Transformers: The Last Knight is a Tale Told by an Idiot, Full of Sound and Fury, Signifying Nothing

Transformers: The Last Knight is the worst film I have seen all year. After King Arthur: Legend of the Sword and The Mummy, I didn’t think I would be seeing a film that sucked more than either of those two, but Michael Bay’s latest Transformers atrocity is worse than King Arthur and The Mummy combined. I usually try to avoid spoilers in my reviews, but this movie was so full of dumb crap that I have to talk about it, so be aware that there will be spoilers ahead.

I generally don’t think that the Transformers movies are as bad as they are made out to be. I genuinely like the first one, and despite the many problems the sequels have, they’re still good for some mindless fun (aside from the second one, that is. Revenge of the Fallen is even worse than The Last Knight). But there is almost nothing good about The Last Knight, which is the fifth movie in the franchise. I would give this movie a grade of D-, and the only thing preventing it from getting an F is that the special effects are good, and there is a three-headed robot dragon. But everything else sucks.

Where to even begin? Let’s start with the story. But wait, there isn’t one. This is a two-and-a-half-hour movie with a plot thinner than a daytime soap opera. It took well over an hour into the movie before anything remotely resembling a plot began to come together. Nothing that happens in this movie has any emotional impact or any reason for happening at all.

Image: Paramount

And here is where we get in to the spoilers. The trailers for the movie made it look like Optimus Prime, the leader of the Autobots, aka the good robots, was the film’s villain.

This is a lie.

Optimus is barely in the movie. He has a couple scenes near the beginning, and then there’s maybe an hour and a half with no Optimus whatsoever. He then shows up, fights one of the other good robots, sees the error of his ways, and becomes good Optimus again. Optimus has maybe fifteen minutes of screen time, which is a generous estimate. The trailers made it look like this big emotional thing, with Optimus turning on his former allies, but this turns out to be a huge bait-and-switch. A trailer for a movie hasn’t lied this blatantly since the trailers for Suicide Squad made it look like the Joker was actually an important part of the movie. Hell, Optimus has barely more screen time than the Joker did in that movie.

And for a movie about robots fighting, there is remarkably little robot-on-robot action. Not only is Optimus barely in the movie, other robots are barely in the movie either. Remember the samurai robot and the T-rex robot from the fourth movie? They don’t get to do anything here, except provide a few moments of comic relief. The Transformers feel like an afterthought, like after five movies even Michael Bay doesn’t give a shit about them anymore.

Instead, we get meaningless scene after meaningless scene, and none of it means anything. It’s all fluff. It’s soulless. The lights are on, but no one’s home. We get a crap-ton of ridiculous backstory and mythology about how the robots have been a part of human history for thousands of years, and how they hung out with King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, and fought Nazis, and Shakespeare and Leonardo da Vinci and tons of other historical figures were pals with the robots, and all of this is told to us by Anthony Hopkins, and the girl in the movie is the last descendant of Merlin and only she can wield the power of Merlin’s staff and oh my God they’re not even trying anymore.

Image: Paramount

The dialogue is atrocious too. Sample line: “Oh my God, look at that. It’s a big alien ship.” Seriously? This train wreck cost 260 million dollars to make, and that garbage is the best you can come up with? Or how about this one: “Sir, you know that strange thing we’ve been waiting 1600 years for? I think it’s finally happening!” I hate this movie.

There is nothing to hold on to with this movie. Trying to write about it is like trying to catch smoke with your hands. You can see that it’s there, but you can’t grasp it. Remember Bilbo’s line in Lord of the Rings where he tells Gandalf that he feels thin, like butter scraped over too much bread? That’s what Transformers: The Last Knight is. Someone had a germ of a good idea (“Let’s make Optimus the bad guy”) but had no idea how to build the rest of the plot around that, so what we’re left with is a movie that is 95% filler. We get scene after scene of the filmmakers trying to convince us that the movie is about something, but it isn’t. There’s nothing there.

It’s not even so-bad-it’s-good. It’s just bad, period. I’m not a Michael Bay hater. He may be a scumbag, but he’s made some fun movies (not that that’s an excuse for being a scumbag). I like the first Transformers movie. I like The Rock, The Island, 13 Hours, and the second half of Transformers: Dark of the Moon (the third movie). But with The Last Knight it seems like he doesn’t care anymore. It’s made with all the care for characterization and story coherence that an overcaffeinated 12-year-old might display. It’s just awful. I don’t usually bash movies like this when I write about them, generally I think people are way too hard on movies. But in this case, I agree with the haters. This movie is terrible, and it makes me sad. Moviegoers deserve better. Heck, Michael Bay can do better. He’s said that this is his last Transformers movie (although he’s said that before), so maybe his next movie will have more spark to it than this rote nonsense.

My next post will be about Edgar Wright’s new film Baby Driver, which, if the reviews are to be believed, should be more than good enough to wash away the bad taste left by the latest Transformers atrocity, so look for that soon.

