MOVIE REVIEW: ‘Transformers: The Last Knight’ is yet another bombastic slog

With a bloated runtime, stiff performances and a plot so laughably ridiculous that it's impossible to take it seriously, this Michael Bay film falls flat

| June 23, 2017

The “Transformers” movies were never critical darlings, with only the first film reaching a peak of 57% on Rotten Tomatoes. I’ll be the first to admit that I was never really a fan of these movies. The first one was enjoyable trash, but trash nonetheless. Meanwhile, the forthcoming sequels proved to be less than enjoyable trash, with only the third installment really providing any real sense of fun about it, if only for its impressive use of 3D, beyond that alone, the film was also a slog, albeit less of one than its predecessor, “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.” But these films keep making money, so Paramount keeps contracting Michael Bay to make them, and I can’t really blame them. With nearly every film coming close to, if not surpassing $1 billion at the box office, these films are practical goldmines for the studio. This doesn’t change the fact that critics and many audiences alike are now beginning to tire of the series, now entering its fifth installment with “Transformers: The Last Knight.”

Set after the events of “Transformers: Age of Extinction,” we pick up on our new protagonist, Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) as he navigates a world where Transformers are now persecuted and hunted by the military. After being found by a service Transformer, Cade is taken to England where he meets Sir Edumund Burton (Anthony Hopkins), who also brings in Dr. Vivian Wembley (Laura Haddock) to discuss the history of the Transformers and his plan to help preserve their future. Cade and Vivian learn that the Transformers have been on Earth since the Dark Ages, assisting King Arthur in his victory in war and establishing the Knights of the Round Table, as well as helping with other historical events like defeating the Nazis. And that many historical figures, including presidents, activists and even Harriet Tubman, helped the Transformers in their time. As Cade is deemed the last knight of the Transformers and Vivian is revealed to be the last descendant of Merlin, the two must team up after Optimus Prime returns from his mission at the end of “Transformers: Age of Extinction” corrupted by their creator, Quintessa, hell-bent on destroying Earth.

Yes, that is the plot of this film. No, I am not joking. The fact that these screenplays can pull forth over $217 million from Paramount for its production budget is just astounding to me. It’s almost like Michael Bay is looking to create the most ridiculous film possible and to pass it off on audiences as some sort of idiot test. Now, something like this really could work if the film played up its camp with a winking eye, but the thing that always holds the “Transformers” movies down is its almost shameless proclivity to play everything completely and utterly seriously. That being said, that doesn’t mean these movies aren’t without “humor,” but Bay typically finds a way to inject that in between plot points with sexist, racist and homophobic humor that really befits a film based off a kids toy like this, right? “Transformers: The Last Knight” still plays itself super seriously, and there is stupid, unfunny humor in it, but I will give Bay credit where credit is due in that “Transformers: The Last Knight” doesn’t resort to that blatantly offensive humor anymore. It’s still not funny, but at least it isn’t offensive AND not funny.

You can’t argue with the fact that the “Transformers” movies have good special effects. But the way that Bay directs these movies, “Transformers: The Last Knight” included, are so quick cut and choppy that it basically invalidates any sort of visual splendor that the film’s visual effects team seemingly worked so hard on. “Transformers: The Last Knight” comes across an issue that plagued the previous film heavily, which comes in its use of IMAX 3D camerawork. While the use of these new cameras are undeniably innovative, the way in which Bay uses them completely wastes any potential of grandeur it might hold. While a good deal of the film is shot in the full frame IMAX camera, the film loves to cut back and forth between full-screen and widescreen quite often, often within the same scene. Even during dialogue scenes, a shot of Wahlberg’s face might be shot in full-frame IMAX while the complementing shot of Hopkins is in anamorphic widescreen, which becomes really bothersome, really quickly. While “Transformers: The Last Knight” doesn’t do it as egregiously as “Transformers: Age of Extinction,” it’s still a major issue.

