Transformers: The Last Knight (2017) Review

In this fifth instalment of the Transformers movies, the fate of humanity lies on the buried treasure of an ancient magical staff.

There’s a saying that “when you watch a Transformers movie in the cinema, it’s best to leave your brain at the door, sit back and enjoy the ride”. Personally, I don’t mind if Michael Bay wanted his viewers to treat the Transformers movies nothing more than just being a mindless popcorn blockbuster. Of course, even if that’s the case, such statement is only justified as long as there are plenty of worthwhile entertainment values. Thankfully, it certainly applies to all previous four Transformers movies and yes, even for the critically-reviled 2009 first sequel of Revenge of the Fallen has its moments.

But this time, Transformers: The Last Knight finally hits an all-time low in the history of the series. It was so outrageously bad that even the action set-pieces, which is often the series’ least lifesaver, fail to offset this train wreck of a movie. Before I get to the action part, let’s start with the plot. First of all, it’s finally nice to see the series omitted regular screenwriter Ehren Kruger, who previously wrote three Transformers movies and replaced with a “writers room” spearheaded by veteran Akiva Goldsman. This screenwriting team is specially assembled to come up with multiple ideas for creating a world-building of Transformers‘ own shared universe. Then again, despite enlisting Iron Man scribes Art Marcum and Matt Holloway alongside Ken Nolan of Black Hawk Down fame, Transformers: The Last Knight turns out to be an incomprehensible mess.

Although I admire the screenwriters’ contribution of expanding the series’ mythology with historical undertones (in this case, the Arthurian legend and a bit of Nazi era), the execution is haphazardly mashed altogether without even bother a little thing called coherence. From the lengthy medieval-set prologue complete with Stanley Tucci’s embarrassingly bad performance as the drunken Merlin to the exposition-heavy storyline involving Anthony Hopkins’ Sir Edmund Burton explaining every history and connection related to the movie’s title, Transformers: The Last Knight clearly expect us to absorb and process all the information into our brain cells in just one sitting. And unfortunately, this kind of movie doesn’t even deserve a second viewing even if you have trouble deciphering the plot. Not to mention the dialogues are cringe-worthy and it’s really sad to see a screen veteran like Anthony Hopkins has to stoop this low playing an awfully pretentious performance.

As for the rest of the actors, Mark Wahlberg returns with the same old average performance as Cade Yeager since appearing in Age of Extinction three years ago. Isabela Moner, who is heavily promoted in the trailers as the teenage Izabella, seems like a significant character at first during the beginning. But her role turns out to be an unnecessary filler that serves little purpose to advance the plot. Then there’s Laura Haddock, the British actress best known for TV’s Da Vinci’s Demons. Here, her role as a so-called Oxford professor is nothing more than a typical eye candy that looks like a UK version of Megan Fox. Josh Duhamel and John Turturro, who both reprised their respective roles as Colonel William Lennox and Agent Simmons, merely show up for fan service.

Now, for the robots. Optimus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen), often playing the pivotal role in the Transformers series so far, is sadly sidelined most of the running time in this latest instalment. Yes, there is a potentially interesting moment scene where he turns into the dark side. But that “Optimus gone bad” is more like a spur of the moment and then quickly brushed off with a narrative shortcut. Well, you just have to see it for yourself to know what I’m talking about. The rest of the robot characters are largely forgettable as well, even for the fan-favourite appearance of Bumblebee (voiced by Erik Aadahl). Of course, a Transformers movie wouldn’t be complete without a comical robot. As a result, Bay introduces a robot named Cogman (voiced by Jim Carter of TV’s Downton Abbey), who serves as Sir Edmund Burton’s “sociopathic” butler and he happens to be one of the most annoying non-human characters ever seen in the series.

Finally, the action. What was once the saving grace for a Transformers movie turns out to be a complete opposite in this fifth instalment. In the past, Bay knows his way around when comes to staging impressive larger-than-life action set-pieces that are best experienced on the biggest screen possible. Sure, we still get all the usual big Bayhem moments, complete with huge explosions, car chases and whatnots. He even gets his chance to shoot 98% with IMAX cameras, a distinction that becomes the first major Hollywood movie ever to do so.

But that distinction doesn’t mean a thing if he and his cinematographer Jonathan Sela shoot the movie in such a hyperactive mode like two persons suffering from epilepsy. Given the fact the movie is meant to be enjoyed on the IMAX screen for maximum cinematic experience, I find the viewing rather torturous to the eyes. Imagine wearing an IMAX 3D glasses during the show and you are forced to concentrate the action-heavy moments occurred all at once. If that’s not hurtful enough, Bay continues to assault the eyes further with lots of tight close-ups and jittery camerawork. No doubt a shaky-cam technique using an IMAX camera is already one of the biggest sins not to be committed in the first place.

If there is any redeeming factor in this movie, Bay does a good job with the sound design while the special effects are seamless as always. Other than that, Transformers: The Last Knight is by far the worst movie I’ve ever seen this year.

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