Review: ‘Last Knight’ the Latest Rubble Atop the Transformers Scrap Heap
See! Knightly Robots defend King Arthur and transform into a giant fire-breathing dragon.
See! Giant robots blasting Nazis during a gala WWII event.
See! Hong Kong get ‘scraped off the face of the Earth.’
See! A vivacious Anthony Hopkins attempting to make sense of it all.
See all this and so much more in Transformers: The Last Knight, a 2.5-hour exercise in ‘wait… what?!’ that fails to further advance the Transformers mythology, deliver a coherent storyline, or even make good on the giant robot action.
When Guy Ritchie delivered a version of King Arthur that seemed to come out of a British gangster flick, I wondered if I’d ever see a more ridiculous take on the classic legend.
One month later, Transformers 5 opens with the knights of the round table defending their country from invasion until a giant robot dragon swoops in and carries them into victory. It has been summoned by Merlin (Stanley Tucci), presented here as not a magician but a drunkard who stumbled upon a giant robot in a cave and was given a Transformer-summoning staff in return for his silence.
With a line or two of narration about magic, Anthony Hopkins valiantly attempts to make sense of what we’re seeing, and why we’re seeing it.
Later, the film stops dead in its tracks for a 30-minute sequence in which Hopkins’ character explains the plot of the movie. This would normally be a bad thing, but it’s the finest part of The Last Knight and perhaps the whole series: director Michael Bay gets an invigorated performance from the Oscar-winning actor, who spouts off Transformers backstory with such fiery flair it’s as if he really truly believes in all of it.
You see, Hopkins’ Sir Edmund is part of a long line of The Order of Transformers, who, uh… well, he has a robot butler named Cogsworth, and assembles the descendant of Merlin (Laura Haddock, a UK version of Megan Fox) to reclaim the magic staff and the titular Last Knight, Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) for, uh… for some purpose. To save the world, I guess. Yes.
In seems to make sense when Hopkins is running through the exposition, in any event. And if you don’t think the film will pause for a Transformers vs. Nazis flashback when his character mentions their participation in WWII, well, you don’t know the Transformers series by now.
Unlike previous films in the series, this one isn’t an all-out assault on the senses. At least until an 30-minute climax during which Cybertron, the Transformers’ home planet, crashes into the Earth (and stays there!) and yet somehow everything is just hunky-dory because the good robot beats the bad robot by the finale.
During the big planet-colliding climax of the film, I had no idea what was going on. On either story level or an action level: characters float around the screen trying to do… something… while Bay cuts to a wide shot of the two planets colliding. So, uh, they’re in there, I guess. Somewhere.
By this point, what they’re trying to do escaped me as well. The Decepticons, led by Megatron and the ‘Goddess’ Quintessa, are trying to bring Cybertron back to life by having it… absorb the Earth? Anyway, it’s on a crash course with our planet, flashbacks to Bay’s Armageddon.
Cybertron does indeed crash into Earth: it’s so big that it reaches Antarctica, Britain, and Hong Kong at the same time. I presume billions are killed, but the film only mentions ‘tens of millions’ while we see Hong Kong and other cities ‘scraped off the face of the Earth.’
And yet Wahlberg’s Last Knight valiantly leads the Autobots and US military into battle over Stonehenge, Haddock touches the magic staff, and Optimus Prime punches the bad guys until they’re off the screen. Yay?
The characters celebrate, but the film ends with this planet-sized planet stuck on top of Earth. That can’t be good.
Despite all the nonsense on-screen, there’s a wealth of political commentary on display; if anyone will study these Transformers films in the future (and a pray that they will), they’ll find direct allusions to both the war on Islamic terrorism (those damn Decepticons making a bad name for everyone) and the plight of the Jewish people (these modern-day Golems are stranded on Earth without a home).
In The Last Knight, there’s even an extended sequence that references the recent Dakota pipeline standoff, featuring a Native American sheriff attempting to prevent paramilitary forces from invading ‘protected land’ to confront the Autobots. In timeliness, it rivals the second (or was it third?) film, which blamed Barack Obama for letting the Transformers through our borders.
If you’re going into Transformers 5, I pray you know to expect by now. The Last Knight is neither the worst nor the best of these movies, but another one that now exists.