Director: Michael Bay
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Laura Haddock, Isabela Moner, Anthony Hopkins, Josh Duhamel, Stanley Tucci, John Turturro, Peter Cullen, Frank Welker, John Goodman, Ken Watanabe, John DiMaggio
Runtime: 2 hrs 29 mins
Rating: PG13 (Some Violence)
Released By: UIP
Opening Day: 22 June 2017
Synopsis: The Last Knight shatters the core myths of the Transformers franchise, and redefines what it means to be a hero. Humans and Transformers are at war, Optimus Prime is gone. The key to saving our future lies buried in the secrets of the past, in the hidden history of Transformers on Earth. Saving our world falls upon the shoulders of an unlikely alliance: Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg); Bumblebee; an English Lord (Sir Anthony Hopkins); and an Oxford Professor (Laura Haddock). There comes a moment in everyone's life when we are called upon to make a difference. In Transformers: The Last Knight, the hunted will become heroes. Heroes will become villains. Only one world will survive: theirs, or ours.
Michael Bay had said that ‘The Last Knight’ would be his last ‘Transformers’ movie. We’d thought at first that he would go out on a hurrah, a grand ‘f**k you’ to the critics who have branded his previous four outings utter junk; after all, despite their barrage of criticism, the last two entries ‘Age of Extinction’ and ‘Dark of the Moon’ had each managed to clear US$1billion at the global box office. We’d thought too that the writers room, comprising such notable Hollywood screenwriters as ‘Iron Man’ scribes Art Marcum and Matt Halloway, ‘Black Hawk Down’ scribe Ken Nolan and even ‘A Beautiful Mind’ scribe Akiva Goldsman, would have ensured a more compelling story, a hope that was further boosted by the intriguing twist of Autobots leader Optimus Prime going rogue. Alas, this fifth instalment is even worse than all its predecessors: the plot is even more incoherent, the dialogue is even more grating, and the action is almost thrill-less.
It starts off as a King Arthur/ Lancelot ripoff, going back to the Dark Ages when the fate of Britain was hanging in the balance. A hopelessly sloshed Merlin (Stanley Tucci, whose role here bears no relation to his previous in ‘Age of Extinction’) approaches an alien spacecraft to beg for help to save his country, and receives in return a magical staff as well as a fire-breathing metal dragon. There is no secret King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table end up winning the war, but even better, they are joined around the Table by twelve guardians who swear to protect the staff. Fast-forward to 1,600 years later and things have apparently only gotten worse on Earth despite the Autobots’ victory at the end of ‘Extinction’: humans have gotten even more jaded of the robots, establishing a new paramilitary force dubbed the TRF to keep them in check; Prime remains MIA in deep space, leaving his fellow Autobots Bumblebee, Hound (John Goodman) and Drift (Ken Watanabe) in limbo; Mark Wahlberg’s scruffy reluctant hero Cade Yeager is on the run from the authorities for harbouring the Autobots, forced to spend his days at a junk yard apart from his daughter; and there is no seeming end in sight to the robots who keep raining down from the sky to threaten Earth’s peace.
It will end as an Independence Day ripoff, fuelled by maniacal villainess Quintessa (voiced by Gemma Chan) who brainwashes Prime into helping her retrieve Merlin’s staff to revive their once-majestic planet Cybertron. Cade, along with a skeptical British historian Vivian Wembley (Laura Haddock) and a loose alliance comprising of TRF and US Army forces led by returning character Colonel William Lennox (Josh Duhamel), will eventually have to fly up 21,000 feet into the sky, evade Decepticons disguised as fighter jets, and destroy the chamber where Quintessa is using the power of the staff to drain Earth’s core. Everything else in between is just filler – including a somewhat supercilious English lord Sir Edmond Burton (Anthony Hopkins) who dutifully helps Cade and Vivian unpack the Arthurian/ Transformers legend, a precocious 14-year-old orphan Izabella (Isabella Moner) who insists on tagging along with Cade, and the new Transformers additions of a smart-talking C3PO-ripoff butler Cogman (Downtown Abbey’s Jim Carter), a French-accented bot Hot Rod (Omar Sy) capable of freezing time as well as a cute but ugly BB8-ripoff Sqweeks that Izabella puts into service.
Whatever promise that Prime turning against his Autobots might have suggested turns out to be little more than a gimmick – not only is Prime missing for about three-quarters of the movie, his confrontation with Cade, Lennox and eventually Bumblebee lasts for ten minutes at most. That leaves the rest of the story a largely crude recycled assembly: some parts adapted from ‘The Da Vinci Code’, some parts from ‘Terminator’ and even one part from straight out of a World War II movie. The banter, frenetic as ever, is shockingly devoid of humour. Besides a scene where Edmond chides Cogman for adding unnecessary dramatic emphasis to his narration of the revisionist Merlin legend, the back-and-forth between the characters is leaden and even exasperating, with often no other purpose than to fill out whatever silence is left between the clanging of metal and the overbearing Steve Jablonsky score. If there is any consolation, it is that Wahlberg proves a more engaging leading man than Shia LaBeouf ever was and that Hopkins adds dignity that none of the other chapters ever had.
But perhaps the most disappointing element of ‘The Last Knight’ is its action, which is terrible by Bay’s standards. You could argue that the sequences in ‘Age of Extinction’ were somewhat protracted, but they had at least proper rhythm and pacing. Here, except for the finale, Bay never seems to finish what he starts. The prologue with Arthur’s army besieged by enemy forces never gets a rousing end; the confrontation between Cade and the TRF at a no-go zone in Chicago ends prematurely when Lennox shows up; a surprise attack by the Decepticons on Cade’s hideout stops abruptly with the former’s retreat; the TRF’s pursuit of Cade, Vivian and Sir Edmond unfolds in stops and starts and never builds into anything engaging; and last but not least, a showdown between an Autobot submarine and one of the US navy’s ships concludes with two warning shots. Even the climax lacks scale, scope and impact that should be expected of no less than global annihilation, reduced to aerial shootouts and a lot of weightless spinning.
If the last four critically derided ‘Transformers’ stood for anything, it was for Bay-hem – in other words, Bay’s signature bombastic, overblown action complete with slo-mo shots and plenty of explosions – and the fact that ‘The Last Knight’ cannot pass muster on that account makes it an unmitigated failure. Like we said at the start, we’d thought Bay would go out on a bang. This isn’t just a whimper unfortunately; it’s an unmitigated disaster that leaves us hoping that it will indeed be the final, the end, the last ever ‘Transformers’ movie we’d have to endure.
(The absolute worst of the 'Transformers' franchise, this fifth - and hopefully last - entry by Michael Bay lacks even the director's signature thrilling action bombast, and is just thuddingly dull)
Review by Gabriel Chong