In praise of Anthony Hopkins in Transformers: The Last Knight
The following piece contains major spoilers for Transformers: The Last Knight
Has anyone ever had more fun than Anthony Hopkins in Transformers: The Last Knight? Probably, but it’s hard to think of another knighted, Oscar-winning 80-year-old who got to call Mark Wahlberg “dude” and shoot Megatron with a machine gun hidden inside a walking stick.
Michael Bay’s latest Transformers film — which the director has promised will be his last — is every bit the bloated spectacle one would expect from the franchise of robots in disguise. (Read the EW review here.) This is a film that literally starts in the Dark Ages, with King Arthur and his knights of the roundtable defeating an encroaching horde with help from ancient Transformers. “They have been here forever” reads one poster for the film. Sure, why not?
It’s into this mythology that Hopkins’ Sir Edmund Burton is dropped. He’s last in the line of Witwiccans, an ancient order of people who keep the secrets of the Transformers. (As the movie explains, Shia LaBeouf’s unseen and possibly deceased-off-screen Sam Witwicky also descended from the Witwiccan family tree.) Burton’s job is to explain the whos and whys of Transformer-dom, meaning Hopkins is given mostly inscrutable nonsense to spout throughout the film — dialogue he eloquently recites with a glint of DGAF in his eyes. Each of his scenes is brisk and wonderful and has the feeling of being done in one take just before lunch.
That’s hyperbole, but not: In interviews, Hopkins has said how much he enjoyed working with Bay because of his bang-bang-bang directing style. “I didn’t know anything much [about Transformers],” Hopkins said earlier this year. “But my agent said, ‘Would you like to work with Michael Bay?’ I said, ‘Yeah.'” Good thing, too: This is one of Hopkins’ best roles since the late ’90s (with maybe only his compelling turn in Westworld standing taller) and possibly one of the best elder-actors-go-blockbuster roles of all time. Hopkins is in Sir Alec Guinness territory here, with Sir Edmund’s trusty robot sidekick, Cogman (voiced by Downtown Abbey star Jim Carter with a reckless glee), as a deranged, Ludacris-quoting C-3PO by his side.
Which maybe amounts to nothing all that significant in the end. Transformers: The Last Knight will make a lot of money, find itself on a bunch of worst-of-the-year lists, and be relatively forgotten until the next one — which, spoiler alert, won’t feature Hopkins (unless he’s resurrected as a robot).
“Of all the Earls I had the pleasure to serve,” Cogman tells a dying Sir Edmund near-ish the end of The Last Knight, “You were by far the coolest.” Dude, indeed.