This one works as punishment.

It’s too late for you if you expected otherwise.

It is outright mesmerizing to see where Michael Bay goes to when you think the bottom has been reached. Here is a franchise about alien vehicle-robots pummeling one another in slow-motion, that also entails robot dry-humping, robot urine, robot testicles, robot racism, John Turturro in a thong, and a hero who gradually talks more and more like a genocidal nutcase. How do we take this further? Well, how about we try to distract the viewers with a totes relevant “girl power” message so that they won’t care we still made a movie about vomiting metal dinosaurs that’s somehow also about knights and magic now?

This is an adult movie for mature grown-ups.

Another thing that’s vaguely interesting about Transformers: The Last Knight, I guess, is that it unites the Age of Extinction cast with the some of the older Transformers favorites. Back from the new crew are Mark Wahlberg‘s Cade Yeager, the legendary Dinobots (with baby versions), plus the newer Autobot recruits with voices by John Goodman, John DiMaggio and, indeed, Ken Watanabe as the samurai one.

From the old gang we have the aforementioned John Turturro as conspiracy nutjob-turned-war-hero-turned-author Seymour Simmons, Tom Kenny as “Wheelie”, as well as Josh Duhamel as Colonel Lennox, forced to hunt those who were once his allies. Returning from both are of course the ever so voiceless Bumblebee and Autobot commander Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen), whose monstrous behavior is ostensibly done on purpose this time, for reasons I will soon give. Basically, the cast of screaming one-dimensionals is bigger than ever, not unlike the ludicrousness of the premise.

In an effort to give some class to this movie about cartoon junkyards punching each other, Bay has cast Anthony Hopkins as a British astronomer who possesses knowledge of those who created the Transformers epochs ago, as well as the part these machines played in the Arthurian legend (because of course) and countless other events. During his quest to find said creators, Optimus Prime has met with a terrible fate in deep space. As he returns to our planet, he isn’t quite himself.

Back on Earth, the conflict between man and Transformer-kind has reached the point of world war and many regions are unsafe. To prevent an even greater disaster, Cade Yeager is abruptly forced to join with Hopkins’ character, an Oxford professor (Laura Haddock) whose lineage has an important but amazingly stupid secret, a robot butler (Jim Carter), and the Autobots – one of them “French”. Cade is also joined by a street-savvy orphan named Izabella (Isabela Moner), whose only real friend is a busted droid with cute eyes and who is quick to let you know that the other kids were right about her fighting “like a girl” and that this is precisely why you should fear her. I don’t know that this makes up for any of Bay’s history of nigh pedophilic close-ups of Tessa Yeager’s posterior or literally any scenes with Megan Fox.

The horrible Megatron (Frank Welker) is also back, still in command of the bad Transformers – the interchangeable Decepticons (minus Starscream who apparently betrayed him in-between movies). Stanley Tucci appears, albeit as an alcoholic Merlin (I swear to God) instead of the same character as last time and I won’t even attempt to explain what role the magical staff of said wizard plays in all this madness. Then we have the Knights of Cybertron, the robots from King Arthur’s era, who are not the same thing as the knights who turned out to be Dinobots in Age of Extinction, I think. Whatever. Just buy the damn toys.

Optimus Prime finally meets his maker.

The point is that the film follows in the tradition of having subsequent films invalidate that which was said of the Transformers in the first one: that 2007 marked their first visit to the Earth. Since then, we’ve learned that these hunks of junk were here during the first moon landing, Ancient Egypt, and the age of dinosaurs. Now we learn that they were around when King Arthur would have lived and, oh right, they also killed Hitler and knew Shakespeare. These films are basically fanfiction about the Earth itself with little regard for its own continuity, and revelations likes these are about as exciting as each new revelation that Optimus Prime is connected with some ancient group of Transformer heroes and that the government is hiding something. Not very.

Speaking of traditions, The Last Knight serves the same old delicacies but gives less of a shit than ever. No sense can be made of the plot (I probably got more than a few details wrong in my descriptions above), the characters have naught to offer besides the insipid sentences they say and the abrupt nonsense they do, there is no “sequence of events” so much as things happen randomly on the screen, the battles are weightless and vapid, the camera twirls about with no sense of framing, the color grading is set to “spraytan”, respected actors are robbed of dignity, the digital characters have no real presence outside of being well-rendered, and the action scenes are still noisy CGI spectacles where everything sort of melts together into an aesthetically nauseating mess that doesn’t resemble much of anything. Oh but look at all the explosions, dragons, hot people and automobile logos. Pew pew! Boom!

As usual, some of the previews would have you believe, like the irremediable sucker you are, that even after all we’ve been through, this next one might be a bit different. As much as I approve of the intention behind the ultimately pointless Izabella, Optimus being more heroic again outside of the brainwash (but don’t expect to see much of him), and a few relatively fresh additions (Hopkins’ castle is surely the nicest location this franchise has used), it’s really quite remarkable how much this one still blends in with the rest.

Marky Mark and Anthony Hopkins explore Transformer history in ‘The Last Knight’.

But then again, this is a movie by the guy who had to dedicate an entire scene of the previous chapter to explain why one of the central relationships doesn’t qualify as statutory rape, so I may have been expecting too much by expecting anything at all. Besides, there is no sense in changing that which never fails to attract audiences, no matter how blatantly unwatchable it is and how each frame is so cluttered with useless information that you forget the story almost instantaneously. You keep dangling those Hasbro-branded keys in front of the fans, Bay. Here’s to ten more years and (hopefully) a Cogman spin-off.

You may wonder why I agree to keep seeing these films, and you may also expect a lengthy answer about how, at the end of the day, these movies are bad in such analysable ways that watching them and then writing about how amazingly wrong everything is (whether it makes you money or not) is worth the suffering. Alas, the real reason is often that my father knows people at ILM and whenever he goes to see these 3-hour VFX reels with maddening excuse plots out of respect for his peers, I can usually tag along on his dime. How else could I do it? Piracy? Yeah, right.

1/5 whatever

 

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