Michael Bay has finally done it. He has finally made a Transformers movie that even I, one of the most fervent Transformers fans and apologists, cannot bring myself to defend.
After four movies of whittling away bits of it, Bay has completely and utterly destroyed my childhood with Transformers: The Last Knight.
Oh, you want to know the story first? Well, it goes something like this: Some 1,600 years ago, King Arthur and his knights were about to be overrun by their enemies, but Merlin goes to an old spaceship to ask some ancient Transformers for assistance.
He then gets help from a three-headed robot dragon, as well as some kind of magical staff that allows him to… actually, we have no idea what he does with it, but we’re told it’s quite powerful.
Back in the present day, Transformers are persona non grata in United States, and Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) is helping what’s left of the Autobots to hide away from both Decepticons and the humans’ TRF (Transformers Reaction Farce, sorry, Force).
He later learns that a Cybertronian talisman he found that is the key to finding Merlin’s staff, and is whisked away to Britain where he meets Sir Edmund Burton (Anthony Hopkins, who at least looks like he’s having fun).
Burton is the last living member of the Witwiccan Order, an ancient organisation of Transformers allies, and sends Yeager and beautiful professor Viviane Wembly (Laura Haddock) on a quest to look for the staff.
Meanwhile, after drifting around space for a bit, Optimus Prime lands on a giant space broccoli that is apparently Cybertron, the Transformers’ homeworld.
There, a floating robotic squid lady explains that Merlin’s staff is a powerful Cybertronian artefact that can help revive the dead planet. Optimus agrees to help her restore Cybertron (which is on collision course with Earth), effectively turning into the Autobots, er, nemesis.
Look, as bad as they were, I had always found some redeeming factor in the previous live-action Transformers movies.
The first (and still the best) one appealed to the little kid in me, plus watching Optimus Prime, Bumblebee and gang transform on-screen was a dream come true.
The second (Revenge Of The Fallen) had a terrible story and script, but seeing Optimus combining with Jetfire in the end still got me cheering.
The third (Dark Side Of The Moon) … well, there was Shockwave, Sentinel Prime, and Optimus Prime cutting Megatron’s head off. (Look, I’m grasping at straws here, OK?)
Anyway, the fourth one, The Age Of Extinction, was where I really started losing what little faith I had left in the franchise. But hey, look! There’s Optimus Prime as in his old box truck alternate mode! And the Dinobots! Yeah!
But after watching this latest one, The Last Knight, I found myself hoping to high heavens that this really will be Bay’s final Transformers movie.
Why? Because this isn’t a Transformers movie. It’s an empty, action-packed vessel of loud gunfire and explosions, mighty military muscle, big car crashes, indistinguishable alien shapes crashing into each other that just happens to have some familiar robots and Mark Wahlberg in it.
Any reference or fan service to Transformers lore just comes across more like lip service than anything else.
It’s like Bay and Hasbro’s executives had a meeting one day to throw out names from Transformers history they could shoehorn into the movie. (“We had this line called Headmasters. You should use that. Oh, we had THIS guy and THIS name in the 1986 animated film. You should totally have him in the movie. The fans would love it!”)
Even the age-old argument of “I’m just watching it for the action” doesn’t hold water here.
The movie is action-packed, yes, but it’s all just action for action’s sake. Never have I seen a movie that has so much happening on screen, but with hardly anything actually happening.
At one point, you even wonder who everyone is shooting at, because the action is cut so fast and haphazardly that it’s never clear who the bad guys actually are.
There are plenty of chases too – a car chase, a submarine chase, a drone chase, and even a spaceship chase – but it’s as if everyone is just chasing each other in circles without going anywhere.
Speaking of bad guys, Megatron and the Decepticons are criminally underused, and the broken bad Optimus is completely wasted. Oh, and yes, Optimus, we know what your name is. You don’t have to keep saying “I AM OPTIMUS PRIME” every time you start a sentence.
I could go on and on about just how bad this movie is, and how insulting it is to Transformers fans in general, but I’m running out of space.
So, for the love of Primus, if you love the Transformers — if you REALLY, REALLY love the Transformers — please do yourself a favour: Go watch the cartoons instead. At least they won’t make you feel like a part of your inner spark just died.
Transformers: The Last Knight
Director: Michael Bay
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Josh Duhamel, Stanley Tucci, Anthony Hopkins, John Turturro, Isabela Moner, Laura Haddock