Since 2007 director Michael Bay has given us 5 Transformers movies: 762 combined total minutes of fast-paced stories full of explosions, randomly placed lens flares, visually striking action, and scripts almost entirely lacking any substance. With his latest addition to the franchise, Transformers: The Last Knight, Bay proves that he’s nothing if not consistent.
In 2014’s Transformers: Age of Extinction, the storyline shifted as we were introduced to a new hero; Cade Yeager, played by Mark Wahlberg, is a quick-witted inventor and replaces the crowd favorite Sam Witwicky, played by Shia LaBeouf. In this latest installment, Cade is being hunted by the US Government’s latest gun-slinging brigade the “Transformers Reaction Force”, or “TRF”, and he spends most of his time hanging out in an abandoned junkyard repairing old Transformers and raising new ones. If you know nothing about Transformers franchise, even going back to the classic TV show, I’ll make a long story short: The Autobots are constantly at war with their brethren, the evil Decepticons. The bulk of their brawling is over the Autobots fighting to protect Earth, while the Decepticons would rather see it, and it’s people, destroyed. Even though the first three movies saw the Autobots as saviors of planet Earth, the tides began to turn in the 4th installment and by this latest movie the world’s leaders have decided all Transformers are evil and should be killed or captured on sight. As if this plot line wasn’t enough we are quickly introduced to a surrogate daughter for Cade, Izabella, a scrappy girl who lost her parents in a Decepticon attack. Cade saves Izabella early in the film and despite his half-ass attempts to get rid of her she quickly becomes family and is therefore under the protection of the Autobots. Izabella is quickly thrust to the backseat when we meet Vivian Wembly, an Oxford professor who’s scantily clad and her original icy demeanor towards Cade eventually thaws and turns into affection. It amazes me how despite her numerous degrees and academic prowess her character still ends up as pornstar-esque arm candy, proving that leading ladies must conform to Bay’s medieval ideas of femininity.
Speaking of medieval, obviously there is a certain suspension of disbelief that accompanies any movie like Transformers, however in The Last Knight we are supposed to believe that Transformers have actually been on our planet for 1600+ years, are responsible for the ancient wizard Merlin’s “magic”, and that Earth is actually an ancient living planet called Unicron. The Autobot home planet of Cybertron is apparently not destroyed and its creator, Quintessa, has brought its remains to planet Earth in the hopes of using the ancient scepter to suck Earth’s core dry, killing everyone but saving Cybertron. There is also a loosely put together plot point where Quintessa captures, tortures, and brainwashes Optimus Prime until he becomes Nemesis Prime, and helps her attack Earth/Unicron.
Even at its best, The Last Knight feels like a bunch of action scenes tied together by a terrible script, a thinly stretched narrative, and what feels like 5 different plot lines full of major holes. All of the characters have cringe-worthy one-liners, even when in the middle of mortal peril Optimus wastes time with long-winded “inspirational” speeches, and the medieval narrative seems like an excuse to throw in a Game of Thrones – style robot dragon.
Despite the consensus among critics, the franchise is unapologetically already working on yet another sequel; in fact, Bay has spoken freely about having 14+ more storylines bouncing about in his head. Call me a “Nega-tron” but I had hoped this movie would truly be The Last Knight (or the last anything for that matter); it looks like Bay has set us up to watch CGI-packed action scenes transform into terrible movies for years to come.
**This review was originally written for The Barbershop Show**