Michael Bay's Transformers movies have as many haters as they do fans, with the previous film, Transformers: Age of Extinction being the most disliked installment of the franchise. Michael Bay has famously (or infamously) ignored recurring criticisms of his approach to the Transformers franchise - and in that in that not-so-proud tradition, Transformers: The Last Knight stands as final testament the director's unyielding resolve to make the silliest and most bombastic Transformers films possible.
The Last Knight once again dips back into Earth's history - all the way back to Medieval Times, where we learn that the legend of King Arthur and Merlin is actually another secret chapter of the Transformers' presence on Earth. That legend and its legacy set the stage for a modern day story of how the world is falling apart, as a result of the Transformers' presence on Earth.
In the wake of Optimus Prime leaving to find Cybertron, and Megatron disappearing, the Autobot and Decepticon factions have been scattered and disorganized, even as more and more new Transformers crash down from space. A new paramilitary organization of Transformers-hunters scour the planet, hunting down targets - including Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg), who tries to hide and protect a small faction of Autobots that Pirme left behind. However, when Cade stumbles upon a particularly ancient Transformer, he is given a talisman that unlocks a weapon of unimaginable power - and attracts a threat from the very heart of Cybertron towards Earth.
Transformers: The Last Knight isn't so much a film as it is a catalogue of new products. Indeed, in many ways, the film feels like a final favor from Michael Bay to Paramount and Hasbro - a launchpad for the new expanded universe of Transformer films (and their corresponding toy lines), which will carry the franchise into the next era following Bay's departure. As a movie it is, unequivocally, the worst installment of the franchise.
One of the biggest selling points of The Last Knight has been Michael Bay's extensive use of IMAX cameras. Transformers 5 definitely has scope and spectacle worth of IMAX 3D viewing; unfortunately, the bigger picture comes at the great expense of technicality. Michael Bay has always been, if nothing else, a talented visual composer, yet The Last Knight is a collection of cumbersome shots and ugly footage, cobbled together with some poorly-handled (and often incoherent) edits. Viewers with any level of cinematic comprehension will be downright pained by trying to follow what is going on in the action sequences (with a few highlight exceptions), and the slower dramatic scenes are almost all terrible.
Along with Bay's struggles to utilize the new visual format, the script by Art Marcum and Matt Holloway (Iron Man, Punisher: War Zone), along with Ken Nolan (Black Hawk Down), is somehow even more convoluted and ridiculous than that of Age of Extinction. As stated, Transformers: The Last Knight is a product launch rather than a movie, and stealing a page from the Marvel and DC Comics superhero franchises, the writers over-indulge in universe expansion, rather than telling a focused and coherent standalone story. At two and a half hours, The Last Knight plays like two very different movies mashed together, with many detours into side stories and secret origins meant to launch later sequels, spinoffs, and prequels.
Long time Transformers fans will be happy with the amount of Easter eggs sprinkled into the story, and the iconic characters from franchise canon that get introduced in this latest installment. However, for most viewers, the film will be the biggest parade yet of characters that come and go without ever distinguishing themselves in any kind of memorable way - until you go back and read their names on the toy packaging. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen started the idea of real human history being tied to Transformers lore, but The Last Knight drains the novelty out of that concept and leaves it dry - just in time for an upcoming slew of history-based Transformers spinoffs we'll be getting...
Unfortunately, some talented actors get thrown into this messy mix and flattened out into Bay-brand caricatures. Mark Wahlberg's signature swagger is (literally) undercut by a ridiculous haircut; UK actress Laura Haddock (Guardians of the Galaxy 1 & 2) slums as the most tan British stereotype imaginable; comedian Jerrod Carmichael is one slapstick joke away from being Jar-Jar Binks; and young Isabela Moner unfortunately puts her all into a dramatic performance within an otherwise ridiculous movie. Only Josh Duhamel's Col. Lennox brings any kind of real gravitas to the story - for what time he's actually featured in it.
In the end, Transformers: The Last Knight is two and a half hours of life you will never get back - and damage to your brain you do not want. It has big robots fighting (as promised) and introduces a bunch of iconic characters from the Transformers canon to carry the franchise forward - which is the only reason it scores any points at all.
Review Score: 1 out of 5 Stars
Transformers: The Last Knight opens in movie theaters June 21.
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