Monster metal, mass destruction, Anthony Hopkins saying “dude.” This is your brain on Michael Bay—a cortex scramble so amped on pyro and noise and brawling cyborgs it can only process what’s happening on screen in onomatopoeia: Clang! Pew-pew! Kablooey! (Which, to be fair, does cover about 80 percent of the script.)
Mark Wahlberg returns as Cade Yeager, the Texas inventor who came to the Autobots’ aid in 2014’s Transformers: Age of Extinction, and wore a waffle-knit henley so well that he has now been anointed the savior of all mankind—a crucial link between the friendly machines who just want to get back to their home planet and the malicious-slash-misguided earthlings who want to crush them into junkyard-cube oblivion. But he cannot seek his destiny without the aid of shadowy aristocrat Sir Edmund Burton (Hopkins) and Oxford professor Viviane Wembly (Guardians of the Galaxy’s Laura Haddock), a frosty, pillow-lipped goddess who holds the secret code to an ancient order of nobles and, just maybe, the key to Cade’s crusty heart. Over the next 146 minutes, there also be dragons, an adorable orphan (Isabela Moner), some medieval Merlin stuff, a John Turturro cameo, and a few don’t-blink detours to Havana, Namibia, North Dakota, and the Pentagon. At one point, Stonehenge explodes.
Bay has always been a champion of shock-and-awe spectacle over storytelling, a defibrillator jolting volts of pure, uncut action until somebody cries uncle. In rare moments, he does attempt to inject a little sense and context into the franchise’s frenzied mash of Hasbro-toy kitsch and blockbuster bombast (Decepticons, apparently, eat Da Vinci Codes for breakfast, and something Fast and Furious for lunch.) True fans probably don’t need the tangled universe of good versus evil explained to them: Bionic aliens rumble; ancient monuments crumble; guys in the middle of robot Armageddon deliver wry one-liners. That’s just what you do when things go boom. C+