Transformers: The Last Knight (2017)

06/22/2017  By  Joseph Wade     No comments

Hello, my name is Joseph Wade and I am a sucker.

I let Michael Bay tease me with the prospect of an interesting Transformers sequel, and I was dumb enough to believe he would actually deliver it. At the end of Age of Extinction, Optimus Prime leaves Earth in search of his Cybertronian creators, apparently intent on killing them. You can’t end a movie with its main character on a quest to find and kill God and not expect me to want to see that. But alas, Bay has tossed that thread in the garbage in favor of… Whatever the hell The Last Knight is. In his attempt to go big and crazy with the lore of the Transformers universe, Bay winds up taking a steaming robo-dump all over King Arthur.

There are a lot of moving pieces to this junkyard of a plot, and very few of them actually connect and work together. It’s more a hodgepodge of plot points loosely assembled by Michael Bay, Akiva Goldsman, and a handful of other “screenwriters” than an actual working story. Just accept it now that none of what follows is going to make sense.

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Like I said.

The film opens with an extended sequence set in “The Dark Ages”.

King Arthur and his knights are in a losing battle against the Saxon hordes, and Arthur promises his men that Merlin will come to their rescue. Merlin then enters the film, drunk as a skunk and begging ancient Autobots for help. They give him a magic robot staff, the rules of which are never actually explained, and then they turn into a three-headed dragon that single-handedly wipes out the Saxons. Merlin here is played by Stanley Tucci for some reason, who back in Age of Extinction played the businessman who accidentally resurrected Megatron. The two characters, unfortunately, are not related.

Anyway, the actual plot here is that Megatron has teamed up with Corporal Lennox (Josh Duhamel, back for more) and the US military to find Merlin’s staff in order to stop Cybertron from merging with the Earth and draining it of its lifeforce. It’s up to World’s Greatest Dad Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) and the remaining Autobots to foil this plan because—hold onto your pants—Megatron is actually evil. Nobody acknowledges the fact that this was literally the plot of Dark of the Moon, only this time there’s a whole middle act in which Yeager learns he’s been chosen as the “last knight” of King Arthur’s roundtable to save the Earth from destruction.

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In this scene, Megatron meets a bunch of lawyers in the desert to negotiate the release of his idiot goons.

Yeager learns this in a bizarrely intricate infodump from Sir Edmund Burton (Anthony Hopkins, because why the hell not). Burton introduces himself as the last surviving member of the Order of the Witwiccans, a secret society of humans dedicated to protecting Transformers through the ages. This explanation is hilarious for a number of reasons. For starters, it heavily implies that Sam Witwicky has been murdered. There’s even a little “in memoriam” shot where they show a very unflattering photo of Shia LeBeouf mixed in with the likes of Benjamin Franklin and Albert Einstein. Second, it completely retcons what the previous movies have shown us about Transformers and their relation to humans. Third, it allows for an amazing flashback sequence in which we learn that Bumblebee helped the Allies fight Nazi Germany in World War II. If this movie had just been the ridiculous secret history of Transformers, it honestly would have been great.

While Hopkins is busy delivering some of the most batshit insane exposition of his entire career, we’re introduced to his butler, a short robot named Cogman (Jim Carter). I hesitate to call him a Transformer, because he never actually transforms into anything. Cogman is like if C-3PO had been played by Chet from Weird Science. He’s obnoxious and he wants to fight everybody, but he never drops his proper manners and British accent. The relationship between Burton and Cogman is easily the best thing about the film. You can tell Hopkins is having way too much fun arguing with a CGI robot, and he savors every rancid piece of dialogue they cram into his mouth.

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Hot Rod, this is no time to play the circle game.

And I haven’t even mentioned Dr. Wembley (Laura Haddock) yet. Wembley is a professor of Arthurian legend who turns out to be the last living ancestor of Merlin. She’s forced to join Yeager on his quest to find the staff because only someone from the house of Merlin can wield it, and I can actually feel myself getting dumber with each passing sentence. The whole point of Wembley’s character is that her family constantly nags her to find a man and settle down. Enter Yeager, who you’ll remember is called upon to be one of Arthur’s knights. The movie makes a big joke out of the fact that these two desperately need to get laid, so it constantly shoves them into each other’s arms like a romantic comedy. Then Cogman shows up and reminds Yeager that a knight must remain chaste. He even does this while setting up a romantic candlelit dinner for the two of them on a submarine. Either let them bone down or don’t, you asshole.

Bay is so, so close to finally having a coherent Transformers movie on his hands.

That’s the most frustrating thing about this whole movie. I don’t know if practice is making perfect or if Stockholm Syndrome is finally setting in, but we’ve reached a point where these Transformers movies are the new normal. It’s hard to remember a time before Transformers movies. Bay has a firmer grasp on the language of cinema than he did ten years ago, but the story he’s committed to telling in The Last Knight is utter gibberish. He’s got these movies down to a science. A mind-numbing, explosion-filled science that can’t conceivably please anyone but himself, but a science nonetheless. Now if only he could find a Transformers story actually worth telling.

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Just before she blacked out, Wembley wondered why Optimus Prime had lips.

And to add insult to injury, the movie ends on a tease for yet another sequel. This time, the tease is a lot less enticing than “Optimus Prime wants to kill God.” Instead, it’s a vague, Marvel-esque tease that the planet-eating Transformer Unicron is coming. (Except that this movie states in no uncertain terms that the Earth is actually Unicron, and Bay just breezes right on past this revelation like it’s nothing.) Sorry, Bay. You’re not gonna pull one over on me this time. That’s it. We’re done. I’m out. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me five times, well… Let’s just say I’m ashamed of us all.

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About Joseph Wade

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Joseph Wade is secretly three bulldogs in a trenchcoat. Their favorite movie is Turner & Hooch.

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