“Transformers: The Last Knight” reminded me of something that I couldn’t quite put my finger on and it wasn’t until I left the theater that the perfect analogy popped into my head. This fifth installment in the Hasbro toy brand franchise is sort of like when you have a really bad case of food poisoning. You start vomiting uncontrollably and think you’re finally done when — surprise — you find yourself running to puke yet again. It’s a never ending stream of upchuck until you’ve expelled the last bits of unpleasantness from your system and it’s finally over, leaving you feeling as good as new.
That pretty much sums up this stupid, flashy, regurgitated summer blockbuster.
If you are already a big fan of this loud, dumb film franchise then you’re going to see this one too and you’re probably going to love it. It’s not quite as bad as some of the other “Transformers” sequels, so that’s at least one positive thing I have to say.
I’m not one of those “high art” snobby film critics either. I actually like Michael Bay and think he’s talented when it comes to great looking visuals (see “Bad Boys II” if you ever doubt the man is a good director), and the earlier parts of this film are quite enjoyable. It’s when the thing deteriorates into a lazy mess of a robot cartoon that it becomes a rambling, puzzling lesson in total and complete incoherence.
It’s sad because the spectacular opening sequence, featuring a battle complete with King Arthur, the wizard Merlin (Stanley Tucci), and a giant dragon, is a considerable hook that’s extremely well done. It actually made me raise the bar a little bit solely based on its enjoyable extravagance. The film doesn’t really veer off into la la land until about halfway through its grueling two and a half hour run time, when it starts to fester and drags on and on and on. If you’re among the strongest willed moviegoers who are voluntarily able to stick with it until the very end, you’ll need to get some fresh air after sitting for what feels like much, much longer.
The movie works when it ties in a good, old fashioned adventure quest plot (a’la “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and “National Treasure”) involving a loony member of a secret society (Anthony Hopkins) and an heir of Merlin (Laura Haddock) instead of the modern day jumble of angry army men (led by Josh Duhamel), our strapping hero mechanic Cade (Mark Wahlberg), and tough alien-fighting teen orphan Izabella (Isabela Moner). I wish Bay had stuck to this adventure theme direction for the story because it is fun and somehow oddly worked within the alien transforming vehicle world and most of all, it actually made sense. Human interaction is far better than phony looking animated robot fights, fiery explosions, nonstop yelling, and shooting.
Dialogue isn’t one of the film’s strengths either, with seven (yes, SEVEN!!) credited “screenwriters” choosing to dumb down the most simplistic of phrases into awkwardly contrived platitudes or laughably wooden statements of the obvious. How these projects manage to attract talent with true acting cred like Wahlberg, Hopkins, and John Turturro is beyond me. Oh, wait a second: it’s all about the Benjamins.
The special effects are first class (too bad the editing and direction of the CGI bits are so chaotic that they blur together and become much more tedious than exhilarating) and deserve a better showcase than this mayhem allows. And I have great news for those of you who love explosions: as is Bay’s trademark, this movie is loaded with so many detonations that if I had to venture a guess, I’d say there are at least two big fireballs for every minute of film.
I’ll leave you with some words of cinematic wisdom: see “Transformers: The Last Knight” if you must, but remember that your ticket purchase will encourage Hollywood to churn out more rubbish exactly like it.