'Transformers: The Last Knight'
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.