Transformers: The Last Knight

‘Transformers: The Last Knight’ Review: They’re Just Gonna Keep Making ‘Em Until You Stop Paying

'Transformers: The Last Knight'

Movie Review:


Oh, what it must be like to live inside the brain of Michael Bay – a magical place where everything explodes, all booties are ogled, children swear like sailors, cars exclusively drive at high velocity, acting is wide-eyed squealing, all jokes are inappropriate, stories have no meaning, money is limitless, and everyone is stupid. It must be fun, certainly better than reality at the very least. Thankfully, Mr. Bay has cracked open his skull again and spilled out another ‘Transformers’ movie. It’s the fifth one for those keeping count. It’s also by far the dumbest and the least dull.

I guess that makes ‘The Last Knight’ the finest of the ‘Transformers’ sequels. It’s still not a good movie, but damn if doesn’t go down easy (and as loudly as possible).

Since this bloated toy and pyrotechnics advertisement has stretched a narrative over five movies and more than a dozen hours so far, you’d think that it might have some sort of mythology worth summarizing. Not in Bay’s world. It still comes down to there being good Transformers, bad Transformers, and the humans who love them. It’s just been told in such a convoluted manner that it feels like some sort of storytelling must have happened along the way. Not so much. This time, Bay and his team of exhausted and strained writers attempt to weave a ‘Transformers’ mythology throughout human history. It doesn’t make a lick of sense, but I suppose it’s nice that there’s kind of a back story this time.

The movie opens in medieval England (yes, really), where we learn that Merlin (played by Stanley Tucci for reasons that likely confused even him) actually got the magical skills that helped King Arthur from (you guessed it) Transformers. It’s ridiculous, but the movie only gets more insane from there, so go with it. More than anything, the opening sequence is impressive for the sheer volume of explosions that Bay is somehow able to sneak into a medieval battle. It shouldn’t be possible, given that nobody even had gunpowder at the time, but that’s the Michael Bay way: Blow stuff up first and don’t ask any questions later.

From there, the movie starts weaving a strange story about how Transformers are being treated horribly by humanity, are banned from most countries, and are pursued relentlessly by the government. It starts to seem like ‘Transformers 5: The Fifth One?!’ might be an allegory for the anti-refugee sentiments exploding worldwide. But then it just turns out to be an excuse for a bunch of plucky kids to sneak around urban rubble, spit out swear words, and pal around with Transformers.

A lead kid emerges in Izabella (Isabela Moner), an orphan who’s quickly adopted by Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg). In between movies, Yeager has grown from a wannabe inventor into humanity’s only true connection to the Transformers (well, aside from Cuba, which has inexplicably become a Transformer sanctuary). Anyhoo, he’s living in a junkyard with a bunch of Transformers being a good guy. Meanwhile in England, there’s this medieval professor who happens to look like a supermodel (Laura Haddock) as well as Anthony Hopkins bumbling around with a Transformer butler while giving stirring monologues about the Transformers’ connection to the Knights of the Round Table. And you know what? This doesn’t even summarize the plot for the first act. I mean, I haven’t even mentioned Optimus Prime, the center of the franchise, yet. It somehow gets even more convoluted and idiotic from there.

It’s no surprise that ‘Transformers 5: One More Couldn’t Hurt’ is a stupid movie. After all, this is a franchise that revealed Transformers are made out of a special space metal known as “transformium” in the last sequel. Stupid is as vital a component of these movies as explosions and CGI. However, this one is extra insultingly stupid. In an attempt to set up even more of these unnecessary sequels, Bay and his team of depressed screenwriters questioning their career choices weave a long history between humanity and the Transformers. In this dumb reality, everyone from Shakespeare to Stephen Hawking had a secret Transformer buddy. It’s how humanity achieved everything! Find that hard to believe? Don’t worry, Anthony Hopkins says it all in drolly serious tones, earning a fat paycheck for being an exposition machine, flipping the bird to robots, and bellowing out the word “dude.” It could be described as a career low point were it not for the fact that Hopkins seems acutely aware of how absurd it is and likely cashed a check big enough to ensure he doesn’t have to appear in a movie like this again.

