They came for the All-Spark. They came for the Sun Harvester. They launched an invasion from the moon. They fought for The Seed. Time and time again the Transformers have come to Earth, their history secretly intertwined with that of humanity. But the relentlessness of their visits hides a deeper secret, one that now draws the wrath of the alien sorceress Quintessa – a creator of the Transformers – and the Autobot warrior enslaved to her will: Optimus Prime. Fugitive inventor Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg), Oxford professor Viviane Wembly (Laura Haddock) and eccentric historian Sir Edmund Burton (Anthony Hopkins) must solve the Arthurian mystery of Earth’s importance, if they hope to save it.
You know what’s both hilarious and depressing at the same time? Even Rotten Tomatoes, the Internet’s film review aggregator, has thrown its hands up in resignation at this one. “The Last Knight is pretty much what you’d expect from the fifth instalment of the Transformers franchise”. Because honestly, that’s it. That’s the latest edition of Michael Bay’s bot-battling, bolt-bashing, flatulently-explosive, bullet-haemorrhaging sci-fi disaster porn. That’s two-and-a-half hours and $217 million spent. On the big-screen equivalent of someone jingling keys in front of your face whilst a squad of wind-up monkeys continuously bash their symbols together in a circle around you, and the shipping forecast plays on the radio in the background. And we’re just resigned to it now, clearly. We accept this constitutes ‘fun, dumb cinema’ today. Never mind the fact that once upon a time, ‘fun, dumb cinema’ meant a genuinely good time at the movies and a healthy suspension of disbelief. Never mind however sensationally silly blockbusters got, you still got a real sense of the passion and effort their creators put into them. Jurassic Park. Independence Day. Even Bay’s own Armageddon! They were the real deal. This…this doesn’t even qualify as dumb. This is a lobotomy. This is brain death. An empty husk of a blockbuster practically begging for the franchise to be put out of a now utterly joyless existence.
Sitting through just ten minutes of The Last Knight proves to be something of a memory test, in that you can’t ever remember exactly how things happening onscreen transpired based on scenes that preceded them, and even when you try to focus you find yourself piecing together visuals, beats and plot devices that are so tenuously linked that it’s like trying to recreate M.C. Escher’s ‘Crazy Stairs’ by just drawing zig-zags. A Suicide Squad-esque unveiling of Megatron’s evil Decepticon crew? He’s Megatron, he leads the entire Decepticon army. Why does he need a crew, and if they’re in human prison then they clearly aren’t the A-Team. An orphan ‘street smart’ girl who just sticks around Mark Wahlberg for the first half hour, then doesn’t, then reappears at the climax to…give a motivational talk to her pet robot? Even an entire storyline about Merlin’s bloodline and a secret society is just a flimsy rehash of The Da Vinci Code. And who in their right mind would look at a Transformers film and think “you know what this need? A little Dan Brown”. And what makes it all worse is how none of these things are done with even the faintest sense of effort and consideration. They just happen. Anything that isn’t an explosion is there to just pad out the runtime. And speaking of padding…
Mark Wahlberg. Can he act? Does he act? In general, this is a debate in and of itself. Here, it’s a resounding no on both counts. His Cade is a nonentity. A walking, talking commercial for protein bars, tight shirts, and talking smack. Energetically dislikeable, thin-skinned, there simply is no reason why he needs to be in this film at all. Everything important that requires a human face ultimately ties into Haddock’s professor, who unsurprisingly is given little room to showcase her credentials beyond a sharp tongue which the ‘script’ rarely rises to meet. You’ll be scratching your head over how one ‘retort’ to Cade’s quips was supposed to show her as challenging and headstrong when her words are literally “would you rather I take this dress of?” Even the great Sir Anthony Hopkins, the latest in the franchise’s tradition of revered actors paid exorbitant sums to be exposition machines, is reduced to an eleven year-old’s caricature of an old English fellow ‘down with the kidz’, and Jim Carter (Downton Abbey’s Mr Carson) joins him at the bottom of that barrel of cringe as Sir Burton’s sociopathic Transformer butler. Imagine ITV’s Vicious if either Derek Jacobi or Ian Mackellan was a robot. Clearly, the writers did.
This franchise has never pretended to be anything high-brow, or even somewhat cerebral. Transformers has always been the province of kids and pre-teens, action figure battles royale. The first film did a somewhat decent job of just being that. Simple, stupid, silly spectacle. Every sequel from then to now may have brought the franchise ever-closer to rock bottom, but each one still had at least something that amounted to a highlight. John Turturro. Stanley Tucci. Steve Jablonsky’s score. Dark of the Moon actually getting a little dark. Transformers 5 has all these… and amounts to nothing. It’s a film that doesn’t so much give up the ghost as laugh at you for thinking there was ever a soul to begin with. This isn’t the Transformers of kids and their action figures. This is the Transformers of the Saturday morning commercial break. It just wants to sell. Your entertainment be damned. And the fact that it’s stopped trying to be otherwise deserves a huge loss of whatever respect was still going for it.
Final Score: 0/5