“Transformers: The Last Knight”: A Millennial’s Movie Review
Two worlds colliding, only one surviving
Transformers: The Last Knight is the fifth film from Michael Bay’s commercially successful Transformers series, known for its extravagant use of explosions, massive CGI robots, and critical unpopularity. The Last Knight is once again directed by Michael Bay, and features returning star Mark Wahlberg as Cade Yeager, an inventor and fugitive living out in a shelter for autobots (the good transformers). When an ancient transformer uses its dying breath to give Cade a special relic of power, he is made the chosen-one as he seeks to uncover the secret of this relic with the help of our friendly neighbourhood transformer Bumblebee, the English lord Sir Edmund Burton, played by Anthony Hopkins, and Oxford Professor Vivian Wembley, played by Laura Haddock. Meanwhile, Cade is once again pursued by the decepticons (the evil transformers) led by the vicious Megatron (Frank Welker) and a new group of his destructive robot team.
If you‘ve followed the plot and quality trajectory of the previous Transformers films, then you probably know that while being incredibly successful at the box office, each film has received its fair share of bashing from film critics, with complaints of excessively mindless action, nonsensical plots, accusations of perversion, and offensive racial stereotypes. Nevertheless, these movies still bring Paramount Pictures buckets of cash, likely due to the appeal of its visual effects more than anything else. Hopes were high when news of a writer’s room surfaced, which was supposed to stabilise and solidify the general storyline of the Transformers film franchise going forward. But after trailers have shown Last Knight to be about how Transformers influenced King Arthur and World War II, those hopeful vibes were quickly replaced with worries about the franchise achieving a new high of ridiculousness. If you expect a screenwriting masterclass or a primer in acting, then one can be forgiven for avoiding this film like the plague. But in what may be Michael Bay’s last entry into the Transformers franchise, can he send us off with a fun, enjoyable, yet smart film?
Nope. While its CGI and huge action spectacles are still as strong as ever, Transformers: The Last Knight feels like a 3-hour long film that had to be cut down to a more digestible 2 hours and 30 minutes. This is due mainly to the rushed narrative, pacing, and editing that makes the film another disappointment from Bay. But after a run of bad Transformers films, is it really that surprising? At best, it is a fun movie to watch with friends, hopefully while stuffing popcorn in one’s face after a few pints at the nearby pub. But in the bluntest of terms, the film is a mess. If you’re a fan of the Transformers and a fan of Michael Bay’s previous interpretations, then go and support this film. If not, then I wouldn’t recommend contributing to its box office, a big factor in determining the future of this franchise.
Mr. Robot, meet Sir Robot.
Let’s talk about some positives. Fans of special effects and visual effects will be happy to know that Transformers: The Last Knight is filled to the brim with them, as any major action blockbuster would be. There’s plenty of explosions to marvel at, and although the large, gravity-defying robots are very clearly CGI, it’s mostly clean and well-rendered to my untrained eye. It’s also pretty entertaining to this millennial’s mind to watch sentient robots beating each other to death. Mark Wahlberg plays the same likeable character from Transformers: Age of Extinction, and puts in a good, committed effort despite being given some awkward lines. Veteran actor Anthony Hopkins is always a great addition to any film, but even this Academy Award winner feels slightly miscast as a mumbling, elderly English lord, a role that would theoretically fit Hopkins perfectly. Another bright spot is newcomer Isabela Moner as the resourceful, energetic teen Izabella, who is a breath of fresh air and could’ve definitely made the film more interesting and diverse if she was simply utilised more. Finally, despite being more difficult to wrap one’s head around a mashup of Transformers and the King Arthur mythology, it’s commendable that the filmmakers were bold enough to try something different and creative, values that the Transformers series often lends itself to.
There can be no victory, without a good movie
Unfortunately, Transformers: The Last Knight falters as a film in several ways. In terms of the screenplay, several plot points don’t seem to make sense on first viewing, while the very concept of the Arthurian mythology in a Transformers world is sometimes played to cringy effect, shown within the first 10 minutes of the film. Humour is attempted but almost completely falls flat. While there isn’t anything to dislike about the human characters, they as well as the transformers are poorly developed, such that the viewer isn’t made to care for what happens to each character. This leads to the downward spiral of the film’s story appeal, despite the action sequences being cranked up more and more as the film progresses. While we’re on the topic of characters, perhaps the biggest flaw in this film is the fact that the humans are front and centre yet again, while the actual Transformers are reduced to side characters in their own film. For those expecting to see much of the famous Optimus Prime, don’t. Because the valiant leader of the autobots barely makes an appearance, the writers choosing instead to follow Cade and his quest to discover the ‘Last Knight’ in order to face yet another apocalyptic threat.
The film’s technical departments don’t do much to lift its critical response prospects either. Its shaky cinematography is often disorienting (and not in a good way), while the editing is choppy and consistently reveals continuity errors, all of which combine to form very messy scenes that just don’t feel coherent. Even Steve Jablonsky’s score can’t distract from the aforementioned flaws, and is a far cry from the majestic tunes of the first Transformers movie. Regrettably, the film’s flaws are attributed in part to Michael Bay’s poor direction, a disappointing remark considering Bay’s exceptional non-Transformers filmography. With the Last Knight, Bay really does much of the same as all the other Transformers films, and since they all make money, who can blame him?
A confirmed Bumblebee spinoff directed by Travis Knight, and possibly more Transformers films down the pipeline. That is currently where we are, and where we will continue to be if these films continue being box-office hits. The series is the icon of what many may consider to be a ‘critic-proof’ franchise, consistently scoring big bucks while being destroyed by critics. While being thoroughly disappointing to any fan of film, the film’s mediocrity it is also unsurprising given its predecessors. If you have somehow chosen to watch The Last Knight in cinemas, then turn your brain off and enjoy all the mindless action set pieces. If you remain undecided on whether to watch this film, then consider the option of not supporting it, thus exerting a selection pressure for the industry to create more high-quality content.
Overall Score: 5.0/10