Film Review – Transformers: The Last Knight
Transformers: The Last Knight
With fireballs hurling through the air and explosions sending knights in hoards sailing in opposing directions, Michael Bay marks the opening of his claimed to be last outing in the Transformers franchise with as signature a flair as Bay could probably muster. The time is the age of King Arthur and his Knights of the Roundtable. An unnamed foe is currently engaged in an epic Lord of the Rings style battle with Arthur and his knights and Arthur appears to be losing. As all hope is about to be lost, Arthur ensures his men that they will be saved, now just where is that blasted Merlin? Cutting away from the action the movie shifts focus to Merlin (Stanley Tucci), a drunkard who’s wandered into the mountains to find a spaceship harboring Transformers, hoping to enlist their help. With this Bay is also declaring a trend that will carry over through the two hour and thirty minute running time: if you think this is your typical box-office blockbuster, you’re in for something else.
Bordering on phantasmagoria but more like a kaleidoscope of crash test dummy car videos, Transformers: The Last Knight is a sensory pummeling cascade of imagery and situational buffoonery. Abandoning conventional concepts of plot and three-act structures in favor of commercialized moments designed to sell a spectacle, there’s little here that constitutes the standardized concepts of what a movie is or perhaps is designed to do. The result is something like pop-Dadaist experimentation meets corporate commercial wheelhouse but without the artistic intent. The proof as the saying goes, is in the pudding.
After the Arthurian opening, time jumps to the movie’s present day where Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) and his crew of Autobots are hiding out in a junkyard, reminiscent of this year’s Logan, because all Transformers have been declared illegal on Earth, except Cuba where Fidel Castro has welcomed them as refugees. Meanwhile in space, Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen), frozen, cruises towards his destination, the Transformer’s home planet Cybertron, where he seeks to bring his creator to answer for his creation. Back on Earth Cade comes across a dying Transformer, apparently the last from King Arthur’s day, who gives Cade a pendant like artifact that Cade doesn’t want. This is somehow important later, but really, by that time so much nonsensical stuff has happened that when it becomes important it’s out loud laughable in its delivery.
New characters like the young Izabella (Isabella Moner) and her Transformer companion Sqweeks (Reno Wilson), a broken down Vespa scooter that can’t transform, join Cade and the Autobots, but soon Cade is summonsed to England by a British robot named Cogman, played by Downton Abbey’s Jim Carter (Mr. Carson), to meet Sir Edmund Burton (Sir Anthony Hopkins). Hopkins, in his first Transformers performance, is not what you’d expect, unhinged at times and mannered the next and spends a good deal of time acting against the self-proclaimed sociopath Cogman. Despite the obvious cash grab it does appear like Hopkins is enjoying himself at times and his unpredictable behavior is actually a positive attribute. The movie also introduces the character Vivian Wembley (Laura Haddock), who along with Cade is a key ingredient in stopping the encroaching Cyberton. Vivian is introduced when she’s kidnapped by an Autobot named Hot Rod (Omar Sy), who has adopted a French accent, not because he’s French but because both the character and Michael Bay liked the sound of it.
Back on Cybertron, Optimus Prime meets his maker, Quintessa (Gemma Chan), who turns him into the villainous Nemesis Prime and sends him along with Cybertron back to Earth to consume it and reenergize Cyberton. In the middle of all of this, Megatron (Frank Welker) has somehow cut a deal with the government to have a team of Decepticons released from prison to hunt down Cade and the Autobots. Peak levels of hyperbole are reached as Megatron negotiates with Colonel Lennox (Joshua Duhamel) and a team of lawyers, in the desert. Megatron’s new crew comes complete with onscreen title introductions in vignettes reminiscent of WWF wrestling promos and they each look more like characters from the old Playstation video game Twisted Metal than Transformers.
By now it should be apparent just how much of what normally makes up a plot is just a series of chronological and barely coherent moments strung together. The feat here is just how much nonsensical spectacle and situational comedy is thrown into almost every individual moment. Filming on IMAX 3-D cameras, Bay is limited in the typical camera movements he likes to employ. Sweeping Steadicam shots and overly complicated action sequences are streamlined into more classical framing and presentation, yet the editing style still employs Bay’s frenetic pacing. The two combined make for an unusual experience, even for Bay, who’s otherwise idiosyncratic style works with both cinematography and editing because fast cuts are initiated by in-motion camera work.
Not to suggest that any of the previous Transformers movies have any more logical sense in plotting, they’re pretty much known for their blatant lack of coherence, but what gets achieved here by a group of at least three credited screenwriters, along with Bay and the film crew, is the kind of lunacy that garnered Transfomers: Revenge of the Fallen one of the craziest blockbusters ever made and to some one of the worst films of all-time. None of this makes The Last Knight an objectionably good movie, it is indeed bad, or even a sight to be seen, but more of a sight to be believed.