‘Transformers: The Last Knight’ Is Big, Bad, And Boring

“You owe me eight dollars.” I was met with this response as I made my way to do a movie podcast in which one of the topics was Michael Bay’s latest in his cinematic oeuvre. The comment was made by a fellow critic who paid matinee price as preparation for the near 11-minute discussion about the Transformers franchise and the ultimate toll it has taken on the state of blockbuster movie-making.

Yes, we talked about Transformers for 600-odd seconds. That may not sound like much but believe me it is. Far more than what was probably necessary or deserved. A waste of words and breath, and yet here I am writing a review (more like a plea) on why it may be best to let these robots in disguise rust as you seek better visual simulation and save some brain cells.

Transformers: The Last Knight
is the fifth installment of the franchise based on the Hasbro toys. Well into my thirties I remember fondly as a kid playing with the toys and sitting in front of the television Saturday mornings watching the cartoons as I scarfed down cereal. Optimus Prime, Megatron and the rest had my undivided attention much to the displeasure of my parents.

Skip forward a few decades to summer 2007 and the arrival of Transformers in theaters. Michael Bay, a director best-known for the bombastic cacophony that dominate his movies, was two years removed from The Island, a sci-fi actioneer with Ewan McGreggor and Scarlet Johansson that is one of the least mentioned of his output. Transformers was a nice rebound and a box office hit so of course a sequel was guaranteed. Every two or three years since then audiences have been on the receiving end of more robot-on-robot action with human life hanging in the balance, and each movie has been more flashy and ostentatious than the former. The series has been financially successful but remains creatively bankrupt. Transformers: The Last Knight continues the downward trend.

If there is a Transformers fanbase I must not interact with them. Maybe they, like the toys themselves, are in disguise; they hide their fondness for fear of being ridiculed for their guilty pleasure. Though I’m one to talk; I unabashedly love The Fast and Furious franchise, which reached No. 8 this year with the release of The Fate of the Furious. But the Furious movies at the very least try to evolve with every installment, unlike the spectacle orgy that is in Bay’s movie-making DNA.

The Last Knight is an illogical mess built to give viewers sensory overload. When special effects drive a story and not the narrative that tells you all need to know. Don’t give me the leave-your-brain-at-the-door excuse as a means to escape reality and be entertained. This thing is over two hours and 20 minutes long. 149 excruciating minutes to be exact. As for the actual story, your guess is as good as mine. I’ll give it a shot, though.

Optimus Prime is floating in space, going back to his home world of Cybertron to meet his creator. Appalled at the wasteland he sees, Optimus becomes subservient to Quintessa, the planet’s dark queen, and makes his way back to earth as Nemesis Prime (how original). A military taskforce has been created to eliminate all Transformers – both Autobots (good guys) and Decepticons (baddies) – that keep coming to our planet as if it was the center of the universe. Megatron is back to start some trouble. I thought he died like two sequels ago.

Shameless money grab alert as Sir Anthony Hopkins pops in to chew scenery, only to be upstaged by his robot manservant butler (as voiced by Downton Abbey’s butler). Cutaways of John Turturro talking on a pay phone in Havana. Stanley Tucci as Merlin, a drunkard whose magical abilities come from a staff given to him by a very old Transformer. Yes, the lore of King Arthur is somehow intertwined with Transformers. It all amounts to Quintessa wanting to crash Cybertron into Earth (which she calls “Unicron”) so it can drain the planet of its energy. The Autobots do their part in trying to save the day along with Mark Wahlberg’s Cade Yeager, the Texas-bred, though Boston-sounding, inventor/tinker and an Oxford professor (Laura Haddock), whose birthright may hold the key to survival.

If you were able to make sense of all that, then I applaud you. Just skimming over the last paragraph I am still marveling at the narrative’s incoherence. Pauses between the action are a rarity and when they do occur they rarely help to give a clear indication of where we are going and why should we care about the human element. Actually, there is a supporting character that is introduced early on you believe will be integral to the movie, but she is pushed aside only to pop up later. Honestly, the character could have been cut out entirely, interactions scratched, and you wouldn’t miss a thing.

Big and bombastic, the best “B” descriptor for Transformers: The Last Knightr is BORING. I literally checked my watch three times while watching, doing the math of how much time had elapsed and how many more minutes until it was over. Michael Bay’s shock-and-awe visual incontinence (aided with an army of six editors!) has plateaued. Time to move on.

Director: Michael Bay
Writers: Art Marcum, Matt Holloway, and Ken Nolan
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Anthony Hopkins, Josh Duhamel, Laura Haddock, Jerrod Carmichael, Stanley Tucci, John Turturro
Running Time: 149 minutes
Rating: PG-13 (for violence and intense sequences of sci-fi action, language, and some innuendo)

1 Comment

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