Review: ‘Transformers: The Last Knight’ (and the last straw)

An exhaustive sensory assault held together by sugarless gum.

Hey, kids: did you know Transformers had something to do with King Arthur and the Knights of the Round table? And Merlin looked a whole lot like Stanley Tucci? Flash forward back to now; there are zones people shouldn’t go into that have Transformers just waiting to die.. or be rescued… or something. Izabella (Isabela Moner) keeps a few stupid kids out of harm’s way by acting like a stupid kid… until Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) shows up, saves the kids (sort of), and is rewarded with the McGuffin Medallion… that everyone knows about but no one has mentioned in over a thousand years (or four previous movies). Both he and crazy-pretty-yet-inexplicably-single historian Vivian Wembley (Laura Haddock) are kidnapped by Sir Edmund Burton (why is Anthony Hopkins in this movie?) and tasked with saving the world but instantly dislike one another… meaning they’re destined to shag should they live so long. Then Cybertron kind of crashes into Earth without utterly destroying it (?!) and Optimus Prime will save us… or not — or maybe The Last Knight will, or maybe the pretty historian and her magic Staff of McGuffin… no wait, mission failure! Abort, abort, abort! What the living hell is happening here?!

Let’s talk frankly, shall we? Transformers isn’t difficult: Decepticons make energon cubes by stealing Earth resources while plotting to return to Cybertron… and the Autobots arrive to kick their ass — repeat. From the first so-so Transformers movie to the unwatchable sequel and the Transformers 3: the Apology, it’s clear that director Michael Bay really likes money and mayhem. After Shia LaBeouf declared he was no longer famous, Mark Wahlberg phoned in a performance and started calling himself Cade for some reason. Is it still okay for Michael Bay to shoot from the hip, shooting script be damned, and try to make something watchable out of tens of millions of dollars worth of special effects in the editing room?

The first victims of this fiasco are the artists, designers, and computer graphics folks who work their asses off trying to make crap look good; the greatest advantage of getting hundred million dollar budgets is having the best of everything at your fingertips… even if all you’re going to do is squander it. The second victims are everyone buying a ticket to this at all or ever unless you need a nice place for a two-hour and thirty-minute nap. Lastly is everyone who backed this turkey; wasn’t it clear early on how dismal and disjointed this was becoming? Endless callbacks from the previous films are reminders of everything endured to get here; afterward are scenes of awkward meetings, weak standoffs, throwaway introductions, and general meandering; worse yet, the movie runs at two speeds: urgent or now-do-we-kiss? Let it be known: T5 is this summer’s Independence Day: Resurgence.

How bad is it? It’s possible the scriptwriters may have watched When Batman Met Superman for story inspiration… including implementing their own cringeworthy “Martha” moment. Other than three fan favorites, the Transformers who do appear are one-dimensional stereotypes who roughhouse in the background while main-character humans arrange the fight cards. Scene locations change at random to create a sense of global importance, but what little transitions happen between these jumps are so jarring there’s no time to get your bearings before being whisked off to another set piece. The entirety of the third act features a moon-sized planet colliding with another planet with little or no global consequences or care for collateral damage really?

Mark Wahlberg’s character will make you long for the less-boring yet equally useless hero of M. Night Shymalan’s The Happening. Anthony Hopkins will make you yearn for his senior werewolf in Universal’s ill-fated The Wolfman reboot. Adults managing to stay awake might notice the new Transformers being voiced by John Goodman-tron, Ken Watanabe-bot, and Steve Buscemi-droid — those names might not be accurate. Happily, Peter Cullen is still getting paid to voice Optimus Prime… for the ten or fifteen minutes he actually appears in the film. Was it mentioned that Dr. Love Interest (Laura Haddock) is both smart AND pretty?

Don’t watch this. Don’t encourage this. Unless you’re an aspiring filmmaker looking for examples of not how to make a movie or a CG artist just in it for the amazing but pointless visuals, spend your money elsewhere. Disney wisely made Jerry Bruckheimer put his toys away; isn’t there anyone who can give Michael Bay his thank-you-for-your-service watch and insist he retire with grace and dignity?

Transformers: The Last Straw is rated PG-13 for violence and intense sequences of sci-fi action, language, some innuendo, and crimes against humanity.

Zero skull recommendation out of four

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