I am thoroughly convinced that since he knows they will make money regardless of quality, Michael Bay has made these films louder, longer and more incoherent just as punishment to film critics who are forced to watch them.
“Transformers: The Last Knight” is the fifth film of director Michael Bay’s “Transformers” series and follows Mark Wahlberg who must go on the run to help the Autobots find the ancient staff of Merlin in order to stop the Transformers’ home planet from destroying the earth [eyeroll]. Josh Duhamel, Anthony Hopkins and Laura Haddock also star as Bay again directs (in what he insists is his final film of the franchise).
The first “Transformers” film is pretty universally accepted as a fun summer blockbuster and I myself really enjoyed it when it came out over 10 years ago, and the sequels are mostly just noise (although I am an apologist for the second film, there’s something entertaining about just how bad it is). However like most people I *hated* “Age of Extinction” and assumed that any fifth film would just be more of the same; for the most part, I was right.
I know the easy thing to say to anyone like me who will review a film like this is “well you went in wanting to hate it” and that’s really not true. Like I said, I like the first film and will even defend the second and third as fun popcorn flicks with enjoyable performances from Shia LaBeouf. I even think that when he actually tries, Michael Bay is a talented director; he knows how to stage action sequences and when given a good script he can even have a sense of humor (“The Rock” remains one of the best action films ever made). But “The Last Knight,” while ever so slightly better than “Age of Extinction,” is everything people have grown to hate about Bay’s films and represent everything wrong with modern Hollywood.
First things first, this film is two hours, 26 minutes long. While 20 minutes shorter than the last film, it has no right being this long; it doesn’t earn it, nor does it even need to be. The people who actually like these films come to see colorful robots fight each other and probably don’t have the largest attention spans; give them a 90 minute romp, not a Scorsese epic. The pacing of the second half of this film is so abysmal that when the big fight between Optimus Prime and the other Transformers finished it felt like we had just witnessed the climax; turns out there was still over 30 minutes left. When the next scene began I heard a solid four or five people in my theater groan.
The actual climax of the film is the worst thing to happen to cinema in the last three years (you know, since the last “Transformers” film). It is so bloated, so loud, so needlessly confusing and so devoid of anything resembling emotion or cause that it is almost deplorable; I was getting physically tired watching what was onscreen and began rooting for the film to just end.
Anthony Hopkins is in this movie and following his performance in this year’s “Collide” it’s clear that he has given up caring about his career. And I mean God bless him, he has his Oscar and has earned the right to do paycheck films; most of his scenes in this take place in sports cars and a castle, both of which I’m convinced are actually his that he bought with the checks from this film. Stanley Tucci plays Merlin (instead of reprising his role from the last film) and in his one scene chews scenery like only he can and Mark Wahlberg plays himself with something occasionally resembling a Texan accent and he is fine, but as with the last film this film isn’t about dialogue it’s about action. After all, how will the studio pander and appeal to all those Chinese audiences if half the film is clever dialogue that will get lost in translation?
Michael Bay keeps making up rules and powers for the Transformers, with them this time being about to shoot bullets that slow down time and being able to reassemble themselves upon being destructed. It’s cool but gets old fast before being used as a deus ex machina. And the continuity of the plot continues to be lazily altered. In the first film the Transformers say it’s the first time they were on Earth, except then in the second film they built the pyramids and in the 4th they killed the dinosaurs and now they apparently helped King Arthur and aided in defeating the Nazis. I know I shouldn’t care about the plot, it’s a “Transformers” movie, but if Bay is going to be that sloppy then it has to be condemned.
And one final thing, speaking of sloppy: the aspect ratio of the film changes way too often. In an IMAX film, oftentimes action scenes are shot in full screen and then dialogue sequences return to having the black bars on the top and bottom. Only here (and I saw it in normal 2D), the black bars appear and reappear from one shot to the other, even in straight-up talking scenes, and it is distracting and very annoying.
OK, I’m at near 900 words on “Transformers: The Last Knight” and while I’m sure I could vent for a thousand more I’m going to let both of us move on with our day. Look, you knew this movie was going to be bad and no review was going to change whether or not you were going to see it. But it needs to be said that this film is needlessly long, awkwardly unfunny and visually unappealing, and the fact that “The Last Knight” won’t be the last “Transformers” film makes me die a little inside.
Critics Rating: 3/10