Director Michael Bay and the Transformers franchise really were a match made in movie heaven. Because he is able to move his giant robots in whichever way (sometimes in a hundred different ways at once) his uncanny eye demands, Bay’s supernatural talent in camera movement combined perfectly with all those Autobots and Dinobots and Decepticons. The result was something special, uniquely beautiful. There was a poetry to it, a bigness that effectively shut off the part of your brain that looks for something more substantial.
It is a testament to Bay’s unique gifts that on so many occasions he was able to pull something that thrilled from that same well. Unfortunately, somewhere between entries four and five, that well ran dry.
Transformers is far from my favorite film franchise. Transformers (2007) is dumb fun. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009) is one of the worst movies I have ever seen. Dark of the Moon (2011) and Age of Extinction (2014) actually gave me hope that the series might improve with age. The Last Knight has killed that theory.
While this latest chapter is nowhere near as excruciating as Age of Extinction, which is the cinema equivalent of being water-boarded with Lena Dunham’s bathwater, The Last Knight just has nothing new to offer. Although star Mark Wahlberg is reportedly getting out after this, his second entry, the final moments still promise a sequel, which no one wants to see. We have already seen it all — massive fights over massive cities, massive fights in outer space, massive fights in cornfields and hayfields, massive fights over massive fights involving massive fights where lowly humans just barely escape being crushed in massive fights.
Actually, we have more than seen it all because we have seen it all in 2D, 3D, Real 3D, Imax, Super Imax; and we have seen most of it in slow-motion, which gets to be tedious in a 150-minute movie. I’m not sure a different director can save a franchise that appears to have completely played out everything exciting there is to be gleaned from giant fighting robots, but it is time for the very-talented Bay to move along.
Here is what I liked about The Last Knight: A quick but very funny (and deliciously mean) cheap shot aimed directly at original franchise star Shia LaBeouf. The mockery of a pro-science pajama boy who looks and sounds exactly like a love child born of an awkward encounter between Joe Scarborough and Rachel Maddow at the MSNBC Winter Solstice party. Seventy-nine year old Anthony Hopkins running around like a kid at Disney World, obviously having the time of his life playing The Keeper of the Mythology.
What I didn’t like was everything else, especially the grand finale, which is just a whole lot more of more of the same: close calls, big explosions, big-Big-BIG CGI that is now usual-usual as opposed to eye-popping. It is all so exhausting; even the 12-year-old child who lives eternally within me was checking his watch.
Not because there is a shortage of exposition the story is hopelessly convoluted. I had no idea what was going on or why, no idea who was on who’s side… Even with all the talk-talk-talk, Bay moves everything around so fast you cannot orient your mind to catch up. Stuff just explodes and crashes and runs and drives and refuses to take a breath.
I get that this kind of summer movie is not supposed to be a movie but rather a thrill-ride, an exciting, $250 million gonzo trip to Six Flags. The Last Knight most especially fails in that regard. You don’t feel as though you are the one enjoying the wild ride, instead you feel as though you are watching someone’s home video of that ride.
And when it is all over, the last thing you want is to see another.