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Review: Transformers: The Last Knight (2017)

Transformers: The Last Knight (2017)

Directed by: Michael Bay

Premise: The fifth film in the Transformers series. Following the events of Age of Extinction, Optimus Prime has left Earth to visit the remains of his home world. Meanwhile, a government agency hunts the Transformers and an inventor and a scholar search for an ancient artifact.

What Works: To its credit, Transformers: The Last Knight addresses some of the problems of earlier movies in this series. For one, The Last Knight generally has a better regard for women. Isabela Moner is cast as a teenager who protects Autobots from the government while Laura Haddock plays a scholar who is proactive and intelligent. No one is going to mistake The Last Knight for a feminist piece but in comparison to the depiction of characters played by Megan Fox, Rosie Huntington-Whitely, and Nicola Peltz, the latest Transformers installment represents some kind of progress. The Last Knight also shows improvement in the action scenes. The set pieces of previous Transformers movies went on for too long, especially the many fights of Revenge of the Fallen and the endless climactic battle of Dark of the Moon. The action sequences of The Last Knight are (comparatively) reigned in. The imagery is less busy and the action is edited together in a way that makes some sense. There is also a bit of humor to The Last Knight that actually works. The comic relief in earlier Transformers movies was vulgar or stupid or both. The Last Knight has a bit of self-awareness. Even though it is fleeting, the film’s willingness to poke fun at itself is a relief from the stodginess of other Transformers pictures.

What Doesn’t: The Last Knight is a direct sequel to its predecessor and so making sense of what’s happening depends upon the viewer remembering what happened at the end of 2014’s Age of Extinction. The Transformers movies are notoriously unmemorable because of the way Michael Bay shoots and assembles the action but also because they are largely redundant with one another, repeating the same story beats and visuals. But even for Transformers fans who have kept up with the characters and stories, The Last Knight is utterly incomprehensible. The Last Knight opens in 484 AD with King Arthur assisted in his fight against the Saxons by ancient Transformers. The story then leaps forward 1600 years to just after the events of Age of Extinction. Optimus Prime (voice of Peter Cullin) travels through space to his home world where he encounters Quintessa (voice of Gemma Chan), an evil Transformer sorceress. She takes control of Prime’s mind and turns him into a villain. On Earth, Transformers are hunted by the military while inventor Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) assists Autobots who have gone into hiding. He discovers a medallion that links the prologue with the present and he sets out on a journey. From there, The Last Knight attempts to marry these different narratives but it all disintegrates into a sloppy mess. The film is astonishingly incoherent. Yeager and company jet across the globe in search of an artifact but where they are going and why is never clear and doesn’t seem to matter. Characters are introduced out of nowhere and drop out of the movie just as quickly. The details of the story contradict earlier Transformers movies and the climax of The Last Knight rehashes the final battles of previous films with Megatron yet again trying to convert Earth into Cybertron. The incompetence of the film is staggering. This movie was helmed by a top Hollywood director and scribed by experienced screenwriters and yet The Last Knight feels amateurish. It plays like a patchwork of different movies. Without characters or a coherent story, there is nothing for a viewer to invest in and even for a Michael Bay Transformers picture, The Last Knight is astoundingly empty.

Bottom Line: The Last Knight might not be the worst Transformers movie but it is the most boring. Despite all its busyness nothing really happens, or at least nothing worth caring about. This is barely a feature film; it’s a two-and-a-half hour trailer.

Episode: #655 (July 9, 2017)