A joyous idiocy turns ‘Transformers 5: Yep, We’re Still Making These’ into an accidental comedy. The script has plenty of intentional jokes, but they rarely register. They’re all gratingly obvious, frequently offensive (in a bad way), and generally revolve around a character saying the word “shit.” (It’s like poop, but ruder! So funny!) They get laughs from how bad they are, just like how Mark Wahlberg gets laughs from acting really extra super hard. Or how every action scene eventually becomes funny from the sheer scale and endlessness of the production. The movie is constantly entertaining from the first frame to the last, a combination of hysterical tone-deaf idiocy and the most expensive set-pieces money can buy. It’s cinematic entertainment by blunt force, executed by the filmmaker who practically invented that technique.

Those who consider Michael Bay’s cinematic output to be eyeball poison might dismiss ‘Transformers 5: Kids Still Kinda Like These’ as his most offensive assault on good taste to date. Those who get a guilty pleasure thrill out of the shrillest oeuvre in Hollywood history will likely agree and eat it up. There is so much of Bay’s distinct cinematic excess on display, so much unapologetically pathetic screenwriting, and so many action climaxes piled on top of each other, that it’s hard not to smile at the sheer waste of it all and admire that so many fully grown adults with functioning brains dedicated years of their lives to this nonsense.

There’s never been a moment in the history of the Transformers that any of the media has qualified as art. However, there have been many times (like all the even numbered sequels) that this universe has also been unwatchably empty, truly offensive, and actually kind of boring. Thankfully, that’s not true of ‘Transformers 5: Cinematic Nickelback’. This is a hilarious example of everything wrong with the blockbuster film industry, cranked to 11, deep fried, and blown up real good (thrice). It’s worth seeing simply to confirm that it exists and to gaze upon the glory of the most expensive possible IMAX 3D eye-gouging.

It sure would be nice if this stupid film series ended some day. However, if future sequels are this wildly misconceived and overblown, then the ‘Fast & Furious’ franchise better look out. The irony crowd might find a new summertime favorite. Please make ‘Transformers 6: Sure, Why Not?’ two hours or less, though. Too much of a bad thing is too much to ask some days.

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  1. Elizabeth

    At least the commercials are declaring it the last one. Though I could have sworn they had plans for a Bumblebee solo movie.

    • Michael Bay claims that he’s done with the franchise after this one. He said that after the third one, too, though. And the fourth. Allegedly, after this, the franchise will continue in a “new direction” and the Bumblebee solo movie will be part of that. Hasbro wants to make a Transformers Cinematic Universe that will possibly cross over with G.I. Joe and/or other Hasbro properties.

      • Elizabeth

        I hope “new direction” means ignoring all the Bay movies and starting over with better story telling and more real characters.

        • Timcharger

          Reboot? No, no, no. Not need to add to the convoluted origins stories.

          Bumblebee will have a different director and be set in the 80s, so that will ignore the Bay movies. The 80s was the height of the Camaro (higher annual sale numbers), so that makes sense.

          • Elizabeth

            I’d much prefer they start a new continuity going back to something resembling Generation 1 Transformers. Which means Bumblebee isn’t a bad ass warrior and can actually talk. Leave talking in sound clips to the Junkions. The franchise deserves better than the 5 servings of crap Michael Bay dished out.

          • Makes sense? If it’s at all supposed to be a continuation of the Bayformers universe, Bumblebee didn’t come to Earth until 2007 when he arrived with the rest of the Autobots.

          • Timcharger

            “Makes sense” cannot apply to Bayformers. “Makes sense” comment referred to when the last times Camaro sales were in their heights of 200,000 units annually in the 80s. They now sell 80,000 a year. But maybe Volkswagen will pay up and Bumblebee goes back to being a Beetle.

        • Chapz Kilud

          I think there will be one more to make the double trilogy. Even if Michael Bay doesn’t do the next one, there will be more than plenty of ambitious director willing to take a crack at it. I don’t know if anyone can match Bay’s special effects. But we’ll see.

          Bumblebee was a scout class in Generation 1. But he played a different role in Transformers Prime. I don’t mind that the movie is very different than the Transformers we got to know as a child. But these stories from the movies were just atrociously bad. I totally agreed with you. This franchise has very bad writers. A lot of people like the first one. I don’t. The first two were with idiots running around with a cube or with bag of dust in desert. I gave Dark of the Moon a passing grade as the story has the least flaw of all. Then we have transformium and robots are like shift-changers in Extinction. We revisit Cybertron with this movie, but it contradicts a lot with Dark of the Moon. Good luck with that idea that Unicron is earth. Nobody will be able to take that idea and make it work.

