Movie Review: “Transformers: The Last Knight”

This may sound weird, but the fate of the entire world is at stake in “Transformers: The Last Knight.” Okay, no, I take it back, it doesn’t sound weird at all.

After all, how could the fate of the world not be at stake… again. What sort of terrible disappointment would it be if Michael Bay’s latest installment in the filmic franchise didn’t feature the chance for complete and utter catastrophe for all involved.

Now, when I say “all involved,” I do mean a plethora of people. Not only is Cade Yaeger (Mark Wahlberg) back for his second outing, but after taking a movie off, Josh Duhamel’s Lennox is back as well, as is John Turturro’s Simmons.   For good measure, this movie also adds in Laura Haddock, Isabela Moner, Jerrod Carmichael, Tony Hale, and Anthony Hopkins. Throw in a bunch of Autobots and Decepticons and suddenly you have a large number of characters not all of whom get to be terribly fleshed out (or metaled out in the case of robots?).

For instance, appearing early on in “The Last Knight” is Stanley Tucci. Tucci also appeared 2014’s “Transformers: Age of Extinction,” where he played the evil corporate boss, Joshua Joyce. Joyce was the (unwitting) cause of many of the issues Optimus Prime (voiced in both by Peter Cullen) faced in that film. To some extent, particularly with its ending, that film sets the events of that this one into motion. In “The Last Knight” however, while Tucci does appear, he doesn’t play Joyce. No, instead he plays Merlin. Yes, that Merlin, King Arthur’s wizard. This iteration of the figure of legend is a drunk and a charlatan and is acquainted with Transformers (naturally).

Importantly, it is never once over the course of the film’s nearly two-and-a-half hour runtime made clear if Merlin is somehow connected to Joyce. Why bring Tucci back in a recognizable way if the two characters aren’t related? Presumably they ought to be, but what does it mean that they are?

These are the sorts of questions that can’t be answered watching “The Last Knight.” They need an answer, but there simply isn’t one.

In fact, try as one might, figuring out the “why” behind so much of what happens in the movie is a struggle. I do not wish to give away spoilers here—and I will in fact refrain from doing so—but over and over again as plot points come up, as things progress, as characters move from point A to point B, audiences trying to figure out the “why” behind much (not all) of it will be left scratching their heads.

When it comes to Anthony Hopkins’ character, the man goes from being mostly sensible to incredibly eccentric (if one is being polite) with little rhyme or reason. It just happens. And don’t try to explain his robot servant, Cogman (Jim Carter). The character is endearing, but his existence seems perplexing. The film’s entire subplot about Transformers having been on Earth for more than a millennium and having played a pivotal role in our history during that time is almost baffling.

As for Hopkins’ character, perhaps the change is meant to be a joke. It might not make much sense as one, but “The Last Knight” has a bunch of moments which are seemingly meant to be funny, but never quite get there. This may be because people are spending so much time figuring out what is happening that they simply aren’t prepared to laugh.

Plot aside, “The Last Knight” is mystifying in other ways as well. During some fights in the movie, robots can be destroyed with ease (by both humans and other robots). Then, during other fights (or other moments in the same fights), robots are so very much harder to defeat. One could ask “why,” but again, no answer would be forthcoming.

And now that I’ve written more than 600 words on the problems with the movie—and I could go on with them for another 600—I have to point out that some of the battles are fun to watch. They may not make a lick of sense, but the scale is epic.

Audiences go to “Transformers” movies, presumably, to watch things blow up, to watch robots and humans fight other robots, and to be wowed with the visuals and accompanying audio. Watching “Transformers: The Last Knight” in IMAX 3D is going to give audiences exactly that – it is big and loud and full of exhilarating action sequences. The lack of logic may at times cause someone’s brain to melt, but the action is sure to get the heart pumping.

The robots themselves look amazing and, more often than not, like they are actually present. I may not always know whey they’re present or what they’re doing, but they look like they are truly there.

The CGI, good as it may be, isn’t perfect. As an example, there is a scene with Yaeger in the foreground looking distinctly disconnected from the stuff blowing up in the background. The trick is to not notice Yaeger and to simply focus on the blowing up.

The biggest question with which I am left after watching the movie is whether anyone knows all the ins and outs of the whole thing. I could list out question after question after question about the film and the specifics of the plot and why some characters are there and others not and how any of it is supposed to make sense, but I’m not sure that any definitive answers exist. After watching “The Last Knight” people will hypothesize and sit down in groups and piece together almost plausible explanations, but that’s not the same thing.

It could certainly be that some of the needed answers are sitting on the cutting room floor and that a director’s cut of the movie will up the runtime by 30 minutes and provide the needed answers, but that’s not enough. There are answers that have to be included in the theatrical film itself for it to be a full and complete work and they are not there.

So, if you’re just looking for things to blow up and big robots to fight one another, you could do worse than watching “Transformers: The Last Knight.” Just don’t think too hard about any of it. Instead, put your time and effort into making sure you see it at the biggest, loudest, theater possible.



photo credit: Paramount Pictures

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