Transformers: The Last Knight (2017)
Transformers: The Last Knight (2017)

Genre: Sci-Fi Adventure Running Time: 2 hrs. 29 min.

Release Date: June 21st, 2017 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Michael Bay Actors: Mark Wahlberg, Anthony Hopkins, Laura Haddock, Josh Duhamel, Santiago Cabrera, Isabela Moner, Jerrod Carmichael, Stanley Tucci, John Turturro, Tony Hale, Peter Cullen, John Goodman

 


 

B

eginning in England during the Dark Ages, “Transformers: The Last Knight” chronicles the involvement of alien beings in the forming of various historical legends. The drunken wizard Merlin (Stanley Tucci, returning to the franchise for an unrelated but nevertheless recognizable role) aids King Arthur, Lancelot, Gawain, and the other notable, storybook knights in defeating the invading Saxons – through the use of a mystical staff that controls a mighty dragon Transformer (something unmistakably similar to Godzilla’s old foe Ghidorah). This opening has a rather impressive production value to it, appearing like one of the higher-budgeted moments from “Game of Thrones,” complete with intricate costumes, makeup, fight choreography, and even animal stunts. But the details and the grandeur are wasted, particularly as director Michael Bay’s signature moviemaking decorations start to poke through. Excessive slow-motion allows viewers to needlessly dwell on commonplace items, while Lancelot shouts heroically and thrusts his sword into the ground – a move that surely designates his valorousness and ability to command armies.

1600 years later, the actual, more relevant story picks up, with Sir Edmund Burton (Anthony Hopkins) narrating gallantly in place of Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen), who has left Earth. Likewise, nemesis Megatron (Frank Welker) has gone missing. In the time that has passed between the events of “Transformers: Age of Extinction,” the Transformer species has been declared to be illegal intruders, with many of them hunted down and destroyed – or contained in alien contamination zones patrolled by Homeland Security. A special division of military police has been formed to isolate these trespassers, leading to continual battles between human-built robots (that look quite a bit like ED-209 from “Robocop”) and innocent Transformers (one of which looks conspicuously like B.O.B. from “The Black Hole”). Caught in the middle is Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg), who spends his time attempting to rescue Autobots that are just trying to survive against hostile human enforcers.

“There’s a weapon out there of unimaginable power.” Rather than simply focusing on this familiar war, a pointlessly complex series of subplots turn up to create more questions than answers. A transforming talisman is some kind of compass for the magical staff that Merlin possessed centuries ago, and it can only be wielded by a blood relative (the discernibly Megan Fox-like British woman, Vivian Wembley, played by Laura Haddock) – but not to control a dragon. Apparently, it’s also a tool for sucking energy from Earth back into Cybertron (the Transformers’ homeworld), as concocted by a strange, brainwashing deity called Quintessa (Gemma Chan). And for some inexplicable reason, Cade is chosen to be the savior of Earth.

Not only have three or four separate storylines been crammed into an excruciatingly overlong picture, but not a single one makes any sense. Locations change constantly, without explaining how all the characters can move back and forth (though they do manage to conjure exotic conveyances from time to time, with shocking ease); children run rampant in postapocalyptic Chicago – getting in the way, building comic repertoire, and then vanishing for the remainder of the film; a polo match is shown in painfully slow motion, along with the plain act of driving from place to place, reenforcing the notion that even the most mundane activities are apparently sources of momentous drama; it’s mentioned that there are seven signs of the apocalypse (yet they’re never specified) leading to a three-day countdown to the end of the world (how predictable); and, without warning, Bumblebee is capable of reassembling his disconnected body parts as if the T-1000 from “Terminator 2: Judgment Day.” Oddly, however, the abundance of flaws in execution are nothing compared to the teemingness of meaningless characters.

From the opening seconds, there’s a perpetual introduction of new characters – for which too little time is given to properly introduce them. Plus, most are entirely unnecessary. When Vivian is first shown, her purpose in the movie is left open-ended – and then not revisited until what feels like an hour later. Agent Simmons (John Turturro) returns, though his role in the previous films is not reiterated; Izabella (Isabela Moner) is a hopelessly stupid, 14-year-old stowaway who unaccountably follows Cade across the world; Lennox (Josh Duhamel) still instructs a team of soldiers, but butts heads with an opposing special forces leader (Santiago Cabrera) – with a chain-of-command utterly absent; Vivian’s mother and three friends chat during multiple scenes about her daughter’s need for a romantic partner; Jimmy (Jerrod Carmichael) is employed to watch over a junkyard sanctuary for the Autobots; and a scientist (Tony Hale) is interminably berated over his use of scientific terms to explain to his superiors how the world is going to perish. Hale’s character, though significant in terms of a Hail-Mary subplot at the climax, is never even given a name (he’s credited as an engineer). Yet most of the other roles with referenced monikers should have been cut out altogether to speed up the proceedings.

There are also plenty of old and new Transformers, though they blend together after awhile, despite the use of exaggerated accents to denote disparate ethnicities for each automaton. This indistinguishability transfers into the action scenes, which utilize grand destruction but tend to cut rapidly, obscure individual maneuvers, and contain such a high level of chaos that it’s difficult to appreciate the intricacies of cars transforming, piece by piece, into humanoid monstrosities. In these hectic moments, it also doesn’t help that the aspect ratio shifts back and forth to generate an irritating shuttering effect. In the end, even with some interesting visuals (the computer graphics have improved since 2014’s entry in the franchise), a few amusing sci-fi inventions, and the clever integration of aliens into world history, “Transformers: The Last Knight” is too long for its own good, working to obscure the entertaining sequences with generic dialogue and repetitive interactions. It keeps going and going until nothing feels impressive – or fun.

– Mike Massie

  • 4/10