Hot Take: Less than meets the eye. But I didn’t hate it and that’s confusing. (Don’t mistake that for me saying it was good. It was terrible.)
At this point, my childhood has been brutalized by Michael Bay so often, I think I’m getting used to it. Bay’s latest assault on my childhood memories is the fifth installment in the Transformers series, Transformers: The Last Knight. Luckily, this isn’t the longest Transformers in the series. Transformers: Age of Extinction clocked in at a Lord of the Rings-esque 165 minutes which makes Transformers: The Last Knight slight at only 149 minutes. Even better for the latest Universal cash grab is that it is not the worst film in the series, either.
What is interesting about the latest Transformers film is how seriously it takes itself on one hand but at the very same time seems to think it’s a joke. It’s also interesting to see a film that could badly need an editor actually had six of them yet still couldn’t trim itself down to a more reasonable length for the fifth film based on Hasbro’s action figures. I figure their role was to insure thousands of shots never lasting more than a few together were strung together like popcorn around a Christmas tree. It’s quintessential Bay as Transformers: The Last Knight looks like every other film Bay has ever made which means, if you’re a fan of his action style, you won’t be disappointed.
It’s a waste of time to cover the plot which on the surface is more complex than it needs to be but it is more of the same with humans not trusting all transforming alien robots that continue to land on Earth but damn it, the Autobots are here to help us! Don’t you get it! That’s why Mark Wahlberg is with them. He’s the good guy! Duh! Once you get through all of the exposition and myriad of characters, this is what it basically boils down to.
Bay channels his inner movie DJ as he samples and remixes other stories and films throughout the film. First, there’s the King Arthur subplot which opens the film and declares that Merlin’s magic was actually derived from a powerful staff given to him from a Transformer that landed on Earth in 484 AD. (As an aside, Arthur’s story in this film is more interesting than the recent borefest that was King Arthur: Legend of the Sword.) Stanley Tucci plays Merlin. Tucci was also in the fourth installment as a different character which makes me wonder whether Tucci was originally hired to reprise the role and when that was rewritten out of the movie, Bay said, “Fuck it!” and cast Tucci as Merlin instead. There’s a scene where the military decides to make a deal with Decepticon leader Megatron to work together to stop Cade Yeager (Wahlberg) from finding the staff discussed in the King Arthur opening. As Megatron demands the release of some of his Decepticon minions, Bay goes full Suicide Squad with a montage of the robot criminals in prison and their bad deeds with the soundtrack blasting. When Yeager is brought to England to meet with whomever the guy Anthony Hopkins was asked to play (at this point it was too convoluted for me to care to remember details), we meet Cogman who appears to be something we would have been more likely to find at the Beast’s castle in Beauty and the Beast. There’s also the little “for kids” robot Sqweeks which appears to be a cross between Wall-E and BB-8. Oh and let’s not forget Laura Haddock who plays Viviane Wembley and appears to be Bay’s homage to previous Transformers starlet Megan Fox. They bear some resemblance and insure this film has some eye candy for Wahlberg to attempt to develop some chemistry with.
In the end, Transformers: The Last Knight is more of the same from Bay and Universal. There’s plenty of fan service and tongue-in-cheek humor partnered with overly serious scenes headlined by Optimus Prime who is basically the straight man of the film. The good news is it isn’t complete torture and even slightly better than the most recent Pirates of the Caribbean cash grab. At least there weren’t any Decepticon testicles in this one, right?
“Spoiler Free” Pros
- Prime in Battle
Bay does have a knack for visuals and the action scenes here flow better than some previous installments. We don’t get to see much of Optimus Prime in battle but when we do, it’s a sight to see. Too bad they wasted that multiple robot decapitation scene in the trailer or else it would have been even more impressive.
“Spoiler Free” Cons
- This Should Be Kids’ Stuff
Some of the plot twists and turns felt too convoluted for adults to care and kids to follow. Granted, below the surface it is simply good vs. evil and a reason to buy more toys but there’s no need for the façade. Adults already know it and kids don’t care.
- Cornball Humor
Whenever the film does try and be funny, it settles on every corny joke you can think of and a few you wish they hadn’t.