Transformers: The Last Knight is reportedly Michael Bay’s last go-round with the reimagined 80’s cartoon franchise and if so, the divisive director held nothing back, with no pyrotechnic unexploded in his unchained swan song. The film is the fifth in the widely popular international blockbuster franchise, presenting a lunatic’s rant of a movie that’s ambitious as it is a complete mess.
People have accused Bay’s films of seeming like they were made by a child getting to play with the most expensive toys imaginable, but The Last Knight is so schizophrenic, incomprehensible and just plain mad that it makes Marvel’s MCU films feel like introspective award season fare. The amount of characters in this film is staggering – what’s even more staggering is how little you get to know any of them in a 2 hour and 30 minute movie.
There aren’t enough letters in the alphabet to catalog how many sub-plots are going on, but the film wildly cuts to each one in jarring fashion and some characters disappear for enormous stretches of the film (for example Tony Hale’s engineer) only to have the film cut back to them with no good reason. If you came for plot and coherency, best ask for a refund.
Mark Wahlberg reprises his role of Cade Yeager from Transformers: Age of Extinction and while he makes a more enjoyable central character than Shia LaBeouf for the franchise, never once do you feel attached him – or anyone for that matter, robots included. Bay even somehow got Anthony Hopkins for this mess as the keeper of the long history of Transformers on Earth, dating back to the time of King Arthur and Merlin. Hopkins is at least having fun, but he also seems like he’s high on bath salts and runs around like a crazed madman for half of his screen time.
Yes, I did mention earlier that Merlin is in the film for an early prologue and is played strangely enough by Stanley Tucci, who appeared in the previous film as a different character, and it’s just as weird as it sounds. Apparently all magic on Earth originated from a downed Transformers space craft and Merlin harnessed the tech as “magic.” Buckle up folks, this is only just the prologue for Transformers: The Last Knight and Tucci is so ridiculous that I couldn’t help but find it a little fun – but also just so bizarre.
There are any number of ridiculous moments throughout, from returning cast members from the earlier films who literally do nothing (Tyrese Gibson), to WWII and King Arthur flashbacks and even underwater submarine chases and floating planet battles. If all of that sounds cool, it might have been if it made any kind of sense or the audience cared about anyone. It’s worth noting that in this film there’s nothing nearly as bad (or offensive) as most of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, and you have to tip your hat at how Bay and Co. went all in on this new insanity.
One big positive for Transformers: The Last Knight is an element I generally dislike: the 3D treatment. The cinematography of the film and the absolutely bonkers way the action unravels made for an eye-popping experience that was quite fun. There’s almost no stopping the set-pieces and to the films credit they are nicely diversified and at times genuinely intense.
So let’s say theoretically that some of you out there decided to accept this franchise’s version of the beloved Transformers universe and just went along for the ride in the subsequent films. All of you Optimus Prime fans will be disappointed to know he’s hardly in the film. Autobots Bumblebee and Hound (John Goodman) are the only standouts and the Decepticons are so paper-thin and forgettable I can’t think of single one worth mentioning. But the film indeed does take great care with Bumblebee and he’s by far the most realized character in the massive roster.
There’s so much more I could go on about in this ridiculously bloated film like baby robot dinosaurs, steampunk robot butlers, and the sheer amount of men somersaulted into the air by explosions, but there’s really no explaining any of this movie. Audiences have already decided five films into Bay’s explosive robotic sandbox whether they’re into it or not and Transformers: The Last Knight certainly continues the streak of disjointed, carnage filled messes, but this time takes it to a level that almost has to be appreciated. Almost.