Revenge of the Fallen, the second film in Michael Bay's Transformers saga, was something of a watershed moment for me. Before its release in 2009 I was someone who loved cinema, but like so many other teenagers I was too often bowled over by spectacle rather than quality.
When I saw them at the age of 12 I loved James Bond stinker Die Another Day and woeful Star Wars prequel Attack of the Clones. I was just too young to see beyond the crash, bang and wallop. Even when Bay's original Transformers came around I was swept up by hype and a childhood love of the series.
Two years later that changed. I was 19, so this was overdue anyway, but seeing Revenge of the Fallen and suffering its entire two-and-a-half hour run time (at a midnight screening no less) was the Bay-sized straw that blew up the camel's back.
I'd studied film for a couple of years prior to university, seeing and adoring classics like Chungking Express, Lost in Translation and Fargo, but to me tent pole blockbusters were still big and dumb, and that's all that really mattered.
I was probably one of those people who reacts to sniffy reviews of blockbusters with a curt: "You're thinking about it too much, just switch your brain off!" But that changed. Suddenly I started to expect more from films no matter how stupid a concept they were rooted in.
Perhaps 2008's double-whammy of superhero classics in The Dark Knight and Iron Man also contributed to this change in thinking, but mostly it was the world-shaking awfulness of Revenge of the Fallen.
It was an abhorrent mess, and to date easily the worst of Bay's Transformers films. The first was bad, passable at best, but each of the three subsequent sequels have existed on the same plain of wretched existence that sets the series apart even in a world of terrible blockbusters.
Steeped in sexism, often racist, pornographic in the way Bay shoots cars, guns and women, whipped by CGI whirlwinds of nothing and entirely devoid of heart, these films have failed to improve in any marked why. Well, maybe one Mark-ed way when human star Shia LaBeouf was replaced with the far more affable Mark Wahlberg last time around, but even that wasn't enough to shift the series any closer to being just bad, rather than astoundingly terrible.
This latest outing - The Last Knight - has all the poorest qualities of the Transformers series, but to its credit it does - for a short stretch at least - take the series closer to being enjoyably, preposterously silly than it has since the original. Closer... but not quite there.
Wahlberg as everyman inventor Cade Yaeger returns in a film which promises to tell "the untold story of Transformers". Teasing such secrets is a standard marketing ploy when a series is five films deep, but it's dependent on an ability, or enthusiasm, to recall the story we've already been told.
Turns out the big fighting alien robots that turn into cars and other vehicles have been on Earth for centuries, popping up in Medieval times around the time of King Arthur and during World War 2. This is explained to us by Sir Anthony Hopkins' eccentric Brit and scenes set during those periods.
This is all set up to serve a story about everything and nothing that stakes the fate of the planet once again and expects its audience to care... again.
Along the way Optimus Prime goes rogue, there's a Michael Bay-directed polo scene, a robot ninja butler voiced by a Downton Abbey actor, a Transformer goddess, Stanley Tucci as Merlin, a Big Lebowski reunion, a magical staff, a living amulet, Rebecca Front, Stonehenge and a British woman named VIVIAN WEMBLEY.
Vivian is played by Laura Haddock, the latest in a long line of actresses who've joined and left the series since the departure of Megan Fox following the second film. As has been the case with her predecessors, Haddock is dressed and made up to look eerily similar to Fox. It's creepy, like Michael Bay is in denial that his favourite actress left him all those years ago.
The film's best moments take place during that aforementioned stretch of the film roughly halfway through, which almost makes Transformers fun. Almost. Central to this is Hopkins, who counter to expectations following his tepid performances in Marvel's Thor films, doesn't phone in his performance but instead seems to be having a lot of fun.
Hopkins was (quite rightly) ridiculed when he called Bay a genius, but his apparent respect for the man does at least explain why he turns in such an enjoyable performance, even if a lot of that fun stems from the fact it's Sir Anthony Hopkins in a Transformers film.
Whatever positives he brings to the film, aided by his Transformer pal Cogman and the best efforts of Wahlberg and Haddock, the four never overcome the film's excessive Bayisms.
Incoherent and hyperactive, The Last Knight refuses to stay in one place for very long, skipping from country to country, important meeting room to important meeting room, robot battle to robot battle - the story only ever serving more action and all logic long-since abandoned.
The action scenes, often lauded as Bay's forte, are as messy and vapid as they've ever been. Sparks and shrapnel fly, everything explodes, mud is flung, it's exceptionally loud, lots of people shout. You've seen it all before, and considering that includes Earth being torn asunder by an enormous mechanical monstrosity, that says a lot.
The Last Knight is one of the better Transformers movies.