By Jack Dignan
The Transformers movies have given its audiences very little throughout their ten-year cinematic history. They’ve all tried to do good, and all fallen short. Now we have a fifth film in the franchise that refuses to die, Transformers: The Last Knight, and while my opinions towards it are… strong, to say the least, this fifth installment, if nothing else, did finally give us a memorable moment. Something stood out, and reading it here on your screen will not remotely lessen the impact of its delivery. At one point in this film, and I kid you not, Sir Anthony Hopkins looks over at a car and says with great confidence “that’s a bitchin’ car.” It’s a moment that’s way too good to be true, and unfortunately not even the worst line from this film.
By now you probably get the general gist of what these pieces of trash- I mean films are all about. The Autobots are good. The Deceptacons are bad. Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen), the leader of the Autobots and savior of humanity, has vanished in the far reaches of space whilst searching for his maker. Cade (Mark Whalberg) is left on Earth in hiding, living in a world where people have turned on Transformers and see them as public enemies. Why? I have no clue. But Cade is soon brought into a bigger world, secretly dating back thousands of years, where the true history of Transformers is uncovered, and a dark threat awaits the imminent destruction of Earth as we know it.
Guiding him through history is Sir Edmund Burton (Anthony Hopkins), who, along with struggling historian Vivian Wembley (Laura Haddock), is searching for a McGuffin that could put an end to this threat. If in the right hands, Vivian and Cade can use this McGuffin to end the incoming, world-ending threat, but they’ll soon discover that even bigger villains are on the rise, including the return of Megatron (Frank Welker). He’s back and armed with a squadron of Deceptacons, hoping to claim this McGuffin for himself… because reasons, I guess. It’s all as convoluted, nonsensical and overstuffed as it sounds, and while it’s certainly hard to believe, this may just be the worst Transformers yet.
One of the biggest problems this franchise continuously seems to face is the runtime. Transformers: The Last Knight clocks in at a refreshingly short 149 minutes, but 149 minutes is still a painfully long runtime, short only in comparison to previous installments. Michael Bay and his team of writers fill the runtime with everything they can possibly think off, and the film overflows with plot. Nothing feels connected or relevant to anything. The screenplay is so poorly paced and plotted, overstuffed with medieval bullshit, a re-writing of history, random submarine chases, a needlessly evil Optimus, way too many supporting characters to count and endless gags that aren’t ever funny. You can feel its runtime, more so than in any of the previous films, and that’s saying something.
Nothing in this movie happens for a reason, and everything that does is the most idiotic bullshit you could possibly think of. Suicide Squad was notorious for it’s colourful, electric introduction to all of its characters. Every member was introduced with a pop song and weird, jarring editing, and sadly, the exact same thing happens in this film. It’s a sequence that literally has no relevance to anything and is mostly played for laughs. Megatron is brought in to negotiate a team of Deceptacons working for the government, but as soon as he’s given his team, they all leave and do their own thing. Dozens of moments throughout play out exactly as that sequence does. They’re crammed into the movie for god knows why, and the runtime could’ve been mercifully shorter had they been removed.
None of the characters are provided with a motive or even a general sense of why they’re doing the things they’re doing. Every character gets an introduction, even if they’re only present for one or two scenes after that. Nothing flows. It’s one big clusterfuck of a movie leaping from action sequence to plot exposition then back to another action sequence. The film opens with a drunk, womanizing Merlin played by Stanley Tucci, and it’s one of the worst sins this franchise has committed. The scene is an abomination, causing the first of many times one audience member in front of me raised both middle fingers at the screen. None of the humour fits tonally with what Bay is going for. It’s all juvenile and seemingly the work of a hormone-crazed teen just starting to go through puberty.
Why did this film even need as many characters as it did? What was the point of Megatron being here? He comes in at random times, says a line, kills someone then leaves. He’s become an uninteresting inconvenience, and if this franchise is to continue, which it sets itself up to do, they’re going to need to find a better villain. Megatron’s time has passed, and he’s used embarrassingly. A lot of build up is also made towards the return of Optimus Prime, who has turned to the dark side and wishes death upon Earth, but it’s entirely inconsequential. His role could’ve been filled by the already evil Megatron, actually giving him something to do. Optimus’ survival could’ve been held back until late into the movie, where it’s a big, shocking reveal as he comes to save the day in the final act. But nope, none of that happens the way it should.
On a technical level the film is fine. The effects, the sound mixing and the camera work, shot in the typical Bayhem style, are all fine. There’s nothing bad about them, even if every score on the soundtrack is generic battle music, but they aren’t as impressive as they once were. Back in 2007, the effects in Transformers were mind-blowing. It was the animated show seamlessly brought to life, but times have changed, and the effects have not. They were ahead of their time so they still hold up, but there are no improvements. The effects are good, but they stand out in comparison to the human characters at times, especially in the human vs. Transformers finale. Take a look at the new Planet of the Apes series, for example. As the years have progressed, so has the technology, and the visuals from the upcoming sequel look flawless.
Transformers: The Last Knight has destroyed my faith in good movies. They now feel like some faraway myth we’ve only heard of. Nothing in this film comes remotely close to being good. The acting is awful, the characters are awful, the story doesn’t exist, the runtime is way too long, the action is incoherent, and the ending is abrupt and stupid. I’m struggling to accept that this film exists. It has everything from Bumblebee shooting Nazi’s to unneeded sexualisation to an aspect ratio that changes for no apparent reason. I could rant about this movie for hours, and I’m ready to welcome the sweet embrace of death.
0 1/2 Stars
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