Transformers: The Last Knight isn’t the nightmare others might’ve cracked it up to be, but it isn’t particularly fresh either. The highest compliment I can give this film is the fact that director Michael Bay knows his way around a camera. No matter what you think about Bay and his work with the live-action Transformers franchise, the one thing he excels at with these films is his attention to detail with how it’s shot. You can tell that he cares about what the audience is going to be looking at. He might not care if you understand what you’re seeing, but he does care about you getting your bang for your buck. The visual effects and action sequences in this film look spectacular, however none of the fighting/explosions within them make any sense; and the build up to these scenes are even worse.
To briefly sum up the plot of this movie, all you need to know is that Transformer leader Optimus Prime has left Earth to hunt down his creator. During his travel through space, his body freezes and he is left floating through the cosmos until he somehow winds up on what’s left of his home planet, Cybertron. Quintessa, a Transformer God, brainwashes Optimus and sends him back to Earth to retrieve a relic that was lost long ago and conquer the planet on her behalf. Sounds interesting, right? Well, the problem with that is you don’t actually see Optimus again until the third act of the movie. Once the cameras stray away from him, what you’re left with is about an hour and a half of mindless nonsense with some of the most uninteresting, poorly developed human characters you’ll ever see.
The human subplots in the film are quite painful to watch and unfortunately, the bulk of this movie is built around them. Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) lives off the grid in a junkyard with his autobot buddies (from Age of Extinction) while the U.S. Government continue their search for “America’s most wanted.” It’s never really established why Yeager’s a wanted man, the audience is just left to assume, based off the events in Age of Extinction. Wahlberg is a great actor, but there’s something about this particular performance that just seemed off. His character is stale and downright lifeless. This is mainly due to the painfully dreadful script given to him. Wahlberg has proven over the years that his charisma can carry a movie, however with The Last Knight, his charm couldn’t excuse how frivolous the script was. The dialogue throughout this movie is awkward and profoundly atrocious. None of the jokes that the writers were going for connect, and unfortunately, the humor (or lack there of) is something that is prevalent throughout the entire 149-minute runtime. Buckle-up.
With the star power that Anthony Hopkins brings to the table, even he wasn’t enough to save the day. His character of Sir Edmund Burton isn’t developed well at all, but because you can tell Hopkins was having fun with the role, which is somewhat refreshing, his foolishness is excusable. The purpose of Sir Edmund is to crack the code on why the Transformers exist and keep coming back to Earth. The mythology behind the mixing of actual medieval history with these mechanical beasts is rather compelling, however the execution of it all falls flat on its face. Once you’re finally onboard with what’s going on, the scene is ruined by another ill-timed attempt at comedy. This takes you out of the scene completely and makes you wonder, “Where the hell is Optimus Prime?”
The one character that is given a little bit of emotional weight is Isabela Moner’s character of Izabella (how original). After a horrible attack on her home, she was left alone to face this world of murderous transforming robots – and up until meeting Yeager, she was doing pretty good for herself. However all of that is taken away because not too long after getting introduced to Izabella, she’s never seen from again until much later in the movie. You are left wondering why she was even introduced in the first place because she serves no purpose to the overall narrative. There was potential for her to become a serious driving force to push Yeager’s development as a character, but the writers decided to stow her away and have Wahlberg fidget with Transformer puppies instead (yes, that actually happens).
There’s so much going on in this movie that it’s almost impossible to follow along with everything. Scenes have no connective tissue and events just happen. As soon as you invest yourself into a situation, it’s scrapped and something even crazier (and more absurd) happens the next. There’s no real explanation to why these things are happening, you’re just expected to accept it and ignore your questions as to how characters magically move from point A to B.
On the flip-side, understand that these Transformers movies are ultimately about talking robots that transform into vehicles. They’re not meant to be taken too serious, so it’s ok to shut your brain off and just have fun with it. No matter how annoying the human characters get, at the core, Bay delivers on giving the audience satisfying sequences of Transformer on Transformer violence. The journey to get to those scenes are rough, however, and Bay often crosses the line between fun and stupidity. Once Optimus makes his return, pacing picks up and action intensifies. There’s a satisfying fight between Bumblebee and Optimus that takes place, leading into an over-the-top, possible world-ending third act that would’ve been perfect dumb-fun, had the hour and a half leading up to it wasn’t so mind-numbing. As mentioned earlier, the film is about 2 hours and 29 minutes, which is much shorter than Age of Extinction, but still pretty long. There’s about 30 minutes of film that could’ve been cut to deliver a much crisper story.
Even though The Last Knight brought nothing new to the table, there’s still hope for the future of this franchise moving forward, oddly enough. These movies aren’t going anywhere because they make too much money at the box office. However, it’s time for Michael Bay to move on and let someone else take over. Hopefully in the following sequels and spinoffs, because The Last Knight ends with a mid-credits scene that sets up at least one more film, a director with fresh ideas can spark life back into what seems like a franchise that’s running out of ideas.
FINAL SCORE: D+