Michael Bay, with all of his big explosions, high-tech CGI, epic world-building, poor writing, borderline racist and misogynist jokes, and overly long expositions, is someone I have to admire considering the consistency of his soullessness. Since 2007 he’s been able to bastardize a beloved franchise despite the fact that the property was already a cash-grab property aimed at kids. Ten years later Transformers has evolved, albeit unimpressively. Instead of being strictly kid-friendly, we’re witnessing a veteran franchise which has been around the block and tries to be the cool uncle in order to appeal to both adults (who grew up with Transformers) and precocious would-be admirers. The problem with that is that idea, combined with the fact Bay is really out of touch with today’s pop culture climate (and is simply insensitive to boot), adds more garbage to an already garbage-filled sequel.

The only thing that can remotely be seen as the glue holding this hodgepodge of sci-fi, action, and comedy is Mark Wahlberg. For Wahlberg, this is his second go-round in the Transformers-verse, playing the failed Texas inventor Cade Yeager (I still don’t understand the name – it’s like some sort of made up astronaut moniker, but I digress). Cade teams up with Sir Edmund Burton (Anthony Hopkins), Vivian Wembley (Laura Haddock – audiences should know her best as Star-Lord’s mom) and young Izabella (Isabela Moner – the one character the younger set can possibly relate with) to once again battle alongside the Autobots in order to defeat the Decepticons. Megatron is back, this time seeking a staff which once belonged to Merlin (yes, THAT Merlin) that will allow the Transformers’ home planet of Cybertron to heal itself by sucking dry all of Earth’s natural resources. For added “drama,” Optimus Prime has turned baddie (um, Nemesis Prime) and returns to Earth seeking the staff, all for the sake of saving Cybertron. It’s actually not a terrible end-of-the-world scenario, but any shred of its goodness is ruined by Bay’s delivery and execution.

If it has to be compared, The Last Knight is probably the best of the sequels since it’s actually “grounded,” for lack of a better term. A lot of that has to do with Wahlberg’s everyman sensibility and his snarky-towards-yet-attracted-to-each-other relationship with Vivian, a professor who looks and dresses like she's on the cover of Vogue. Vivian and Cade’s back-and-forth is interesting (almost like a poor man’s Leia and Han) but considering the type of film we’re dealing with, it’s welcome, even necessary.

There are some throwaways – Hopkins is the old guy with a young man’s wit and tenacity, and he’s the most “woke” person when it comes to his knowledge of the surprisingly vast and lengthy history of the robot alien race. Humor, though, doesn’t suit Hopkins and his attempts to be funny fall flat. He shouldn’t feel too bad – all attempts at humor in this fifth installment range anywhere from cringe-worthy to slightly silly (we have Art Marcum, Matt Holloway, Ken Nolan and Akiva Goldsman to thank for the script/story). Ironically, the humor may be the best aspect of the writing, because assimilating medieval mythology (by the way, it's separate, but there are Nazis in The Last Knight) in an effort to win over the Game of Thrones crowd is both unoriginal and pathetic. And one passing thought - Josh Duhamel still makes movies?

Interestingly, this is the least Transformers-y movie of the bunch. What I mean by that is the focus isn’t on the robots but more so the humans. That may be a good thing since almost all of the robots are annoying since they all inhabit terrible stereotypical human traits (and that running gag in which Bumblebee can speak using voice samples should’ve died during the first live-action film). But the voice cast, with big names like John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, Ken Watanabe, Omar Sy, Gemma Chan and Peter Cullen, is nothing to scoff at. By the way, for fans of the actor (including me), keep a lookout for a Stanley Tucci cameo – which is one of the few actual highlights.

I don’t know what more to say about The Last Knight – it’s more of the same from Michael Bay. For some viewers his brand of filmmaking is entertaining and fits the bill when it comes to getting the most bang for your buck. But looking for substance or a deep message (in Bay’s defense, he tried to shoehorn a message of unity and solidarity which stuck out like toddler in a strip club) is an exercise in futility. So go watch Transformers: The Last Knight. Or don’t. It doesn’t matter – everything you see in the ads and trailers is everything you’ll get from the entire 149-minute fireworks freak show. By the end, though, you’ll still be hungry for something – you’ll be hungry for a good movie.

1.5 stars out of 5


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