  2. I’ll confess – I still haven’t seen the LAST Transformers movie, and I couldn’t tell you what happened in the first three. One critic a few movies back (maybe it was the last one) said these movies have all the appeal of “listening to rocks spin in the dryer.”

    It’s kind of amazing that after all these films they still haven’t created robots that the audience can care about or feel an emotional connection to.

  3. Darkmonk

    Back in the day, saying you liked The Rock or Armageddon was kind of embarrassing…
    Now those look like his quiet small masterpieces before he “sold out”!!πŸ˜†

  4. Erik in WI

    Thanks, Phil, for a delightful review. I love the continually changing titles throughout – the last being the cherry on top of the sundae. The references to the writing team broke me up too. May your pen never run out of acid. I enjoy these reviews too much.

  5. Bolo

    At this point I’m convinced that these films are actually self-generating. There’s no human involvement. They are the birth of A.I. A computer containing characters models for the Transformers just combines them with shots from Michael Bay’s library of money shots until it reaches 2.5 hours of content, then it generates a trailer, markets itself, and uploads the film to cinemas.

  6. Timcharger

    This 5th installment is better…

    Phil: “where everything explodes, all booties are ogled, children swear like sailors,”

    …this time the ogled booties belong to the film’s adult characters.

  7. Timcharger

    Spoiler (kind of)…

    (there’s a plot in this film?!)

    There’s a point where Bumblebee’s voice brings about a dramatic change in the story. This dramatic plot development highlights the idea that Bumblebee’s voice is such a big deal. And it was such a big deal, no attempt was made to explain it.

    Phil’s words: “that’s the Michael Bay way: Blow stuff up first and don’t ask any questions later.”
    Bay’s way for me: Shoot (on film) first and don’t ask any questions later.

  8. Timcharger

    So true, Phil:
    “The movie is constantly entertaining from the first frame to the last, a combination of hysterical tone-deaf idiocy and the most expensive set-pieces money can buy. It’s cinematic entertainment by blunt force,”

    I would describe it as going to a concert of a band whose music you don’t like, that you don’t care at all for the music. But the spectacle of the concert, the light show, the pyrotechnics, the dancers, the choreography, the costumes, all that is just amazing. I hate, hate, hate Michael Bay’s “music,” but this performance was so mesmerizing.

      • Timcharger

        I agree with Phil:
        “It’s worth seeing simply to confirm that it exists and to gaze upon the glory of the most expensive possible IMAX 3D eye-gouging.”
        If you want the spectacle of the “concert,” get decent seats. So not the matinee theater #12 screen, pay up for the IMAX #1 screen of the multiplex.

        • cardpetree

          Oh, I don’t go to the movies unless I’m watching it on the IMAX screen or the Xtreme or whatever that particular movie theater is calling it’s premium screen.

  9. meezookeewee

    I love me a good complex story as long as it’s easy to follow. Transformers 5: Electric Boogaloo is so needlessly and stupidly complicated, I had no idea what was going on. At that point, I shut off my brain and watched the big explosions. On that level, the movie’s pretty decent. Then again, I have enjoyed most of these movies. Except for Revenge of the Fallen. Screw that movie.

  10. Chapz Kilud

    I saw it on Tuesday’s Optimus Prime Time. Other than getting a couple of T-shirt, this was a total waste. Age of Extinction was a mess. But this one ruined some of the things from previous movies (such as the first) that the whole thing don’t add up. I think they can safely remove the Bumblebee fighting the Nazi’s and eliminate 10 minutes of garbage stuff that did nothing to the movie. If there were other transformers in the past (as in second movie), that’s fine. But Bumblebee came to earth in the first movie. The stuff about Unicron being planet earth was a bad idea. If Michael Bay doesn’t do another Transformers, I don’t think anybody would pick up that mess. How do you make Unicron transform without killing all the humans? If they wanted the moon to be Unicron then that would have been better.

    In Age of Extinction we had Galvatron that transforms into a semi. I was disappointed that hey shift the idea and brought back Megatron (that transformers into a jet?), but without some clue as to how this came about. I would also love to see more dinobots in action but they were either pets or just sleeping.

    I could go on and on. But this movie is a bigger mess than the previous.

    • Timcharger

      “Other than getting a couple of T-shirt.” You didn’t mean 2 for each person, did you? Damn it! I only got 1.

