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Transformers: The Last Knight

TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT

˝ Star (out of 4)

Director: Michael Bay

Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Anthony Hopkins, Laura Haddock, Josh Duhamel, Santiago Cabrera, Isabela Moner, Jerrod Carmichael, Glenn Morshower, Tony Hale, Gemma Chan, John Turturro, Stanley Tucci, Liam Garrigan, the voices of Peter Cullen, Frank Welker, Erik Aadahl, John Goodman, Ken Watanabe, Jim Carter, Steve Buscemi, Omar Sy, Reno Wilson, John DiMaggio, Tom Kenny, Jess Harnell 

MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for violence and intense sequences of sci-fi action, language, and some innuendo)

Running Time: 2:28

Release Date: 6/21/17


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Review by Mark Dujsik | June 20, 2017

Can a series of movies about giant robots, which can transform from humanoid figures into various vehicles, that are fighting over the fate of Earth jump the proverbial shark? It seems like a stretch, considering that these movies are based on action figures and typically have plots that mirror the playtime stories that a less-imaginative child might have, but the screenplay for Transformers: The Last Knight seems set on accomplishing the goal of turning these very silly movies into something that is somehow even sillier indeed.

Our story opens some 1600 years in the past—England in the Dark Ages, as the titles put it. There's a battle unfolding, complete with swords and flaming balls launched from catapults. Because this is yet another loud-noise-and-pyrotechnic show with little concern for visual continuity or coherence from director Michael Bay, you'd better believe that the flaming ammunition also explodes on occasion. These explosions occur with no rhyme or reason, of course, except the rationale that Bay believes an explosion would look cool in this one shot, as opposed to the multiple other shots of the balls landing intact and rolling across the field of battle. To expect consistency from these movies would be to slowly go mad over the course of about 10 hours (over 12 with this installment), spread out this past decade.

Anyway, the Britons are being led by King Arthur (Liam Garrigan), who has a fairly significant speaking role for being the odd hook for the plot's back story. That doesn't take into account the fact that Arthur was, by almost all scholarly accounts, fictional, but this movie presupposes that he wasn't, for the same reason that kids playing with these toys might pretend that their favorite transforming robot also helped to fight the Nazis during World War II. That is also a thing that happens in this movie, by the way.

To get to the point, Arthur, his knights, and the round table were all very real here, and so, too, was Merlin (Stanley Tucci, improvising some lame shtick after downing a store-bought bottle of liquor that has been not-too-convincingly covered in a leather satchel by the props department). Merlin met the Transformers when they first arrived. Maybe it was well after their arrival, since the movie also features some robot dinosaurs. Those robots do not transform, because what kid would want giant, robotic dinosaurs to turn into anything else?

What's the point of all of this? That's a fantastic question, and it's one that screenwriters Art Marcum, Matt Holloway, and Ken Nolan answer by means of another MacGuffin with world-destroying-or-saving powers, over which the robots occasionally battle while the human characters explain everything that we've learned in the prologue over and over again. The movie either doesn't need the prologue or doesn't need the constant exposition, although to suggest the latter would mean that about a quarter of the screenplay would fall victim to the delete key. On second thought, that—and then some—might have been a good strategy.

The humans come in the familiar—Mark Wahlberg as amateur inventor Cade Yaeger, Josh Duhamel continuing what must seem like a stint in purgatory as a generic military guy, John Turturro literally phoning in his performance from a payphone next to a wall in Havana—and new varieties. Of the new characters, we get Vivian Wembley (Laura Haddock), a learned woman who, in the tradition of this series' none-too-thinly veiled sexism, is overworked, undersexed, and a bad driver, to boot. Anthony Hopkins gets into the game of being a talented actor having his talents wasted for millions across the globe to see, playing the last remnant of a secret order that protects the secret history of the Transformers' secret existence on Earth. He narrates the prologue, of course, and even gets to tell us, "At last, it begins." Unfortunately, that line comes at the half-hour mark.

The good guys want Merlin's staff to stop Quintessa (Gemma Chan), the creator of the Transformers who has turned the once-again-useless-until-the-third-act Optimus Prime (voice of Peter Cullen) into a villain, from crashing the robots' home planet into Earth. The bad guys want it to help tentacle-bottomed villain, whose defeat is anti-climactically easy to the point that it's laughable, accomplish her plan. Somehow, this plot stretches out for almost two and a half hours. At the end, Transformers: The Last Knight promises yet another sequel (with the closing voice-over and a mid-credits scene). At least it'll take a lot of effort for the follow-up to be worse than this.

Copyright © 2017 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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