It has been argued that the Transformers movies, if nothing else, employ a sizable percentage of the entertainment industry. Still, one does have to wonder why we had to hire all of these skilled artists and craftspersons to produce a film that exemplifies the worst aspects of the human condition. Making movie about giant killer robots is one thing. Making an incomprehensible miasma of screaming, more screaming, and shameless pandering is another.
Transformers: The Last Knight isn’t so much a film as it is a catalogue of everything wrong with western civilization: racism, sexism, ageism, the objectification of minors, warmongering, immaturity, a complete inability to focus, and a seemingly random assortment of pop culture references and swear words in place of a sense of humor. Instead of entertainment, it offers a series of images flashing in such a rapid, incongruous succession that they may as well be random. It’s the cinematic equivalent of dangling keys in front of a baby while yelling curse words at it. Nothing but anger, noise and condescension, for multiple hours. And they expect us to pay for this.
The plot: Transformers have been around since the era of King Arthur, and helped him conquer Britain by forming a three-headed dragon and fueling Merlin’s “magic”. Centuries later, the staff of Merlin – actually a piece of Transformers technology – is the reason why the Transformers were coming to Earth this whole time, even though this is the fifth film and nobody’s ever mentioned it before.
So good robots and bad robots are trying to find the MacGuffin. That’s as complicated as it needed to get, but Michael Bay – true to form – makes Transformers: The Last Knight as confusing as possible, shoving in seemingly important characters who contribute nothing to the plot, dense mythologies that add nothing to the drama, and action sequences which are increasingly hard to follow.
Mark Wahlberg ostensibly stars as Cade Yeager, who is chosen to be the “Last Knight” and save the Earth from destruction. Mostly Wahlberg yells the names of various Transformers and looks like he has no idea what’s going on (which is, to be fair, the majority of what he is asked to do).
Laura Haddock plays Vivian Werner, a historian who also has a super important destiny, but her destiny revolves entirely around protecting a phallic symbol and eventually shoving it into or out of a hole. Also she’s clumsy. Also she has female relatives who don’t care about her work because she hasn’t found a boyfriend yet. Also she hates sexism. Also she falls in love with a sexist.
Anthony Hopkins plays Sir Edmund Burton, who provides endless paragraphs of exposition but is also supposedly a doddering old kook, so most of his dialogue is hard to follow. Hopkins looks like he’s having fun getting shot at by robots, but he’s so abused by the screenplay to Transformers: The Last Knight that you start wondering if maybe someone should be calling social services.
And then there’s Isabela Moner, who plays Izabella, a child tech genius who is the most important character in the first part of the film, disappears completely for the middle part, and only returns at the end so she can cleverly tell someone else to blow something up (never mind how). The most Transformers: The Last Knight can think to do with this young lady is subject her to crude objectification by a group of males, who watch her do amazing things and then decide that the only value she could possibly have is as their potential trophy girlfriend.
Lastly, we have Optimus Prime, who sits out almost the entire movie, but shows up at the end as the bad guy this time. (That’s not a spoiler, that’s the movie’s whole marketing campaign.) He accomplishes almost nothing over the course of the film, and almost dooms the planet, but he’s treated like the greatest person ever anyway. Also, take a shot every time he says “I am Optimus Prime.” You might get plastered enough to think Transformers: The Last Knight isn’t one of the worst movies of this year (or any other, for that matter).
The Transformers movies don’t happen by accident. Hundreds, even thousands of people have to conspire to put all this complex machinery to work, and create a motion picture that clearly wants to hurt us. So while it may be possible to enjoy Transformers: The Last Knight on some level, the fact that so many filmmakers assumed we would genuinely like it counts as a vicious insult. The makers of Transformers: The Last Knight actually seem to think that audiences appreciate being reduced to stereotypes, treated like morons, and getting yelled at for over two hours.
So even if you end up enjoying this movie, ironically or otherwise, you may have to admit that the filmmakers aren’t going out of their way to respect you, your taste or your intelligence. And I put it to you that you deserve better. You deserve meaningful, nourishing, productive entertainment. And if you aren’t looking for that then at the very least you deserve basic competence and coherence. In a year where emotional, intelligent, inspiring genre films like Get Out, Logan and Wonder Woman are readily available options, a film like Transformers: The Last Knight feels like a useless relic.
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Top Photo: Paramount Pictures
William Bibbiani (everyone calls him ‘Bibbs’) is Crave’s film content editor and critic. You can hear him every week on The B-Movies Podcast and Canceled Too Soon, and watch him on the weekly YouTube series What the Flick. Follow his rantings on Twitter at @WilliamBibbiani.