Back in 2014, I wrote a review of Transformers: Age of Extinction. Well, it wasn’t so much a review as a rant about everything I hated in the film. Surprisingly, it’s not quite as profanity-laced as I remembered. I promised myself that I was finished with the series insofar as paying to see any future instalments and I was able to stay true to my word. Transformers: The Last Knight did not hurt my pocket and maybe that’s one of the reasons why I actually didn’t mind it. *Gasp*. That and my expectations going in were so incredibly low it’d be impossible to fall below them.
A well-trodden story
Autobots and Decepticons are arriving on Earth in record numbers. In response, humanity establishes a global policing force, the TRF, to eliminate all Transformers. Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) and a small crew of Autobots – minus Optimus Prime who is traipsing about in space – try to thwart the TRF at every turn to protect the Cybertronian refugees. They eventually become entrenched in a bigger fight for the future of the planet and to win they must first uncover the secret history of the Transformers on Earth.
The fifth entry to the incredibly successful critic-resistant franchise begins with, what else, an explosion erupting in the middle of the battlefield as King Arthur and the knights of the round table wage war against an invading force on England during the Dark Ages. Any moviegoer who’s kept up with the series will recognise the familiar formulaic plot that follows: Autobots, Decepticons and humans in a race to hunt down some ancient Cybertronian artifact of immense power, a sprinkling of juvenile humour (this time around it’s goat scrotum), quickfire scene transitions from one location on the planet to the next, a blue-tinted war room packed to the hilt with computer screens and, of course, Optimus Prime saving the day.
Simple enough, sure, but that doesn’t mean the writers and director Michael Bay didn’t endeavour to make the plot as convoluted as possible. It’s not particularly surprising given there were four or five people working on the story as part of a “writers room”, established to map out the franchise going forward. What’s that saying? “Too many cooks spoil the bots,” or something like that.
Bay takes liberty with the Transformers source material, as is his wont. You will perhaps recognise a few Autobots from Age of Extinction but he’s cobbled together a new group of forgettable and utterly expendable Decepticons presumably based on a 5-year old’s designs.
Pretty movie, pretty dumb writing
Transformers movies are nothing if not visual spectacles and The Last Knight might be the best looking one so far. It’s not really surprising if you consider digital effects are always improving. There are some truly fantastic shots which are of course ruined by Bay peppering the landscape with explosions.
There’s a scene where Megatron shoots an Autobot square in the chest then all of a sudden the entire area around him just starts exploding in that staged detonation style that Bay is infatuated with. You can all but see the Wile E. Coyote imitator off screen pushing down on the plunger box.
The novelty of transformations wore off two or three movies ago but some of them – like Megatron changing into a sleek jet and blasting off – will never grow old. Though, I still find it bizarre that the Autobots start somersaulting over one another before they switch to car mode.
Unfortunately, the awesome visuals are nullified to an extent by some of the worst dialogue and attempts at humour that the series has to offer. Like the returning Captain Lennox (Josh Duhamel) upon seeing a giant circular vessel at the bottom of the ocean saying, “oh my god, it’s a big alien ship!” Just in case the audience might mistake it for a coral reef or something. Mark Wahlberg shoulders most of the awful writing though. For example, when a planet is minutes away from colliding with earth directly above him, he shrewdly observes, “it’s gonna crush us!” Even Optimus Prime’s reliably stirring speeches don’t pack the same punch as in previous iterations.
The movie is entirely unfunny. Don’t be surprised to find yourself sitting stone-faced throughout the majority of the two and a half hour run-time. Yes, it is that long and you’ll begin to feel it in the third act. Not to say I was really bored at any point but I definitely welcomed Optimus Prime’s customary closing monologue, complete with the Autobot call to arms. Honestly Prime, it’s been five movies, I’m starting to think maybe they just don’t wanna come.
Transformers: The Last Knight did not convince me to reverse my no-pay policy but I did not hate it and that’s probably the best I could have hoped for.