I don’t even know where to start.
If you are looking forward to this movie, then you’ll be happy to know that it is a notable improvement over the previous Transformers movie. “Age of Extinction” was almost universally disliked by both critics AND audience members but somehow still managed to gross over a billion dollars worldwide. That movie, which was Michael Bay’s fourth entry into the series was clearly just a formulaic exercise for him. He reused visual gags and motion from the previous films, had sections with incomplete special effects, cut corners on multiple on CGI, and increased product placement by roughly 300%. What’s worse is the feeling that Bay’s heart just wasn’t in it. A bad movie is a bad movie, but a bad movie with a dash of madness is at least watchable. For better or worse, Bay is clearly trying again with “The Last Knight” In fact, the 2 ½ hour film becomes a sheer spectacle of overcompensation.
The movie opens in the midst of a massive battle, which we are told is taking place during “The Dark Ages.” Noble Knights in armor appear to be losing ground against a horde of villainous brutes. The King leading these knights is none other than Arthur himself, played by “Once Upon a Time’s” Arthur, Liam Garrigan. In desperation, a very drunk Merlin(Stanley Tucci) has run off to retrieve magic that will turn the tide of their war. Since we know the type of movie we are in, we have a pretty good idea of what this “magic” will be. (and you wouldn’t be wrong)
Flash forward 1500 years (Yup, it literally says “1,500 years later” on the screen) and Chicago is still in post-apocalyptic ruins, South Dakota looks suspiciously like Arizona, and Europe is apparently just peachy. To summarize the rest of the plot at this point would be a fool’s errand. It would take well over 1,000 words and would still make no sense. But does the plot really matter when all the expected elements are still there:
- Another Cybertronian relic, that just happens to be on Earth
- Megatron trying to destroy the world
- Optimus Prime equally kicking ass and having his kicked
- Humans saying dumb things
- Humans doing dumb things
- Robots speaking in dumb (racist) accents
- Mass destruction
- More locations than the last 3 Bond movies combined
- Sexy Vehicles
- Underage women
Since it has everything we’d expect from another Bay-Former Flick, let’s discuss the unexpected elements “The Last Knight” has. First off, it’s likely one of the most ambitious movies I’ve ever seen, and certainly, the most ambitious Bay has ever attempted. There is enough story elements, locations, and time periods to easily fill 2 or 3 movies. It’s odd that they would try and cram so much into one film when they could have made a standalone trilogy for essentially the same cost. This overabundance of story leads to all sorts of problems. It’s nearly impossible to tell what’s going on, especially during the film’s climax when the already chopping editing reaches a feverish pace. The other problem is when there are moments of potential brilliance, such as the fleeting WWII flashback, it’s over before it can be appreciated. There’s also not enough time spent on “vehicle porn”, something the Fast/Furious franchise realizes is still important. Bay spends more time languishing over the ankles of young women than he does over the amazing curves and rivets on the true stars of the Transformer films. Everything moves along at such a breakneck pace that some transformers never actually transform, and a MAJOR character inclusion ends up as nothing more than a footnote.
Bay has liberally borrowed from himself over the years, but the extent to which “The Last Knight” borrows from others is shocking. There are clear references to “The Iron Giant”, “Stranger Things” (or any 1980’s Spielbergian group of kids movie), “Wall-E”, “Star Wars”, “Metal Gear Solid”, “Tomb Raider”, “Age of Ultron”, and “The Abyss.” Sadly, he doesn’t seem to be borrowing any dialog from others, as there seems to be a maximum 5 word-per-sentence limit for the main cast. The screenwriters, if they can be called that, have written some truly bizarre exchanges, including incredibly painful attempts at Witty Banter between the two romantic leads. (Again, if they can be called that.) When an Englishwoman with multiple PhDs is actually “impressed” that an American “inventor” was able to quote Arthur C. Clarke, you know we aren’t dealing with the sharpest pencils in the box. Unfortunately, he doesn’t go on to quote Sherlock, because it would have been a great running joke if he could only quote Arthur C.’s It must be incredibly taxing to try and write characters who are vastly more intelligent than oneself?
“The Last Knight” is the best Transformer movie in the past five years. The effects are great. Even the 3D is really good if you care about that sort of thing. And, to be fair, you WILL see things you’ve never seen before, and will likely never see again. (Like a REAL Knight’s body flying through the air with Stonehenge in the background.) But, this assault on the senses, logic, and laws of physics may drive adult viewers to the brink of sanity.