Let me get one thing as clear as possible. Just because I don’t like a thing doesn’t mean you can’t like it. If I claim that a thing is objectively bad, you absolutely can disregard me entirely. You aren’t dumb or bad for liking bad things, and I also like some pretty bad things. The 1998 Godzilla with Matthew Broderick? Yeah, that’s really bad, right? I get a lot of genuine entertainment from that.
I appreciate those of you who trust my opinion on film, just remember that there is always room for disagreement and that’s fine.
Transformers: The Last Knight is a huge ball of trash.
In the past four days or so, I watched all five of the Michael Bay Transformers films. It has not been a great time for me. Even though I just watched all of them, I honestly could not tell you the majority of their plots without having several Wikipedia pages open, and that would still only do so much. Each of the previous four films has gotten consistently worse every new outing, as if every subsequent hour of the franchise is worse than the hour before it. The beginning of Transformers with the attack on the Qatar base and the first meeting with the scorpionbot are both genuinely good and interesting, and I remembered them vividly from when I saw the film in theaters 10 years ago.
There’s a chance I’ll save the majority of my thoughts for a later piece since I actually took notes on the ones that I could watch at home, but we’ll see about that.
I guess it’s time to talk about what actually happens in this thing.
Let’s start with just what the trailers show. First, we’re supposed to be surprised that these giant alien robots took part in the legend of King Arthur even though we already know they were around for dinosaurs and pyramids. We know there’s an even greater evil seeking an Arthurian artifact. The last key thing we already know is that Optimus Prime is at some point (most likely) brainwashed and turns on his allies.
Y’all ready to get wild?
LET’S TALK ABOUT THIS ABSOLUTELY CRAZY NONSENSE AND SPOILERY PLOT.
In order to defeat the Saxons, King Arthur’s wizard Merlin (Stanley Tucci, who was already in Age Of Extinction somehow) forges a deal with a group of 12 legendary Transformer knights. They give him a magical staff, and then they transform into a big three-headed dragon. Obviously.
Jump to the present, and Transformers are illegal everywhere except Cuba because we’re allowed to shoot movies there now, so we get a few moments of John Turturro just being in Cuba for no other reason. Transformers continue to land on the planet, and we follow a group of young kids investigating a recent crash. They’re spotted by a TRF (Transformer Reaction Force) sentry and are attacked, but they’re saved by young Izabella (Isabella Moner) who in turn is saved by Bumblebee and Mark Wahlberg’s character who is actually named Cade Yeager. I couldn’t make that up if I tried. In all the hullabaloo, Yeager investigates the crash trying to save robot within. In his final moments, he gives a medallion to Yeager, and it attaches itself to his arm. The Decepticon Barricade sees this and goes back to alert Megatron of this news. I would’ve put actual money on the fact that Megatron was super dead at this point, but it wouldn’t be the first time a Transformer was magically alive again. It also wouldn’t be like the fourth time either.
Meanwhile, Optimus Prime is traversing space looking for his “creator” for answers. He finds the desolate Cybertron and a mysterious sorceress named Quintessa. She says that Earth is also an entity known as Unicron, and that it and Cybertron can’t both exist; one will inevitably destroy the other. She uses some sort of magic to coerce Optimus to her side, which we can see because his eyes change color.
I’m definitely reading the Wikipedia summary of The Last Knight at this point. Someone could have made all of this up and I wouldn’t know for sure.
There’s some stuff about Josh Duhamel’s character (we’re all thrilled that this generic dude is back) negotiating with Megatron to get the artifact back from Yeager, which requires a Suicide Squad-like montage of Megatron requesting his heist crew. I mention that it’s like Suicide Squad not only because it shows a series of criminals with their records and quick zooms and freeze frames with their names plastered just below their face (yuck), but also because the film grinds to a halt and you forget almost every single thing established in this scene. One of their names was Nitro Zeus, I think. It was all very upsetting.