Less Than Meets the Eye

If you were able to somehow tap into the brain of a 12-14-year-old boy and project that boy’s thoughts onto a screen of some sort, chances are what you would see would be something along the lines of a fire-breathing robotic tyrannosaurus.

fire-breathing robo trex

And, although I am now 25 years old, I think that fire-breathing robot dinosaurs are pretty freaking cool. Call me shallow if you will, but no matter how hard I try to keep him there, sometimes my inner 12-14-year-old self still manages to escape from his cage. I don’t know how the little scamp does it, but almost against my will, when I see a fire-breathing robot T-Rex some part of my brain says, “Yes. I need that in my life.”

And far be it from Michael Bay, that legendary purveyor of boobs and explosions, to not take that image and spend hundreds of millions of dollars bringing it to the big screen.

So far as I can tell, that’s pretty much the only reason Transformers: Age of Extinction exists. Michael Bay is a guy who has let his inner 12-year-old direct all of his movies, the result of which has been billions of dollars in worldwide box office grosses.

I have a mixed relationship with Bay’s Transformers movies. I genuinely liked the first one, I genuinely hated the second one, and the third one was a mixed bag. The fourth one was, despite the presence of a robotic Tyrannosaurus Rex that also happened to breathe fire, kind of…well…boring.

This is partly due to the movie’s formidable length. For some reason, I had thought that the fourth movie was going to be shorter than the previous three, the shortest of which was still 2 hours and 23 minutes long.

Well, as it turns out, either I was completely wrong about that or someone was lying, because Age of Extinction clocks in at a whopping 2 hours and 45 minutes long, making it the longest Transformers movie to date.

Transformers-Age-of-Extinction-Poster-Optimus-and-Grimlock

And, yeah, I was really feeling the length of this one. By the end of the movie, I felt physically tired. I inadvertently saw the movie in 3D, which probably contributed to the headache I had after it was over.

The plot, such as it is, concerns a fellow named Cade Yeager, played by Mark Wahlberg, an inventor who becomes embroiled in the conflict between Autobots and Decepticons when he buys an old semi truck that turns out to be Autobot leader Optimus Prime. Cade is a likable enough fellow and Wahlberg does what he can with the role, even if his character is mostly a stock type. He’s the familiar movie character who is a single dad, loves his daughter but is overprotective of her, is super-smart but is kind of a screwup whose inventions don’t really go anywhere and who is running out of money.

Yawn. All of this is extremely familiar, and of course Cade’s daughter is a hot leggy blonde (played by Nicola Peltz, aka Bland Pretty Girl no. 57) who has a secret boyfriend (played by Jack Reynor, aka Bland Handsome Guy no. 89) that she doesn’t want her overprotective dad to know about. There’s also the shady government agent (played by Kelsey Grammer) and the rich industrialist (played by Stanley Tucci, looking a hell of a lot like Steve Jobs) who’s trying to reverse-engineer Transformers and has discovered that Transformers are in fact made of Transformium, which is the stupidest, laziest name for a metal in a sci-fi movie since Unobtanium.

I didn’t care about any of these characters or any of their relationships, and if a Transformer had landed on any of them and squished them all at any point I really would not have cared.

At least there was no Shia LaBeef. Mark Wahlberg is a far better actor than Mr. LaBeef, and in some ways, Age of Extinction is Bay’s most mature Transformers movie. There’s less broad racial humor, although some of it still manages to creep in every once in a while. There’s less doofy slapstick, which is also nice. And, to his credit, Bay doesn’t ogle his female stars nearly as much as he ogled Megan Fox in the first two Transformers movies or that random underwear model in the third movie.

megan_fox_transformers_2-wide

But that’s really the only way Bay shows any restraint at all in this movie. The rest of the movie is an endless barrage of special effects which, despite being state-of-the-art and looking pretty great, are just so pervasive that they get numbing after a while.

I felt no emotions while watching this movie. I didn’t care about any of the characters, either human, robot, or dinobot. And the dinobots, by the way, don’t even show up until more than two hours into the movie.

There’s also a fat robot voiced by John Goodman and a samurai robot voiced by Ken Watanabe, and some kind of robot bounty hunter who’s obsessed with catching Optimus Prime for whatever reason. And in addition to the robot T-Rex, there was also a robot triceratops, a robot pterodactyl, and some kind of robot dinosaur with spines on its back.

All of this should be awesome, and yet…none of it can save the movie. It’s pretty much a lost cause. I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised, but I’m still a little disappointed by how indifferent this movie made me feel. I don’t think the Transformers series deserves quite as much hate as it tends to get, but at the same time I certainly understand the problems that people have with it.

trans4mers trex poster

And despite the greatness of this poster, which I would not mind having on my wall, it’s not a movie I’m keen on revisiting any time soon. All it made me feel was tired.