- Movie Rating -

Transformers: The Last Knight (2017)

| June 20, 2017

Three years ago, when I wrote my review of Transformers: Age of Extinction, I reported afterwards – with a bit of personal curiosity and subconscious pride – that during the third act, I began to daydream about things that had nothing to do with the movie.  I figure it was my brain’s natural resistance to this continually mind-numbing series of cacophonous indifference, like an antibody sent out to fend off a potential virus.

I didn’t daydream during Transformers: The Last Knight.  This particular strain is too overloaded with stupidity and desperation to be ignored.  Here is a movie that includes The Knights of the Round Table, Merlin, flying bodies, racism, sexual innuendo, quick edits, headachy sound effects, exploding metal, a waste of Anthony Hopkins, an oppressive soundtrack and robots that are STILL visually indistinguishable from one another.  Added to that is shameless dialogue like: “When the account of the ages is etched into the cosmos, let those who exist long after us know that this was our finest hour.”  That runs parallel to “Come get some ya little bitch!”  This movie has a tone problem.

Tone is an issue all through this movie.  The opening three minutes take place in Medieval England during The Crusades in which we are dropped into a fiery battle between King Arthur and his knights against the Saxons in which men on both sides are impaled, chopped up and set on fire all while shouting dialogue about the whereabouts of Merlin.  Cut to the comically drunken wizard (Stanley Tucci) who is miles away and making a deal with a Transformer over some talisman that can vanquish Arthur’s enemies.  The shift from the battlefield to Merlin is jarring, like watching Saving Private Ryan and then suddenly cutting to Monty Python and the Holy Grail.  I reiterate: This movie has a tone problem.

Both of these polar elements are suddenly infused with narration by Anthony Hopkins who helpfully informs us of what we just saw (thanks Hop!)  There is a whole lot happening in Transformers: The Last Knight, but much of it is sound and fury signifying nothing.  The plot doesn’t really matter because the elements of King Arthur and the talisman are so inconsequential that they feel like they were just glued to the sides of the movie at random.  Literally, this movie could be just CGI robots smacking each other around for 140 minutes and it would still make $100 million.

In a story that feels somewhat like a kid pulling out all of the toys from his toybox to make an incoherent, on-the-spot session of playtime, Bay infuses elements that don’t go together in any possible way.

After the scenes in merry old England, we shoot forward to the present to Texas inventor Cade Yeager (Wahlberg, again) has charged himself the overseer of a junkyard in which he hides Autobots of every size and shape from a U.S. government bent on smashing them into little metal meatballs.  There’s some nonsense about his destiny (he’s The Last Knight, you see) given to him by English aristocrat Edmund Burton (Hop, again).  There’s an attempt to fuse it all into a story about destiny and fate and its rather cute that Bay thinks there’s any story here at all.

I have long-since tried to figure out the appeal of these movies to a mass audience.  All I could come up with was that their shiftlessness was essentially buried in plain sight.  Around 2007 when the first Transformers came out, Hollywood still mounted tentpole movies in much the same spirit as Independence Day by shoveling its audience a lot of frosting with little to no cake.  Yet, in the ten years since that first movie, times have changed.  Disney has the Marvel movies and the new crop of Star Wars movies, films that are made with care by people who have a passion for what they have put on the screen.  In that way, the Transformers movies are being left in the dust, a relic who variables of success are soon to be swept right into the dustbins of history.

Passion will not save this series, there’s no passion to be had.  In the age of reboots, I have a suspicious that Michael Bay and his crew will be cynical enough to continue with this dreck and call it a ‘do-over’.  Here’s hoping that someone in power wrenches this product from Bay’s hands and puts it in the care of someone who wants this to be much more than just a checklist of marketable ideas.  If only.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.