“Transformers 5” is probably best summed up by the person sitting beside me through the critics screening this week.
“That was ... an experience,” she said.
Yeah, it certainly was.
The “plot” ― which has something to do with a floating alien queen, dragon robots and Mark Wahlberg becoming a knight ― is too complicated to try to think about. And the dialogue, such as when Josh Duhamel approaches a giant alien ship and says something like, “Oh my God, a giant alien ship!” is perhaps a little too much at times.
Despite all that, the overall experience makes this the best “Transformers” movie since Michael Bay’s original ― and that has a lot to do with Sir Anthony Hopkins.
Though a role in the movie seems like a bizarre choice for the actor, he is the knight in shining armor for “Transformers: The Last Knight.” Hopkins steals every scene and brings charm and laughs to an otherwise confusing movie.
This makes what happens to his character all the more baffling.
(Warning! “Transformers 5” spoilers ahead.)
(OK, seriously. Big, huge, major spoiler.)
In the movie, Hopkins’ Sir Edmund Burton has sort of a robot butler named Cogman. During an emotional scene toward the end of the film, Burton is dying, and Cogman says goodbye, telling him of all the people he’s served, Hopkins’ character is “the coolest.”
Whoa. Wait. What?
Anthony Hopkins is lying there, and you call him “the coolest”?
The line drew some unintentional laughs from the audience, though it seems innocuous enough, unless you know this one fact about Hopkins ...
He hates the word “cool.” (We mean haaaaates it.)
I learned this the hard way.
I had just asked Hopkins if he had any plans to do other screen adaptations of plays. He said that he may be doing one for “King Lear.”
That’s when I made an unforgivable error. I said that sounded “cool.”
Hopkins was not pleased.
“What’d you call it? You called it ‘cool’?” he said, “What is ‘cool’ about it? You tell me, what does ‘cool’ mean?”
Dear God, no.
The moment after that seemed like an eternity. I reevaluated my life, going back through all the past mistakes that led me to this point. I shant repeat the same foibles again!
Then, like an idiot, I answered:
“‘Cool’ is just slang for ‘that’s really awesome.’”
(“What the hell are you saying?” I thought in my head. “‘Cool’ is slang for ‘awesome’? Can you hear yourself?”)
Hopkins didn’t like that response either.
“Well, what does ‘awesome’ mean?” he said.
This time I pulled it together.
“Awesome means it gives you a lot of joy because it’s an enjoyable event,” I said, not quite sticking the landing, but at least getting my point across.
”[Someone] says, ‘Where’d you get those shoes?’ [They] said, ‘They’re awesome.’ What’s ‘awesome’ about? We have a whole new language. Everything’s ‘cool’ or ‘awesome.’”
After all that, I finally got in another question.
“What slang do you use for when you enjoy something other than saying ‘awesome’ or ‘cool’?”
The actor relented a bit:
“Oh, I’m just teasing,” he said ...
... before lamenting the deterioration of the entire English language.
“It’s funny that ‘cool’ is a word that covers everything or ‘awesome,‘” he continued. “To me, it doesn’t make much [sense]. What’s happened to the language of our culture, you know? It’s either ‘cool’ or ‘awesome.’”
Getting called out by Anthony Hopkins was awkward (so awkward ... so, so awkward), but it was a learning experience. Sir Anthony taught me to never neglect your audience, resist the temptation to rest on old habits and, above all, that he hates the word cool.
Now, let’s go back to 2017. I’m sitting in the “Transformers 5” screening and the robot butler calls a dying Sir Anthony Hopkins “the coolest.”
Many thoughts ran through my head, but I kept coming back to one:
How come Cogman gets away with it? Why is he allowed to say “cool”? But, more importantly, how could the movie do this to Hopkins?
You have Anthony Hopkins — check that ... SIR Anthony Hopkins — the guy who’s carried your whole movie, and while he’s lying there lifeless you call him “the coolest”? You call him the word Hopkins seems to blame for the downfall of modern society?
It just doesn’t seem very cool.
“Transformers: The Last Knight” is now in theaters.