Transformers: The Last Knight is the fifth Transformers movie in ten years, and it does a lot to revise the history of the series. For starters, it opens in a pretty strange place: England in the Dark Ages, amidst a battle involving King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. This is all to establish some new lore: once upon a time, the wizard Merlin was gifted a powerful staff by the Transformers of the time. In present day, Transformers are being hunted down by the government, and Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) is protecting them. Yeager becomes a central figure in the hunt for Merlin’s staff, which will determine the final fate of Earth and all humanity.This movie is nearly 150 minutes, and a lot of that runtime is given over to explaining this new backstory. Previous films already established that there have been Transformers on Earth for far longer than Optimus Prime and his gang. But this movie makes it out that these alien robots have actually played an integral part in human history. It’s just that, amazingly, it’s all been kept hush hush by a secret society for centuries. This doesn’t make any sense whatsoever, but that seems to matter little to the film, which knows that people are just in this for the VFX mayhem.But then it follows that the film shouldn’t have been wasting time on all this exposition so it could just get to the said VFX mayhem much faster. What’s always been strange about these movies is that the titular Transformers are actually just side characters. The movies actually focus on human characters who are all for some reason written to be unpleasant in a misguided attempt to make the movie funny. The robots are ostensibly the main attractions, but the movie doesn’t really show them a whole lot. There’s a whole stretch in this movie where it’s just humans chasing humans, the film seemingly forgetting what the whole thing is supposed to be about.And when we do get to the mayhem, it just isn’t very interesting. It’s actually quite baffling just how bad things have gotten. Michael Bay seems to care less and less about the spatial logic of his scenes. The cuts just don’t make any sense. There is hardly ever a way to tell where everyone involved in a battle is. There’s little sense of where they’re supposed to be going, or what they’re supposed to be avoiding. For most of the film, actually, one might notice that in the heat of battle, there’s hardly ever a shot that contains both a human and a VFX asset. The film cuts between them in different frames, never really establishing their spatial relationship to each other.All that’s left, then is conspicuously expensive garbage. One might note the product placement for a bunch of Chinese companies, since blockbuster filmmaking at this point seems to largely involve exploiting Chinese money. Mark Wahlberg reprises the role of Cade Yeager, which doesn’t really call for a lot from the actor. He is basically playing himself. Anthony Hopkins pops up in a really sad role that mainly has him delivering exposition. Even Hopkins’ general hamminess can’t sell the poor writing. New female cast members Laura Haddock and Isabela Moner are given traces of an arc, but ultimately aren’t given a whole lot to do.Transformers: The Last Knight, at the very end, offers a hook for even more installments of this story. It does this poorly as well, the scene giving very little reason to have confidence that the people guiding this series have any real idea where they want to go, or that the payoff will be worth it. These movies have never really been great, but as they go on, they just feel more and more passionless. The characters become more and more unpleasant. The big action scenes become more and more incoherent. It exists merely for the sake of existing, the brand carrying the day, guaranteeing a certain level of worldwide profit based on little more than passive recognition.
TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT IS NOW SHOWING IN CINEMAS NATIONWIDE.