September 24, 2017


Starring Mark Wahlberg, Josh Duhamel, Laura Haddock, Anthony Hopkins, Stanley Tucci, Isabela Moner, Jerrod Carmichael, Santiago Cabera, John Turturo, Glenn Morshower, Liam Garrigan. Directed by Michael Bay. (2017, 154 min).

I'm pretty certain if you were to remove any scenes of exposition, only the most hard-core fan could differentiate one Transformers movie from another. Such an assertion could be considered praise or condemnation, depending on one's taste. After all, I enjoyed the Final Destination series, but concede it's essentially the same story over and over again.

After an admittedly intriguing prologue - during King Arthur's crusade - that briefly suggests Michael Bay and company might actually try something different, Transformers: The Last Knight returns to business as usual: Two-and-a-half butt-numbing hours of massive destruction, logistically impossible action, seizure inducing editing, a growing cast of superfluous supporting characters (Anthony Hopkins? Really, sir?) and, of course, plenty of Autobots spouting eye-rolling wisecracks.

"Hey...does this look infected?"
I expected all this coming in, but it remains perplexing that, after five movies, Bay - director of all of them -  hasn't come up with anything new to do with this so-called saga. I've done my fare share of Bay bashing over the years and am certainly not a fan, but he has demonstrated flashes of real narrative skill now and again, such as the under-appreciated 13 Hours and the morbidly amusing Pain and Gain. Even in The Island, Bay spent a significant amount of time on the film's themes and characters before igniting his usual visual bombast.

But in the Transformers business (I think business is the right word), Bay treats every action sequence like the climax of a 4th of July fireworks show, overwhelming the viewer with so much hyperkinetic eye candy that it's frustratingly impossible to take it all in. Yet ironically, despite the best CGI money can buy, the special effects call way too much attention to themselves to ever be really convincing. And because these scenes go on forever, they become repetitive & boring. I ended up repeatedly skipping back to catch what I missed because I kept nodding off.

Sir Hopkins takes his tank for a walk.
Acting in a Transformers movie must be as thankless as being the bass player in Metallica. You don't serve a hell of a lot of purpose other than reacting to the action while dodging flying robot appendages. At the same time, I'm continually staggered by the caliber of talent who shows up in these things, and the list just keeps getting bigger. Here, only Stanley Tucci - in a blink-and-you'll-miss-him cameo - rises above the material to give the film's best performance. As for Wahlberg...he does what he does best, which is be Mark Wahlberg, who's admittedly more enjoyable than Shia LaBeouf on a good day. At first, I assumed Anthony Hopkins simply agreed to lend his respected name for an amusing cameo (like Helen Mirren did in Fate of the Furious). But no, it's actually a major role, so maybe those Hannibal Lecter residual checks have finally stopped rolling in.

But I'm fully aware criticizing a movie like Transformers: The Last Knight is an exercise in futility. It isn't intended for people who still cynically bother to question how these machines could even exist in the first place, or who would bother to build them. It's for those who simply want the same over-the-top spectacle they've enjoyed since 2007. After all, I wouldn't want the Final Destination films to skimp on the gore to become character studies. On the other hand, their utter sameness is also why I stopped seeing them in theaters after the second one. Maybe that's one of the reasons The Last Knight wasn't the same box office juggernaut as the others. Still, if you liked the previous films, there's no reason you won't enjoy this one.

FEATURETTES: "Merging Mythologies: The Secret Transformers History"; "Climbing the Ranks: Military Training"; "The Royal Treatment: Transformers in the UK"; "Alien Landscape: Cybertron"; "One More Giant Effin' Movie" (sure it is); "Motors and Magic"

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