      I would say that you need to put some spoiler warnings, but plot isn’t what Bay’s professional robot wrestling movies are for. Unicron being Earth will be great for the next film, that would totally jump the shark. Can’t wait to see which countries make up Unicron’s ass, crotch, and testicles.

      But you gotta admit the pet dinos were sooo cute. So the Dinobots reproduce now? Maybe the next movie can be rated R with some Marvin Gaye for Megatron and Quintessa to get it on.

      • Chapz Kilud

        My theater let people grab a shirt and I got two in single grab by accident and decided not to put one back.

        It would have been much easier for Unicron to be the moon instead.

        Yeah the pet dinos were cute. If they had Grimlock and the rest of dinobots in action they could have cut the movie in 30 minutes because of additional garbage time from autobots getting pinned down by some cannon.

    • Timcharger

      “How do you make Unicron transform without killing all the humans?”

      The humans are the worst part of these movies. Let’s kill them all, and maybe then we’ll have a movie about Transformers.

    • Chapz may i humbly disagree on the unique Unicron twist. πŸ™‚ I thought that was actually clever as obviously Unicron has not awoken. Now I have no faith that in some future movie that idea will be explored in any way that will make me give a damn, but for an interesting idea (the only one) in this movie, I think it works.

      • Chapz Kilud

        It was clever to have Unicron “here” but for Unicron being earth, it has zero chance of transforming in hypothetical sequel. As soon as it transforms Earth would lose its atmosphere and every human would be killed. That’s not a movie. Moon would have been much more doable. This was an interesting twist taken to the wrong direction in my opinion.

        This franchise is over=extended. It was originally set to be trilogy. They killed some big names (Starscream, Soundwave, Ironhide, Megatron) in Dark of the Moon for a good reason because they thought that was it. The two extra movies are just a mess.

        If they make one last movie, of course I’ll go see it, even though I already knew it is going to be terrible. Perhaps that’s the reason why they don’t paid for better writers. They are counting on you paying for the movie either way.

  11. Timcharger

    And this bugs me. They make Marky Mark an inventor. The film is saying that brains count. Having the the brains to fix and invent things matter. Sure you gotta have Marky Mark’s abs, too. And the eye candy in this 5th film belongs to a professor/doctorate of philosophy supermodel. Progress. Hot body, but with brains, too.

    But there’s this point in the plot where some Caltech scientist guy (with no muscles, no rippled abs) devises a plan to use science, to use the laws of physics, to save the day. And the writers/director have the science/physics fail. No nerdy boy, your brain can’t save the world. Let’s feign the importance of having brains, yet have a subplot of the smartest miserably failing. Ha! Ha! Let’s laugh at the nerd.

  12. LeMule

    If you’d told 10 year old me that someday they’d make multi-million $ live Transformers movies with awesome special effects, I’d have been thrilled. It just amazes me now how badly they suck. I’m not even sure what’s worse: the plots, the acting, or the horrible design of the Transformers themselves.
    Will never understand why they couldn’t just update the 80s cartoons or comics and run with that. Maybe someone still will.
    Or hell, just re-do the 80s movie with Bay’s budget and CGI.

  13. Timcharger

    John Turturro wasn’t mentioned in Phil’s review.

    He is back in T5 after taking a break in T4. Turturro goes from getting peed on in T1, to this performance in T5 you must see to believe. Turturro phones it in the Last Knight. No, believe me, literally. Literally phones in his lines.

  14. Timcharger

    How did I forget? Suicide Squad shows up in this film. There are so many plot threads that go nowhere, that I almost forgot that the Last Knight rips off Suicide Squad. It is stupefying when you see the Suicide Squad plot theft. T6 will definitely have an Amazonian race of female Autobots.

  15. Timcharger

    Speaking of brand placement, there’s another f-ing Bud Light commercial interruption in T5, just like T4 had.

    They should have more of these commercial interruptions stringed together. For such a long movie, we do need pee breaks.

  16. Timcharger

    Strange? I don’t seem to remember excessive or even recall shots of flag-porn in this 5th installment. Can that be true? Maybe I’m so inoculated by the previous exposure to Bay’s viral spread of flag shots, that I didn’t notice. Is it possible that Bay learned moderation in showing flag-porn? I do know that I’m dumber for watching T5, so that can cause memory loss.

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