While escaping the Decepticons, Yeager is approached by a weird butlerbot sent by Sir Edmund Burton (Anthony Hopkins because why not or whatever). They fly to London to meet with Burton because of prophecy schmophecy. Similarly, supermodel/professor Vivian Wembly (Laura Haddock) is kidnapped by an Autobot also working for Burton. They all meet up so that Anthony Hopkins can forcefeed about 10-15 minutes worth of exposition down our throats. Apparently, the staff (did you forget about that already, because I certainly did) can only be wielded by a descendant of Merlin, also known as the Witwiccan line. Vivian is the last remaining descendant, and the film directly implies that Shia Labeouf’s previous protagonist has somehow died off-screen since the events of Dark Of The Moon, but it’s not like he’d ever want to work with Michael Bay again, so I get it.
Basically this all leads to Yeager, Vivian, Bumblebee, and Cogman the butlerbot hijacking a submarine to find a submerged alien ship. They are disappointed when they find Merlin’s tomb only has his bones and a wooden staff because they don’t think too far ahead. Vivian touches it and it transforms into the mythical staff, but the guardians are activated and begin attacking. At this moment, Optimus Prime arrives. He’s now referring to himself as Nemesis Prime because I guess he gave himself a gritty reboot in the middle of the film. He takes the staff with him, but Bumblebee chases him down.
From the trailers, it seemed like this was the big climax of the film, right? Sorry about your luck.
Their altercation lasted two minutes, maybe three minutes, until they found themselves in total agreement.
They have their own Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice moment. Bumblebee’s actual voice comes back so that he can say how great it has been to fight alongside Optimus, which causes the leader of the Autobots to break free from his mind control. Just like that. Easy peezy, all Bumblebee had to do was talk even though he literally can’t.
Oh also Cade Yeager (still feels gross to type) turns out to have been the last knight all along, so there’s that.
Megatron shows back up and steals the staff again because he was secretly working for Quintessa the whole time. Now the humans, Autobots, and guardian knights must all team up for another half hour of indecipherable CG battles. Punch. Boom. Crash. Bang. Good guys win. We good?
THAT WAS NEARLY IMPOSSIBLE TO TYPE, SO LET’S STOP DOING THAT.
Woah, that was certainly some sort of ride, huh?
As with most of Michael Bay’s work, there is simply too much going on in every single frame to be able to tell what of it is actually important. Hardly any of the action can be fully followed, and there’s no sense at all of direction or location. A large portion of the film was shot with IMAX cameras, but the resolution literally changes every other shot in some areas of the film, which doesn’t improve the feel or grandeur and only deters from the experience.
There is one action scene fairly early on in the film (this is not a plot spoiler) where Bumblebee appears to be shot to literal pieces. These pieces then begin to act independently, attacking the soldiers, and then slowly reforming back together to be a full body again. This scene was genuinely interesting and well done, but there’s a significant drop between this scene and every other scene.
Speaking of our favorite yellow friend, this franchise has a terrible problem with Deus Ex Bumblebee. Bumblebee Ex Machina? I’m not entirely sure which is better, but it’s still a problem. He always shows up at the last possible second to save whatever human is in danger, and it’s absolutely silly. This time, he even saves the film at the last second by being able to speak with his actual voice when he hasn’t been able to do that for four previous films. Also, shortly after he saves Optimus, he uses more pop culture soundbites, so the whole voice thing didn’t last very long.
The weirdest thing about the Transformers franchise is that it feels like a weird graveyard for Coen Brothers’ regulars. John Turturro was in all of them except for Age Of Extinction, John Goodman has voiced an Autobot in the most recent two, and Frances McDormand played a generic government villain in Dark Of The Moon. To add on to this all, Steve Buscemi voices a new Transformer in LITERALLY ONLY ONE SCENE AND IT’S ABSOLUTELY BONKERS.
The plot is unnecessarily hard to follow without notes, the action is insanely crowded, and most of the non-major Transformers look practically identical. That said, The Last Knight is still somehow not the worst of the franchise. Having just seen it, I’m not fully locked in for sure, but it’s on par with Dark Of The Moon at the moment, with the first four all going slowly downhill. Perhaps the reason The Last Knight isn’t even further downhill is because it eases towards the “Fast & Furious” way of doing things and admitting it’s a little sillier than before, but it does so without racist caricatures and robots with visible genitalia. That’s certainly a step in the right direction, but it’s also far too little and much too late.
I didn’t like that last sentence, it was too easy on this movie. No more of these, please. I know there will be more, but a boy can still dream.
Transformers: The Last Knight: 3/10