I have never seen a Transformers movie. I have seen an episode of the television show. As a kid, I never once played with a Transformers toy. All of this was true until this past weekend when I made my way to the theater to see the fifth installment in the franchise. To put things nicely, it did not inspire me to go back and see what else I was missing.
The Last Knight accomplishes something few movies can. The longer it drags on, the more it begins to feel like it’s holding you hostage. It’s a drowsy two hours and twenty-nine minutes which I wish I could say just blows by, but in reality, it trudges on with an agonizingly snail-like pace, constantly assaulting your irises with computer-generated machinery and infecting your earlobes with truly abhorrent attempts at humor. It’s customary to provide a summary in movie reviews, but I really don’t think I could. You see, the biggest problem with this film with many problems is just how utterly incomprehensible it all is. Each scene comes and goes with little motivation, emotional connection, or feasible semblance of a properly-constructed narrative so that it all just comes across with a general sense of “okay, what?” in virtually every scene. I will concede that the fact that I have not seen the other entries in the series so I might not be as well-versed in “the lore” as some more diehard fans of the franchise, but I guarantee you that this film’s unabashed and self-inflicted confusion is created by more than just esoterica. It stems from another one of this film’s many problems: terrible editing. Michael Bay likes his movies to be as kinetic as possible so he keeps his scenes as short as he can so as to keep the audience’s attention with a constantly moving story. The only problem with this is that by the time I’m starting to get a grasp of what’s happening in a scene, he’s already switched to the next. All of this is to say, this movie doesn’t make any sense. So to make things easier, I’ve copied and pasted a logline from IMDb. Here you go: “Autobots and Decepticons are at war, with humans on the sidelines. Optimus Prime is gone. The key to saving our future lies buried in the secrets of the past, in the hidden history of Transformers on Earth.” If that intrigues you in any way, then go ahead and waste your afternoon on this film, nothing I’m going to say is going to sway you. I’m not entirely sure what an autobot is, though…
So let’s take a moment to discuss the characters of this film. We might as well begin with the transformers themselves since they are theoretically supposed to be the cornerstone of this narrative. In reality, they’re really not. Optimus Prime runs off to some other dimension where he gets put under mind control or something and the rest of his friends are stuck down in a junkyard where they behave like ten-year-old boys without supervision. Each of the transformers, I’ve learned, have embodied some sort of an archetype that would only be recognizable to a citizen of earth. This doesn’t really make any sense as they are supposed to be aliens who have been hiding out on our planet for centuries, defeating Nazis and inventing Arthurian legends (both happen in this film) but still embody stereotypical one-dimensional characters like the vaguely Asian one who meditates and speaks words of wisdom, or the cigar-smoking drunken naval captain from the American south. Believe it or not, this type of character creation gets old pretty quick, but it’s alright, as they’re barely in the movie anyhow.
Now let’s get to the humans that occupy most of the screentime. None of them are really anything special. I’ll just get that out of the way first so I’m not leading you on for the duration of this paragraph. Mark Wahlberg plays our lead and he…is alive, I guess, so he’s got that going for him. I don’t know, he really doesn’t appear to be interested in this film at all, which, I mean, can you blame him? The script gives him pretty much nothing to work with, but it’s Mark Wahlberg, so…give him a pass? He is joined by a traditional disposable sex-appeal stock character that Bay so loves to put in his films. The difference this time is this actress, Laura Haddock is her name, for any of you that care, is a professor at Oxford, which is about as believable as the time Denise Richards played nuclear physicist Christmas Jones in a Bond movie. Haddock is in about half of the movie, when Bay decided the frat boys watching this movie were probably falling asleep, and makes her way from scene to scene changing from one “stripper dress” (to quote the screenplay) to another without any real motivation. Then you have the real winner of the group. Sir Anthony Hopkins. When presented with the question, what exactly is Anthony Hopkins doing in this movie, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone with an answer. And I don’t mean why did he agree to do the film, we moved past that a long time ago, I mean what is his character doing in the film. What is his motivations, why does he look like he should be starring in a Winston Churchill biopic but call people “dude,” why does he have a secret passage into the prime minister’s office, this and so many more questions can be afforded to you too, if you endeavor to watch this film. It’s absolutely baffling and honestly kind of absurd. And then there are about ten other characters in this film that could all be cut from the plot with zero consequence to the story as a whole. I’m serious.
That would appear to be another issue plaguing this film. It is over-bloated beyond belief. There are so many subplots and sequences that could easily be cut from this film. But instead, it fills out to a runtime that is more comparable to a Senate hearing than a summer blockbuster. Not to mention the aggressively obnoxious pile of excrement that is the script. It is filled to the brim with ridiculous story points and agonizingly unfunny jokes that by the end you would have rathered the projectionist have accidentally shown footage of a reindeer slowly dying. You would have been more emotionally invested, and probably would have gotten out of the theater sooner. It almost feels as though the screenwriter was just making fun of his audience. The final act is filled with so many deus ex-machinas and payoffs without setups that they could have declared Bumblebee to be the son of God and had it fit right in with the rest of the film. The movie does have some strengths. It was color-corrected pretty well, so there’s something. It also…has a scene where they play Polo, that was kind of nice to see. Michael Bay is good at making visually-dynamic cinema, the only issue is that he reuses the same tricks over and over again until you feel so oversaturated with all of his techniques that they have zero effect. In summation, Transformers: The Last Knight is a dull, overloaded, obnoxious film that does little but assault its audience. But guess what? They’re still probably going to make a sixth one.
All images are from Transformers: The Last Knight-A Paramount film