Why Transformers 5
is the Worst
By Mikhail Lecaros
If you’d told me ten years ago that Michael Bay (Bad Boys, The Rock) could make giant transforming robots boring, I’d have laughed in your face. But here we are, with the fifth live action film based on the classic toy line, and it’s somehow even more of a slog than the truly tedious fourth outing (2014’s Age of Extinction).
Here’s why The Last Knight is the WORST. TRANSFORMERS. MOVIE. EVER.
THE FRANCHISE IS LOST
In 2007’s Transformers, producer Steven Spielberg (yep, that guy) latched on to the idea of grounding the world of alien robot warriors with the story of a boy and his first car. As directed by Bay, the formula worked; audiences took to the adventures of misfit Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf, Even Stevens) and his Chevy Camaro that was secretly franchise mainstay Bumblebee.
Boasting a crowd-pleasing mix of whimsy, nostalgia, and widescreen mayhem (Bayhem?) that only the man behind Armageddon (1997) could have come up with, the first Transformers made over US$700 million at the global box office. The filmmakers then proceeded to burn through every iota of their audience’s good will by making three sequels that got progressively worse with each installment.
Which brings us to The Last Knight.
MORE STORY, LESS SENSE
Three years after the last go around, Knight ostensibly continues the story of Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen, Winnie the Pooh’s Eeyore) and the heroic Autobots as they wage their battle to destroy the evil forces of the Decepticons. I say “ostensibly” because after 2007, Bay seems to have gone out of his way to make every sort of action film in this series except a Transformers movie. In no particular order, we have: a medieval epic, dystopian future, sci-fi action flick, and a slapstick farce, with a vertically-challenged steampunk ninja butler thrown in for good measure.
The “plot” sees Optimus Prime return to the Transformers’ home of Cybertron to seek out his creators, having defeated their bounty hunter in Age of Extinction. Instead of the abandoned, war-torn planet he remembers, Prime finds Quintessa, who claims to be his creator. Within seconds, she reprograms Prime to retrieve the staff of Merlin (yes, that Merlin, and he’s played by Stanley Tucci in atrocious makeup, so shut up), which is actually (of course) a Cybertronian artifact of immense power.
This is the last we see of Prime for the next two hours, as the film follows inventor Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg, Ted), a young girl (Isabela Moner, Legends of the Hidden Temple) and a ragtag cadre of Autobots (voiced once again by the likes of Ken Watanabe and John Goodman, for some reason. *cough* money *cough*).
The group is trying to avoid the United States’ new anti-Transformer taskforce (not to be confused with the CIA’s anti-Transformer taskforce from Extinction), led by the Autobot’s old friend Lennox (Josh Duhamel, who clearly has no other options aside from being Mr. Fergie). The taskforce has teamed up with the villainous Megatron (Frank Welker, who originated the role in 1984) and his Decepticons for, um, reasons.
Along the way, our heroes find time to head to England, where they encounter secret society member Sir Edmund Burton (Sir Anthony Hopkins, who must have reaaaaaally needed the money for something), and Viviane Wembly (Laura Haddock as the prerequisite Bay eye candy), a professor with (convenient) ties to Arthurian myth.
IT’S ANOTHER CYBERTRONIAN TREASURE HUNT
It goes without saying that, eventually, everyone ends up chasing after Merlin’s rod, but seeing as this is the fourth or fifth long-lost Cybertronian artifact to turn up on Earth, it’s hard to work up any sense of urgency (much less excitement) this time around. This late franchise attempt at providing us with a National Treasure (2004) style mystery is half-hearted at best, a sign of too many writers struggling to build up a franchise that has more in common with a dead horse at this point.
Not only does the conspiracy stuff go against everything established in the previous four films, it also puts into the series’ lore that Albert Einstein, Harriet Tubman, Stephen Hawking, and yes, Sam Witwicky, were all part of a group dedicated to hiding the existence of Transformers on Earth. Despite the damn robots’ apparently having been present at every major conflict the world has ever known.
Now, as labyrinthine (and contrived) as the plot is, it’s all merely an excuse for Bay to do his thing. Thus…
EXPENSIVE GARBAGE IS STILL GARBAGE
By crafting expository dialogue around the CGI, explosions, CGI explosions, bad jokes, and Bay’s trademark fetishizing of the U.S. Armed forces, The Last Knight manages the astounding feat of making its two-and-a-half hour runtime feel like six. Or maybe even eight. There is no pretense toward establishing motivations or narrative flow, only a relentless sense of forward motion that punishes the viewer if they dare try to absorb (or make sense of) anything that happens onscreen.
Beaten into submission, with nothing to do but be propelled from one meaningless point to the next, this film is quite possibly the closest your brain will ever feel to being an actual pinball.