The Transformers films, much like Michael Bay films in general, have become a genre unto themselves. Bombastic and overstuffed, these two-and-a-half-hour showcases of the latest in sound design and visual effects have taken the box office by storm despite true fans of these films being somewhat hard to find. But if people keep showing up to the tune of over a billion dollars at the box office, not to mention vast sums in home video and merchandising sales, the corporate juggernaut continues to chug along. Which brings us to the fifth live-action entry in this franchise, The Last Knight.
Rating: 2.5 stars out of 4
NOTE: Seen in AMC Dolby Cinema 3D. As usual, say what you will about the Transformers movies, but the use of 3D is excellent and well worth the surcharge.
Optimus has left Earth (see Age of Extinction), but while Transformers continue falling to Earth, unrest between them and humans is at an all-time high. Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg, capable as always) is a fugitive and has to hide out in a South Dakotan junkyard with other Transformers, while a new government military force called TRF hunts and destroys all remaining alien visitors. But petty differences will have to be put aside now that a bigger threat, named Quintessa, appears with a dastardly plot to destroy the Earth once and for all. And she’s got a mighty ally on her side: Optimus Prime.
The short version: I mostly enjoyed The Last Knight.
The extended version: the movie is plagued with all sorts of issues, but these are the same problems that have always plagued these films. The film is too long by at least 20 minutes, spends about an hour jumping choppily from scene to scene simultaneously introducing several characters and plot threads while also somehow spinning its wheels, and demands that audiences know every little plot point from the preceding four movies, which is a lot to ask.
But then, something happens. Sir Anthony Hopkins, playing a Da Vinci Code-esque character who’s been guarding a long-kept secret about the Transformers’ history on Earth, comes front-and-center with Wahlberg and the lovely Laura Haddock, who provides a welcome addition to the core cast. And boom, we’ve got a movie. No, it doesn’t make a lick of sense, there’s plenty of superfluous material, and the collision of about four different storylines coming together in the final hour is about as clean as Sunday morning at a frat house. But the movie’s pacing finally clicks into high gear and the last hour is a loud, colorful, and believe it or not, sort of fun roller-coaster ride.
Performances across-the-board are fine, no more or less. Hopkins is having a blast, and it shows, while Stanley Tucci shows up for a bizarre cameo at the beginning (playing a character different from the one he essayed in Age of Extinction) that’ll leave you bewildered. Technically, the movie is flawless, aside from a brief underwater journey that looks about as polished as a Playstation 2 game.
Michael Bay has, yet again, promised that this would be his last Transformers film. Whether or not that turns out to be true remains to be seen, but The Last Knight does a good enough job of tying all five movies together, even bringing back characters and storylines from the Shia LaBeouf trilogy. The film also sets the groundwork for the upcoming Bumblebee spinoff, and a mid-credits stinger points right to where Transformers 6 will likely go.
And yes, the Arthurian legend does factor heavily into this movie. For those who were upset about the recent King Arthur: Legend of the Sword and its liberties with the legend, don’t expect much more fidelity here.
By now, you should know if you’re going to enjoy another Transformers movie or not. For what it’s worth, I loved the hell out of the first one. Revenge of the Fallen has some of the franchise’s lowest points but is still mostly entertaining. Dark of the Moon really should’ve been the best of the series, but meanders far too much in the middle before rallying for a killer final hour. Age of Extinction stank, aside from Tucci’s performance and the whole finale in China. I’d put the Last Knight somewhere in between Moon and Extinction; not as good as the former but a damn sight better than the latter.
If you are on the fence about seeing this, see it in theaters, on the biggest and loudest screen you can find. The spectacle is the main reason these movies are worth watching, and no matter how great your home theater is, a film like Transformers: The Last Knight only works in its full glory on the big screen. So go for it.