After a year of “Deepwater Horizon” and “Patriots Day,” Wahlberg seemingly seeks to undo any stab at credibility he had by returning to this series. Stiff and overacted, Wahlberg’s Yeager is just not a particularly likable character. Too dull, too rude and too unremarkable to truly be passed off as “The Chosen One” detailed in the film, it simply makes the film even more of a drag having to believe that someone like this is special in any way. Haddock, while also relatively stiff, is seemingly in better hands, having less to do with delivering inherently ridiculous lines, she does pull off what I can only assume is Bay’s attempt at an Emily Blunt/Felicity Jones knockoff. But perhaps the saddest part about “Transformers: The Last Knight” is the inclusion of Sir Anthony Hopkins, a once highly-regarded actor, now left to deliver lines about how robots that are anachronistically incorrect helped King Arthur win a war. While it’s nearly impossible for Hopkins to be truly “bad” in anything, I will go so far to call this a “lesser” moment for the esteemed actor.

At 149 minutes, “Transformers: The Last Knight” is the shortest film in the “Transformers” series since the first film, with its predecessor clocking in at a whopping 165 minutes. That being said, this film is still long; too long. I checked my watch quite a bit hoping that this movie would breeze by quickly in a barrage of extended action sequences, and while we did get those action sequences, editing haphazardly by a total of SIX credited editors, the film still moved at a glacial pace. Whenever the film went more into the mythology of the film’s plot, this is when the film truly ground to an absolute halt, making this 149 minute runtime an endurance test.

While it’s not particularly a critique that will directly affect my view, I also have to note how incredibly awkward the opening logos, credits and closing credits are to this film, especially with its strange use of two Paramount logos, while also cramming all of the opening credits into a single title card nearly impossible to read in the brief time allotted. And much like any other “Transformers” movie, the film ends abruptly, but this one ends at such an awkward moment that it almost felt re-cut at the last second, which only seeks to exacerbate the entire “offness” of this film.

“Transformers: The Last Knight” is yet another slog in the overlong franchise that is “Transformers.” It’s almost clockwork at this point in how these films play out, without any sort of deviation from the previous installments, it would practically be possible to review every single film in the series in one review, as they all seemingly blend together at a point. Incomprehensible as ever, Bay seeks to take it even further to besmirch and bastardize history by including these dumbass robots in them and still lead us to believe that the Transformers were new discoveries in the first film. Everything about this film is just inherently bad and with it being so overlong too, this film is much more of a test of patience than it is of fan service at this point. And the worst part is, I know this won’t be the end for this series if it is to make more money like they do. Like a wounded animal in the woods, the kindest thing at this point is to let it die on its own terms, please.

1/5

Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Directed by: Michael Bay
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Josh Duhamel, Stanley Tucci, Laura Haddock, Isabela Moner, with John Turturro, and Anthony Hopkins.
Runtime: 149 minutes
Rating: PG-13 for violence and intense sequences of sci-fi action, language and some innuendo.
Also available in Dolby Cinema, RealD 3D and IMAX 3D.

Paramount Pictures presents, in association with Hasbro, a di Bonaventura Pictures production, a Tom DeSanto/Don Murphy production, an Ian Bryce production, a Michael Bay film, “Transformers: The Last Knight”

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Category:Arts and Entertainment, Film

Hunter Heilman Hunter is the current editor-in-chief for The Niner Times. He is a senior Communications major who wishes he were a dog and wants to pet your dog if you have one. Hunter has been a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association (NCFCA) since August 2015. Hunter has been the editor-in-chief since May 2016. Please do not hesitate to shoot him an e-mail at editor@ninertimes.com for any questions or concerns and he'll be sure to get back to you ASAP.

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Hunter Heilman Hunter is the current editor-in-chief for The Niner Times. He is a senior Communications major who wishes he were a dog and wants to pet your dog if you have one. Hunter has been a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association (NCFCA) since August 2015. Hunter has been the editor-in-chief since May 2016. Please do not hesitate to shoot him an e-mail at editor@ninertimes.com for any questions or concerns and he'll be sure to get back to you ASAP.

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