Down, but not quite out, this knackered live-action/CGI franchise is back for round seven. Technically a sequel to 2018 prequel, Bumblebee, it sees the shape-shifting robots-from-outer-space, aka the Autobots, facing a diabolical new enemy.
Well, diabolical-ish. Scourge (Peter Dinklage), the lickspittle of beyond-evil planet-killer, Unicron (Colman Domingo), resembles a new-fangled cheese grater. And his minions look like butterfly can openers. Unless kitchen implements give you the willies, you’ll be shaking with laughter throughout.
The shonky plot is thus: in mid-90s New York, Noah (Anthony Ramos), a brave but head-strong ex-soldier, is so desperate to take care of his little brother that he’s tempted into a life of crime. Everything changes when Noah tries to steal and drive a Porsche – actually wacky Autobot, Mirage (SNL legend, Pete Davidson; slumming it all the way to the bank). Soon Noah, along with intrepid museum intern Elena (Dominique Fishback), is in Peru, working with Autobot leader Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen) and the Maximals, to save the world.
Wait, did I not tell you about the Maximals? Centuries ago, this race of metallic jungle creatures, (one of them dutifully voiced by Michelle Yeoh), left their planet for Earth, taking with them a “Transwarp key” (because once Unicron has the key, he alone will reign supreme. Of course). We hear the phrase “transwarp key” at least ten times. I fear I’ll take it to my grave.
The early Transformers movies, directed by Michael Bay, were mildly entertaining, in a loathsome sort of way. Megan Fox’s Mikaela was there mainly to titilate, Shia LaBeoeuf’s Sam Witwicky was a blank stand-in for all-American teens. To be fair to this episode’s director Steven Caple Jr (Creed II), he’s trying to combat stereotypes with his ethnically diverse, working-class heroes. At no point is Elena seen in buttock-slicing shorts, and both Ramos and Fishback work hard to convey hard-scrabble warmth.
Under-tens hooked on the Hasbro toys that inspired this whole series, will be intoxicated by Mirage, but for parents and/or guardians this will still be a harrowingly dull and disjointed experience, with the plot making less sense by the second. It’s been said that all Marvel films boil down to “keep glowy thing away from bad guy”. But in this Paramount knock-off, even when bad guy gets glowy thing, nothing actually happens.
There is one – one – memorable exchange. When Noah describes himself and Mirage as “work friends”, the Autobot is aghast. “Work friends?” she wails, “You’ve been inside me!” Five people collaborated on the screenplay and if whoever thought up that zinger had been given more room for manoeuvre, they might have transformed this diabolically lazy kids movie into something worth watching.
136mins, cert 12A
In cinemas from June 9