'Transformers: The Last Knight' morphs into a clunker

(Courtesy of Paramount Pictures)

To begin with, the title for Transformers: The Last Knight is incorrect. There are several knights to be found in this movie, all of whom interact with other knights throughout the movie. There is nary a final knight to be found in this movie, making the title the warning sign for a wretched movie that sucks the energy right out of its audience.

The Last Knight is a dire experience. It has so little going for it that the asinine madness Sir Anthony Hopkins inserts out of his general lack of interest in the material is the best thing the movie has going for it. Everything else is garbage, detritus spawned by barely earned nostalgia and producers sucking those happy thoughts for all the money they are worth. And that's how a movie like this come to be, prepackaged as a big budget experience targeted at people who care little for the value of their entertainment. The old-fashioned way of describing them are rubes, making director Michael Bay, producer Steven Spielberg, and everyone else involved in creating this rubbish high-priced grifters.

None of this really matters though. The Last Knight will make hundreds of millions of dollars, possibly more than a billion dollars, at the box office in the coming weeks. People will watch this despite protestations from many, many people over its lack of quality. This is the dark side of nihilism that doesn't reveal the optimism of nothingness once the absence of importance is accepted. What's being accepted here is bad cinema with too much regard devoted to viewers who take pride in their anti-intellectualism.

To be fair, movies don't need to be smart to have value; the Furious series is pretty great despite how legitimately dumb those films are. Yet they possess both passion and insanity, a desire to entertain their viewers and provide satisfaction for the money spent. The Last Knight does not entertain.

A movie supposedly about giant robots fighting one another somehow cannot provide entertainment, even on the fun side of the puerile level. This movie very much lingers on the dark side of juvenile, with a few bits of casual racism and Marky Mark Wahlberg comparing his female co-star Laura Haddock to a prostitute added in to serve as jokes. That it sexualizes pretty much all of its female characters, including a 14-year-old (played by Isabela Moner), is disturbing but expected for this series.

None of it actually provides an iota of entertainment. Nothing keeps viewers interested in the characters on screen or the fact that, sometimes, giant robots fight one another to the death.

It's about right that The Last Knight only shows its giant robots that morph into cool things fight on just a few occasions, holding franchise stalwart Optimus Prime in the background until the final act. Bay & co. instead toss in some elements that, if one squints hard enough, begin to resemble a story and allow Wahlberg and Haddock to serve as the centers of attention instead of the giant fighting robots. It would have helped if the screenwriters actually tried to keep their narrative logical and create contradicting plot points, or if the haphazard editing had stuck with a logical timeline. There's also some awful, hacky, and terribly worded expositional dialog to move things forward, because this movie doesn't feel the need to show what's happening or allow the actions to guide story.

The selling point for The Last Knight is the action sequences, or at least they would be if viewers could actually follow along with the poorly framed battles. At this point in the series it's tough to find a way to inject interest in seeing the same giant robots fight one another to the death. Bay and crew have effectively run out of ideas on how to make these sequences look cool, which is an odd thing to say considering this is a franchise about giant robots with guns, explosives and swords going at one another.

Bay, for all his faults as a filmmaker, used to create singular, well-orchestrated action sequences that at least came close to making what are otherwise bad movies at least a little fun.

Five films into the Transformers franchise and the thrill is gone for Bay.

Without any redeeming value aside from the scenery Hopkins consumes, The Last Knight is a slog. It leaves viewers drained from boredom and confusion over the preposterous state this film exists in, and the two-and-a-half hours of it to sift through. But, again, none of this really matters. A ton of people will watch this movie, more than enough to fund two more movies in the near future. Critics will rip them apart, too, as Bay, Spielberg and Paramount sleep comfortably in the piles of money they've conned out of audiences everywhere.

Rating: One and a half out of Five Stars

Ask Away

Target audience: Folks who've been roped in to the last few entries in the series.

Take the whole family? This isn't particularly great for the younger kids, with the heavy doses of violence and bad editing creating a less than comforting viewing experience.

Theater or Netflix? Just don't bother with it.

How good is the cast? Of a higher quality than expected, although none of them seem to care. It remains strange how many good actors sign up for these movies. Sir Anthony Hopkins, John Turturro, Stanley Tucci, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, Ken Watanabe, and Tony Hale are the highlights for film five. Add them to alumni like Jon Voight, Kelsey Grammer, Frances McDormand, John Malkovich, Alan Tudyk, and many, many others and there's the making for a really good movie. Even American hero Buzz Aldrin has shown up for one of these movies.

Watch this instead: Best bet is to find a copy of the animated Transformers movie from the '80s - it has a surprisingly stellar cast, including Orson Welles, Leonard Nimoy, Robert Stack and Judd Nelson - or watch the original animated series. That, or just find your old toys and make up a way cooler story on your own.

Rating: PG-13

Run time: 149 minutes

Genre: Action

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