlefield; the relatively emotional battle between Bumblebee and a newly-evil Optimus Prime atop a submerged spaceship. After awhile the chintzy comic book heroism and Bay's hell-for-leather styling of set-pieces as a live action Image comic from the Nineties even wore down this old cynic, even though the film is far from ideal blockbuster entertainment.