Transformers: The Last Knight
Director: Michael Bay
Screenwriters: Matt Holloway, Ken Nolan, Art Marcum
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Anthony Hopkins, Josh Duhamel, Laura Haddock, Isabela Moner, Jerrod Carmichael, Jim Carter, John Goodman, Ken Watanabe, Omar Sy, Peter Cullen
Distributor: Paramount Pictures
Rated PG| 149 Minutes
Release Date: June 21, 2017
Transformers: The Last Knight continues the franchise’s long line of large-scale visuals, epic explosions, poorly written scripts, and lack of care for its own continuity. Even after four of these films, the new Transformers installment fails to learn from any of the previous lessons, and instead, chooses to double down (or should I say quadruples down) on them. So let’s not stand on ceremony and just say what we already know: Transformers: The Last Knight is just another two and half hours’ worth of explosion porn fest with a nonsensical script that has plenty of sexual overtones and characters that play to their racial stereotypes. Oh, and let’s not forget all those explosions and shouting matches. Check out my full review below.
For what it’s worth, director Michael Bay really sticks to what he knows: no plot or character development but plenty of explosions. But seeing as nothing has really changed since Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, no one should expect any else from him. It’s not as though we aren’t going to get copious amounts of robots pummeling at each other until one of them is nothing more than a greasy pile of scrap metal. Both the Autobots and Decepticons are highly detailed, and yet, some of them are still hard to tell apart.
Maybe that has to do with the fact that we don’t nearly spend enough time with them or the designers felt like they didn’t want to make the faces any different. Whatever the reason, just know that the Autobots and Decepticons are at it again, and somehow, a fifth MacGuffin, more powerful than the last, has popped up again. But this one has some historical significance that is connected to Earth.
Yup, in this film, the Transformers have been with on Earth since the Dark Ages. In an effort to win a war, Merlin receives a Cybertronian-powered staff that is given to him by a Transformer. He is also given a three-headed dragon and a powerful talisman. It’s not exactly clear why this wasn’t mentioned in any of the history books, but just know that a secret society has worked hard to keep the public from knowing about them. Figures like Shakespeare, Telsa, and George Washington have worked with these Transformers, who have changed the course of history.
In the present, Cade Yager (Mark Wahlberg) and Izabella (Isabela Moner) protect the surviving Transformers from the merciless TRF, a military force whose sole purpose is to hunt down and eliminate any Transformer. Back on Cybertron, an enraged Optimus Prime confronts Quintessa, a Cybertronian sorceress, for turning his home planet into the decaying piece of rust that he sees before him. But before he could slay her, Quintessa corrupts Optimus Prime and turns him into Nemesis Prime. She then instructs him to go to Earth to bring back Merlin’s staff so that they can use it on Earth to revive the dying Cybertron.
In order to find the staff before it falls into the wrong hands, Cade gets help from a cranky historian Sir Edmund Burton (Anthony Hopkins), his sociopathic robot butler Cogman (Jim Carter), and a kidnapped Viviane (Laura Haddock), a Professor of Literature at Oxford. Soon they discover that the Transformers have been a part of human history for a lot longer than anyone originally thought. Oh, and John Turturro is back, but I can’t tell why he was in it. And William Lennox (Josh Duhamel) serves as a member of the TRF. You know, to satisfy that military fetish that Michael Bay has.
Even with a plot this simple (and possibly fun with the historical aspect woven into it), one would expect The Last Knight to be different from the previous installments. However, that is not the case. Honestly, it’s not like Bay is even trying anymore. Because there is a clear lack of character development, there is really no sense in understanding the threats that the humans are facing. There may be times where they try to make some semblance of an emotional connection that would allow audiences to relate to them, but it is all undercut thanks in part to a script that would rather move on to the next action set piece.
So there’s no real sense in trying to make sense of the familial relationship between a human and an Autobot because there is none. Any attempt to establish a heartfelt connection feels lost because there’s simply no time to cultivate one. We hardly spend any time with them together before one is killed, is overshadowed by a long-winded conversational exchange that has no payoff, or shoehorning in some joke that we would typically see in a Michael Bay movie – which means it has sexual overtones, objectifies women, and/or some form of racism in it. Not to mention the close-up shots of dirt-caked faces, an orange sunrise, and incredibly bad pacing.
And of course, it wouldn’t be a relationship between humans in this film if it wasn’t filled with weak banter that was the stench of sexual objectification. Apparently, Viviane’s family isn’t happy enough with her being a professor at a prestigious university. No, she must have a man to define her life. As if we expected any less from a Transformers film. Even when she does get her defining moment, it seems to wasted when Cade asks her out on a date. Not sure if that was to lighten the tense moment, but it doesn’t do anybody any favors. And none of these characters can rise above their baseless stereotypes. It’s not even funny by trying to own up to it, it’s just your typical racism that you see in a Transformers film. Rising above it or doing something different would be asking too much of the film.
But even with a lack of a plot, narrative, or exposition, there is an abundant amount of unbelievable action sequences and car chases. While they can be a bit jarring at times and there is no poetry leading up to those moments, they are still thrilling.
It’s not as though we didn’t know what to expect from a Michael Bay-directed Transformers film. All the Bay cliches are in there. Yes, there’s even some product placement, but there are so many things going on at once, trying to remember one of them is a blur. So it comes to a point where you don’t even care what’s going on because even the film doesn’t care what’s going on. All it wants to do is get us to the next action set piece and stumble its way to the end, which takes two and a half hours to get to.