Director Michael Bay’s singular achievement in the ‘Transformers’ series is his ability to visualize technology as organic; to perceive metallic objects as having the energy to change themselves into different shapes and sizes, just as living creatures on earth have done for millions of years.
Metal is not inanimate, the axiom goes. It has the power to magically transform itself. And to prove it, Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg), the rough hewn inventor hero of the film, introduces himself as a ‘magician’ to a very pretty Professor at Oxford. To explain this odd definition of his profession, he comes up with a quote from Arthur C. Clarke, which says that “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”. The lovely lady with the most demonstrably dramatic cleavage in all of British academia, to whom he does this explaining, is Viviane Wembley (Laura Haddock), and she is sufficiently impressed with the quote. She stops referring to him condescendingly as ‘American man’, because her own ancestor was a magician too: Merlin, the magician to King Arthur.
The film begins in England, and we learn that the mythical King Arthur and the Knights of his Round Table have a lot to do with the arrival of the Transformers on Earth. It seems that during his bloody battles with the invading Saxons, King Arthur, via the good offices of Merlin, took the help of aliens who had just landed in his territory. These aliens were none other than Transformers, who had set up shop in the British Isles in the late 5th century, and were made honoury Knights for their services to the King. A contemporary historian of the Transformers and their time on Earth, Sir Edmund Burton (Anthony Hopkins), confirms that Viviane is the only living descendent of Merlin, and her duty is to find the legendary magicians walking staff and fix the present problems on Earth.
The biggest problem on present day Earth, she finds, is the inability to find honorable and just leadership to face dangerous invaders of the planet. Enter Optimus Prime, back from Cybertron. The honorary Knights of the Round Table are now resurrected and in action, after a gap of some 1600 years.
To be honest, this is the corniest plot line in the ’Transformers’ series, and we can now visualize future editions of the franchise being connected to the building of the pyramids in Egypt, the Great Wall in China, and much else, just to extend the series. But plot aside, the visuals of the film are just as captivating as they were earlier. Even though you know that it is nothing but Computer Generated Imagery, the transformation of metal into myriad forms of modern technology still transfixes you, as do the unique personalities that the metallic creatures possess. The humor, too, never fails to amuse. One Transformer has a French accent, and when asked if he is a Francophile, is furious and says that his maker just gave him this ridiculous voice box that makes him sound cultured and effete. Another very macho type of Transformer is incensed because he has a fearsome look, which is all undone by his voice, that of a recorded message by a female announcer.
So till the halfway point, ’Transformers: The Last Knight’ is fairly engaging. But since it is a two and a half hour movie, the unnecessarily extended duration sees a torturous repetition of images and ideas. By the time the final battle arrives, the film is pounding in your head and you want out.