Transformers: The Last Knight
Jacob Richardson | 21/06/2017
A contemptuous, abrasive and insulting film that, over its excessive run-time, seemingly derives pleasure from serving up nonsense and expecting understanding.
Following the events of the fourth Transformers instalment (you know, the one where they replaced Shia LaBeouf), Transformers: The Last Knight opens with the Transformers once again in hiding. The TRF, a human task-force dedicated to capturing or wiping out the Transformers (here deemed a threat to Earth), stumbles upon young Izabella (Isabela Moner) and her robot, Canopy, hiding out in the destroyed city of Chicago. Having killed Canopy, and about to fire upon Izabella, her small blue robot friend Sqeeks, and a group of misplaced children, the TRF are thwarted by Cade Yaeger (Mark Wahlberg), who evacuates the children before stumbling upon an ancient robot in a downed spaceship. This ancient warrior gives Cade a mystical talisman, but it’s also a beacon for trouble, as Cade finds out when, once back at his base of operations with Bumblebee and the rest of the fifth-in-the-series deep motley crew, he is attacked by not only the TRF, but Megatron and a series of Decepticons.
In their rush to flee, Cade, Izabella, and the rest of their group run into Cogman (Jim Carter), a butler-esque robot who saves them and flies Cade to England to meet his master, Sir Edmond Burton (Anthony Hopkins) and the last surviving descendant of Merlin (Stanley Tucci), Vivian Wembley (Laura Haddock). Vivian is the only one who can operate the staff - a mystical device, fused by an ancient Transformer to the bloodline of Merlin - that can create life for Transformer-kind, and that is desired by a mysterious being back on Cybertron; the same being who has turned Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen) into a demonic monster hell-bent on killing Earth, or as he knows it, Unicron.
The Last Knight is filmmaking at its absolute worst. Whether it is the interminable dialogue, the greatest hits of characters that gives every character about 3 minutes of screentime, or the CGI mess that is every action scene, this instalment finally succeeds in stripping away any goodwill the series possessed.
The acting is a masterclass in poor performance. Mark Wahlberg huffs every line out like he has just run a marathon, and didn’t have time for a second take, while Isabela Moner infuses her surrogate daughter (a mystery as to why she was included - didn’t he have an older daughter in the fourth movie?) with all the likeability of a rake to the face. And while the cast has a well of good actors involved (Tucci, John Goodman, Jon Turturro, Tony Hale, Anthony Hopkins, etc.), they’re given so little screentime to develop their characters, as Bay fixates on a lead relationship of mind-boggling dullness, that they wind up just shouting catchphrases at screens (Hale must scream the word “Physics” over a dozen times).
The plot is irrelevant and impossible to understand. Something so basic, yet wrapped in so much logical impossibility. And it is here that Bay reveals his utter contempt for his audience, because while it might be possible to suspend your disbelief around King Arthur and Merlin having a giant Transformer friend, or giant robots for some reason needing a human’s help, it is impossible to reconcile so many plot points that it becomes insulting. Bay has Hopkins jump into a car, mid-chase in the south of England, and drive to Trinity Library in Ireland, all before returning within 30 minutes to the battle in England. Bumblebee is revealed to have been used in propaganda posters when he took down Nazi high-command in World War II, but seemingly the entire human race forgot about him before Shia Labeouf’s discovery in the first Transformers. Vivian and Cade fall in love almost immediately, of the strength of absolutely nothing at all. It’s small choices like these, as Bay rushes to cram every movie-making trope and location he can into the one film, that show that he doesn’t care if an audience knows that this building is on another landmass to that one next to it, or that there are inconsistencies between films so glaring as to be distracting. He simply doesn’t care about the audience, and it’s not only distracting - it’s an insult.
The robot battles yet again perplex, with no consistent tone about what causes damage to what, or how much injury is inflicted by what type of weapon. Coupled with the inevitable barrage of close calls as giant metallic swords skewer buildings inches above Wahlberg’s head, and the film manages to remove all sense of danger and tension. The final battle, after yet another sequence of Optimus Prime declaring, yet again, that he is Optimus Prime, and a group of ancient robots awakening seemingly with the sole intention of shouting their characters driver (“Protect the Staff!”), revolves almost entirely around an embanked turret position and a group of Transformers and Humans’ battle to take it out. It is incredibly anti-climactic, and after 2 hrs and 10 minutes of literal garbage, to have the payoff be so minor further compounds the problem of this film; nothing happens, and things are just thrown at the screen in the hope that some coherent narrative emerges. Unfortunately for us, it never does.
Sure to go down in history as one of the worst movies ever made, Transformers: The Last Knight is a poorly structured mess. Bury this franchise already, for the love of God.