Transformers: The Last Knight is not a good movie, but you probably already knew that. Normally, I wouldn’t condone prematurely judging movies so far in advance without even seeing them, but in the case of the Transformers franchise, it’s actually merited in most respects, considering that Paramount and director, Michael Bay have shoveled practically the exact same movie at us in slightly different packaging over the past seven years or so. Transformers: The Last Knight sadly doesn’t break that trend. It’s the same old cinematic sludge that’s been apathetically tossed at paying audiences since 2009, when Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen began the cavalcade of disappointing sequels for this much-maligned movie franchise.
Despite the trailers and marketing trying to get you to believe that some characters have changed, and the titular Transformers are now fighting alongside medieval knights (and against returning Autobot leader, Optimus Prime), complete with knight variations of the Transformers themselves, don’t believe it. That sort of thing is barely in the movie for a few minutes, with the rest of it consisting of the same ineffective character comedy, overdone humanity arcs, struggles over world-ending powers (seriously, how many damn doomsday weapons are lying around Earth in this universe?!), and more uncomfortable Michael Bay-approved misogyny and racism. What else is there to say about these Transformers sequels? They’re all the same, they’re all crappy (even if the original Transformers movie from 2007 was fairly decent), and Transformers: The Last Knight is still the same movie and still crappy. That’s really all you need to know.
Oh, you’re still here? I guess I have to elaborate then. Essentially, Transformers: The Last Knight is a direct follow-up to 2014’s slightly more awful Transformers: Age of Extinction, complete with Mark Wahlberg returning to the revised lead role of Cade Yeager. The movie begins with some children wandering around a warzone, making you think they’re going to be the protagonists, but no. They’re just among the several completely pointless characters that don’t really serve the plot at all, and only exist to either pander to a certain gullible audience, or further pad out a movie that has painfully little plot behind it. Instead, the movie is mainly headlined by Cade, who is so thankless a hero that even the character feels like he’s in this for a paycheque, let alone Wahlberg!
Don’t count on much excitement from the Transformers either. Bumblebee still hangs around a fair bit, doing the same goofy false voice schtick that he’s done since the beginning of this movie franchise, but most of the other Transformers are barely in the movie. This includes Optimus Prime, who was heavily touted in the trailers as ‘going bad’, but he’s barely in the movie for five minutes, and mostly only exists to both set up another doomsday threat, then provide an excuse for a big fight in the climax. Megatron also shows up again (he’s apparently not Galvatron anymore for some reason, and is fully back to his classic design), along with a bunch of nameless Decepticon red shirts, though at least we get veteran movie Decepticon, Barricade continuing to provide at least some personality to the Decepticons, even when he also is barely in the movie.
Among the laundry list of issues with Transformers: The Last Knight, as you may be noticing by now, is that the titular robots are now taking an even bigger backseat than ever to the human characters, who completely hog most of the screentime. Even Wahlberg seems to be thoroughly phoning it in too, since he seems to know as well as anyone that no one sees these movies for any kind of dramatic gratification. I do wish however that he’d had the same idea as Transformers franchise newcomer, Anthony Hopkins, who, along with his robot butler, Cogman, completely stops giving a shit from minute one, and intentionally hams up the most glorious, knowingly awful performance in the movie. You see, when these movies embrace their bad-ness in a comical way, it can be really entertaining, and Hopkins seems to understand this, making him stand a little taller, and serve as more than the latest successor to the ‘important actor in a surprisingly unimportant part’ cliche that the Transformers movies strangely love.
Too bad the rest of Transformers: The Last Knight still takes itself way too woefully seriously, making a huge chunk of it a colossal bore. It’s amazing how full of itself this latest sequel is, yet it can never justify it by having actual character depth or interesting story material. The humans, Autobots and Decepticons all feel like they’re firmly going through the motions now, as if everyone stopped caring, despite the world supposedly being threatened with destruction yet again for the umpteenth time. Even the returns of Josh Duhamel’s Captain Lennox and John Turturro’s Seymour Simmons feel like they’re strangely done without any ceremony or justification. Duhamel especially is just there to provide the latest government dick for the latest Transformers sequel that always has a government dick character, with Simmons being a completely pointless and annoying plot device, as usual. Poor Laura Haddock is even worse off, as the latest swapped-out eye candy that thankfully feels age-appropriate this time, providing a welcome switch from Cade’s jailbait daughter from the previous movie. Haddock is one of the better actors in the movie at least, since she’s one of the only actors that’s truly trying here, but maybe it would have been even better if she’d just taken after Anthony Hopkins and hammed it up to the max.
