It’s easy to hate on Michael Bay‘s live-action Transformers franchise. At their best, they’re moderately acceptable action movies involving giant robots bumping into each other until one side doesn’t get up again. At their worst, they’re incoherent, offensive (in almost all possible ways), mind-numbingly stupid, and at least an hour too long. They’re easy targets, even for the mindless entertainment crowd. Transformers: The Last Knight is the fifth installment in the series and it exemplifies all of these issues.
I wish I could begin to set the story stage for you, but I don’t know if that’s possible – not in a relatively brief review, anyway. It’s almost incomprehensible, taking far too long to both say too little and too much. It follows too many characters who are too thin to matter to us and it encompasses 1600 years of human history – all the way back to the King Arthur days. It tries to explain myths like magic and dragons and then provide another potential apocalypse scenario our characters need to prevent – all thanks to MacGuffins and chases and sometimes (giant robots). Mark Wahlberg is the lead and while Anthony Hopkins is here to provide exposition – what a waste of talent.
The marketing of Transformers: The Last Knight has focused largely on the heel turn of Optimus Prime (voice of Peter Cullen), who was the leader of the good robots. He’s now evil. This barely matters in the movie. Optimus is absent for the majority of the film. This was a marketing gimmick designed to try to intrigue prospective viewers. Do not watch this movie because of it. Do not watch this movie in general, for any reason.
Robots smashing into each other has, in the past, served as moderate (at best) entertainment. It doesn’t here. Even though a few of them can combine and transform into a dragon. Believe it or not, having a dragon show up for the climax but nowhere else isn’t enough to freshen things up. The rest is just the same, except the most famous robot isn’t present for most of the proceedings.
Transformers: The Last Knight is lazy, uncaring, cynical filmmaking. Please do not support it.
We focus even more on the humans this time around. Wahlberg’s character becomes a savior of good robots, who are now banned from everywhere on Earth but Cuba, and he becomes a Chosen One – along with a woman (Laura Haddock) who is also a Chosen One – who needs to save the day. So they run around and get chased and eventually there’s a plan and it’s so much noise and nonsense that the only way to avoid a brain aneurysm is to close your eyes and ears and wait for the experience to come to an end. Eventually, it does and, if you survived, your reward is the promise that another Transformers movie is on the horizon – a tease whose reveal is the most interesting thing to happen in the franchise but is largely ignored in this movie.
“But who cares if it’s incoherent and stupid and probably racist/sexist and stupid and really stupid? It’s just a dumb action movie based on toys.” Yes, yes, it is. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t expect something better than this? At a minimum, the plot should make some degree of sense and the action scenes should be comprehensible. That’s the minimum, no? Some creativity to the action would be nice. Characters with a little bit of depth – not just “they are chosen for a thing” – would be appreciated. Transformers: The Last Knight doesn’t care about any of this. It’s here to print money for the studio. It doesn’t care if you or I like it. People will see it, especially overseas, and it’ll make bank. Effort and care don’t need to be put into it for this to happen. So they weren’t. It’s lazy, uncaring, cynical filmmaking. Please do not support it.
Transformers: The Last Knight is an assault on your ears, eyes, and brain. It hurts to watch, hurts to think about, and feels like theft of your money. The people who made this movie didn’t care about making it good; it’ll make money with or without effort, so why should they bother? It’s way too long, unbelievably stupid, and borderline incomprehensible. Please, Michael Bay, I beg of you: Keep your promise this time to stop making these. It’s clear that you don’t want to.
Conclusion: Transformers: The Last Knight is a horrible movie.
Recommendation: Even if, due to insanity or sheer force of will, you’ve managed to sit through and survive all four previous Transformers films, you do not have any reason to watch Transformers: The Last Knight.