What it's about:
An ancient artefact holds the key to saving the world from a new Transformers threat.
What we thought
This being the fifth – fifth! - Transformers movie, it's hard to go in with anything but the worst expectations as every single one of the last four easily rank among the worst blockbusters released this century. Yes, even the first one – which some critics of the series like for some reason. And yet, director Michael Bay has surprised in the past. The Rock and the first Bad Boys were very solid action comedies and he even managed to pull out a surprisingly good black comedy in the form of Pain and Gain a few years back. Granted, I'm still convinced that the latter was good entirely by accident but the point still stands.
So, does Bay redeem himself? Is the latest Transformers movie even remotely worth watching? No. Of course, not. Even the most open of minds can't help but see Transformers: The Last Knight for what it is: An already terrible franchise running out of steam in the most obnoxious, terminally dull way possible. It is, it should be said, arguably the least morally objectionable of them all as the sexual objectification is kept to a minimum and the cultural clichés never quite take a downturn into the casual racism that past entries have been lambasted for but, lets be honest, the political iffiness of the Transformers movies was ever only, at worst, part of the problem.
The problem with the latest Transformers, like all of its predecessors, is that it is just woefully incompetent. It's a strange thing to say about a guy like Michael Bay, who is, at the very least, technically proficient at putting huge spectacle onto our screens and it's no less strange to call “incompetent” a movie with flawless visual effects, an often impressive supporting cast and enough money spent on it to make the whole thing appear, albeit superficially, really impressive. And yet, all of these elements never come even remotely close to gelling together into a cohesive whole.
Take, for example, by far the best thing about the film: Anthony Hopkins. Hopkins' performance here, when taken in isolation, is really good fun as he hams it up to levels that would make William Shatner proud – especially in his interactions with his randomly psychotic C3PO-like Transformer sidekick/ butler. The only problem is that he only ever works when entirely divorced from the meat of the film: The minute he starts spouting exposition he instantly gets lost in everything else that's going on.
And there really is a lot going on. Rather than suffering from a lack of plot, Transformers: The Last Knight suffers from a surplus of plot, with each of the factions – good humans, bad humans, indifferent humans, Autobots, Decepticons, Knight Transformers and a whole bunch of others each have their own things going on. None of it meshes together and none of it makes a lick of sense. And, like past Transformer flicks, the only real entertainment comes from whichever A-list actor they manage to rope in effectively goofing off for a fat paycheck. And these bits almost never have anything to do with what ever else is going on.
This general muddiness is hardly limited to just the plot, though, as Bay's typical utter lack of restraint means that the screen is always overstuffed, meaning that the action scenes are as hard to follow as they are ineffective as they are simply ugly to look at. And, like the rest of the film, they go on forever. And ever.
At this point, there's really no point in talking about the acting or the writing because the former is almost uniformly wooden (Hopkins aside) with Wahlberg being particularly disappointing as this weirdly fine comic actor isn't even given a chance to be unintentionally funny, while the writing, which is credited to no less than three script-writers, is tooth-grindingly bad and is no less adequate at crafting a decent character motivation as it is at crafting a halfway funny “comedic” line. The dialogue in this movie, in general, is really something to behold.
What really stood out for me, though, was just how much “bad language” and sexual innuendos there are in this film. Being in my mid-thirties, I obviously couldn't care less about this but, correct me if I'm wrong, aren't these films supposed to be aimed at young boys well below the inevitable 13 age restriction this one in particular obviously calls for? Frankly, I think it's way too insultingly stupid for even the average seven year old but it can't possibly be aimed at anyone older than that, can it? Horrifyingly, I'm afraid that it is.
But then, this is just indicative of everything wrong about this, and really all, of Bay's Transformers films. It's an ugly, stupid mess of a blockbuster that doesn't know who it's aimed at, what it's trying to achieve or even what story it's trying to tell. That it's basically innocuous rubbish doesn't take away from what it is: Another crass, soulless cash-in on a perfectly acceptable children's property that deserves far better than this. And if it weren't for the fact that cinema goers are still doubtless going to make Transformers: The Last Night an obscene amount of money, I would say so do we.