If you’ve seen one Transformers movie sequel, you’ve seen them all when it really comes down to it. These movies have started completely recycling plot points, character archetypes and the same damn explosion-filled action scenes, and it’s reached the point where domestic audiences at least seem to have firmly stopped caring, considering that Transformers: The Last Knight isn’t doing too well at the North American box office. Unfortunately, many international audiences still seem to be feeding this bloated beast of a movie franchise, and I can’t imagine why, since Transformers: The Last Knight keeps regurgitating the same extremely tired story formula that’s been done to death since 2009’s Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.
Sure, there are knights this time, even Transformer knights, but it doesn’t feel like it means anything, beyond adding a weak gimmick to a tired-as-hell series of movies that have long overstayed their welcome by now. The fact that Transformers: The Last Knight relies on so much false advertising, peppering the trailers with two-minute flashback moments and making it look like they’re a huge part of the story, only makes this sequel come off as even more reprehensible. The one small bit of praise I can offer the plot of Transformers: The Last Knight however is that its pacing has been tightened a bit, and it doesn’t feel like quite as much of an overlong, bloated slog, like the previous Transformers: Age of Extinction definitely did. This movie is still a slog, granted, one packed with noise, apathy and terrible, brain cell-massacring ‘comedy’, but at least your headache won’t be quite as bad on the way out this time. I suppose that’s something.
I don’t think I’m shocking anyone when I say that Michael Bay, who has directed all five of the current Transformers movies, completely feels like he’s given up with this latest sequel. Transformers: The Last Knight is allegedly his last run with the franchise, and I hope he sticks with that too, because he’s very obviously out of ideas with what to bring to the Transformers movies. Hell, he seemed like he was already running out of ideas by the release of 2011’s Transformers: Dark of the Moon!
As you can imagine, Transformers: The Last Knight feels very cynical because of Bay’s clear apathy towards the project. This latest Transformers sequel only exists to further line both Bay’s and Paramount’s pockets, and that’s a huge part of the reason why most of this movie feels recycled and phoned in. Even Bay’s usual explosion-heavy action fetish feels tired and apathetic in this latest Transformers offering, with most of the action scenes feeling just as boring and thankless as everything else. There are times where the movie does manage a cool action beat or two, like delicious spring water in a long, sprawling desert of mediocrity, but those are eventually tainted by the thoroughly toxic humour and character writing, which Bay’s direction draws more attention to than ever in Transformers: The Last Knight. As I said, at least Bay’s cynical direction isn’t quite so overwrought compared to the previous sequel, but obviously, that still doesn’t make it any good, even in his supposed final Transformers directing effort.
Steve Jablonsky yet again returns to score Transformers: The Last Knight, and as you can imagine, Jablonsky’s score also feels bored, and like it’s just going through the motions. The soundtrack behind Transformers: The Last Knight is unremarkable in most respects, and there’s really very little to say about it. A few reprises of familiar themes from the former Transformers movies creep in every now and again, but I seriously doubt that most anyone is going to be nostalgic for them. There really isn’t nearly enough novelty to these movies to merit that.
As for the rest of the audio work, it’s exactly what you’d expect for a Transformers movie, which is to say, lots of overbearing noise. That’s especially true if you’re seeing the movie in a premium format like IMAX, where the sound mixing is amped up even further to make the action scenes even more incoherently brash and obnoxious. Once again, the sound engineers at least had the decency to dial the noise back a bit compared to the previous Transformers: Age of Extinction, but that doesn’t change the obvious focus being on mindless explosions and destruction. That was fine and good for the first movie, and maybe even the second, but by the fifth, you can imagine that it’s definitely gotten very old now.
For better or worse, the Transformers movies at least have some really cool visuals, and that remains true through much of Transformers: The Last Knight, even amidst how little the rest of the movie cares. The designs of the Transformers themselves remain pretty appealing in these movies, and every so often, you will get a neat visual set piece or action moment, which at least gives Transformers: The Last Knight an acceptable sense of blockbuster style. Yet again though, this is nothing that hasn’t been done in much the same fashion by the previous Transformers movies, so there isn’t much to expand on in this latest follow-up.
Transformers: The Last Knight will please you well enough if your appetite for mindless and pointless giant robot-themed destruction still somehow hasn’t been sated five movies in, but there needs to be something more here, like a sense of actual heart or charm. This is why other beloved, lengthy and ridiculous action movie franchises like, say, Fast and Furious or Paramount’s own Mission: Impossible, are able to get away with their emphasis on mindless action, because they balance the over-the-top action out with a genuine feeling of likability, novelty, and, most importantly, passion. Transformers is positively starving for any and all of these things in its movie franchise, and audiences are never going to be able to truly invest in the ongoing big screen battles between the Autobots and the Decepticons if there’s no real heart behind it.
Disappointingly, even the 3D presentation in Transformers: The Last Knight feels half-assed as well. It’s alright at least, adding a slight sense of increased scope in the wide environmental shots, and a few explosive flourishes in the action that seem to pop out at the audience. Sadly though, most of the 3D ends up being pretty pointless. You’d be forgiven for wanting to skip it this time.
By contrast though, the IMAX presentation in Transformers: The Last Knight is considerably better, especially when a good chunk of this movie was filmed with actual IMAX cameras. Granted, there doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason behind when Bay films in IMAX and when he doesn’t, since certain scenes seem to properly fill out the grand, impressive IMAX scene with enhanced detail and visual splendour, while even some smaller action scenes just go back to regular scoped camera work. It’s very strange, and for people who notice shifts between aspect ratios in theatrical movies, it’s going to be very distracting. Still, at least this movie does once again look pretty great when it’s seen in an IMAX theatre, even if that definitely doesn’t excuse the myriad problems that this latest Transformers follow-up keeps perpetuating.
Transformers: The Last Knight fundamentally fails to fix the constant issues that have been plaguing this movie franchise for the better part of a decade, and the fact that it falsely advertises itself as being an interesting new tale about knights and historical conspiracies, when it actually isn’t, just makes everything worse. To be blunt, Transformers: The Last Knight is probably going to be one of the most pointless and forgettable movies released throughout all of 2017. This latest sequel is however at least a small improvement over the especially unbearable and overlong Transformers: Age of Extinction from 2014, and I suppose it at least carries itself with more dignity than the horrendous Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen from 2009, but it’s not exactly praiseworthy to hit the middle tier of a crappy movie franchise.
When it comes down to it, Transformers: The Last Knight is a blatant cynical cash grab by Paramount, with the franchise only seemingly going on at this point to keep the lights on at the studio. Even then though, this movie series is in desperate need of fresh blood and inspiration. That’s more true than ever when you see that Paramount seems to be wanting to treat the Transformers movie universe as their own equivalent of Disney’s and LucasFilm’s Star Wars universe, right down to now flat-out copying Disney’s Star Wars strategy of releasing a new movie every year from 2017 onward, alternating between spin-offs and proper mainline sequels.
Maybe next year’s Transformers Universe: Bumblebee spin-off movie will start putting the Transformers movie franchise back on the right foot again (or whatever equates to that, given these movies’ absurdly low standards), now that Michael Bay is finally, mercifully, no longer in the directors’ chair going forward. For now though, we struggle with yet another tired, pointless Transformers sequel from Bay, which recycles too many of the same ideas, and doesn’t manage to convey anything other than the same old noise. With the much more promising Spider-Man: Homecoming, War for the Planet of the Apes and Dunkirk all headed our way in July, there’s no shortage of upcoming cinematic blockbusters to look forward to in the coming weeks, and unlike Transformers: The Last Knight, they’ll more than likely actually deserve our money.
- A few decent jokes and action moments
- The visuals are still solid
- Anthony Hopkins and his robot butler are great hammy fun
- Most of the jokes and action are terrible
- Storyline is almost entirely built on recycled, apathetic plot material
- Most characters still range anywhere from dull to offensive