‘Transformers: The Last Knight’ is a nightmare
Directed by: Michael Bay
Written by: Art Marcum, Matt Holloway and Ken Nolan
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Anthony Hopkins and Laura Haddock
“Transformers: The Last Knight” - Have you ever walked into a classroom, sat down and the instructor hands out final exams to all the students, but you recoil in horror, because you haven’t attended one lecture all semester?
I have never felt such despair in real life but have encountered an occasional dream depicting the aforementioned, dreadful scenario. Apparently, this type of nightmare stems from feeling anxiety or discomfort about a life situation during one’s waking hours. During sleeping hours, a brutal sense of unpreparedness can temporarily rush over a person when looking down at a test with zero apparent paths to answer any of its questions.
On June 19, I suffered a very rare occurrence, because I felt that dream-exam angst while wide awake during my 2-hour 29-minute “Transformers: The Last Knight” experience.
Although I grasped the movie’s basic plot, as the narrative played out, I was lost, like sitting down and flipping through a five-page test booklet, without any understanding of the words typed on its pages. Apparently, director Michael Bay has devised a cinematic language of his own, because this movie defies logic.
Before expanding on the film’s many, many faults, let’s review the storyline.
Set a few months or years after the events of “Transformers: Age of Extinction” (2014), the Autobots and Decepticons are leaderless, as Optimus Prime and Megatron are nowhere to be found. Some robot-lawlessness exists, so humans formed the Transformers Reaction Force (TRF) to seek and destroy our mechanical heroes and enemies.
Our human hero from the last film, Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) found a home at a South Dakota junkyard, with various Autobots and a 20-something named Jimmy (Jerrod Carmichael) who adds absolutely nothing to the narrative. Cade must have found a way to teleport across the United States to this junkyard, because he can apparently materialize in Chicago in a blink of eye, in a random act of heroism to rescue a girl and four boys.
Meanwhile, Sir Edmund Burton (Anthony Hopkins) narrates tales of magic and history, and the movie references England’s Dark Ages. Even Merlin the Magician conjures up an appearance, as the film reveals that Transformers existed in England – 1,600 years into the past - while a mystical talisman and staff wield great power.
On the Transformers’ home world of Cybertron, Quintessa (who maintains a similar role as the Borg Queen in the “Star Trek” Universe) wants to suck the Earth dry of its energy to jumpstart her world, and this ancient staff is the key to her plans. So, lots of robots and humans find themselves in a race to find the staff to either destroy or save Planet Earth.
Since the entire Earth is danger, Bay includes many faraway locales on the big screen. For instance, he flashes images of China, Jordan, Egypt, and West Africa. Additionally, John Turturro’s character lives in Cuba and races to a pay phone to screech about impending doom. Hopkins’ Burton resides in England and seems to possess all kinds of answers, except the whereabouts of the missing staff. Cade zips to Illinois and South Dakota through his unknown mode of transportation that moves at the speed of light. Thankfully, he carves out some time to check in with his daughter by leaving a voicemail and later writing a text, but I digress. Upon reflection, I believe that Bay left out Antarctica, Australia and South America without representation during this global challenge. That’s a terrible shame, because when saving the Earth, everybody knows that it takes a village.
Well, this village would not be complete without an attractive heroine, so Vivian Wembley (Laura Haddock) makes an entrance. She doubles as polo player and professor at Oxford and at certain angles conveniently resembles Megan Fox, who starred in the first two “Transformers” films.
Humans work with various Autobots - like Bumblebee and Drift – with a singular goal in mind, but seemingly every set piece seems to serve no purpose other than to manifest random action, chases or explosions for a few minutes at a time with little connective tissue to the previous scene. Add Stonehenge, a submarine that explores some bizarre lost city of Atlantis, an obligatory desert highway crash, giant horns that emerge from the Earth’s surface, and extraterrestrial stirrups which dangle from Cybertron, and that is your movie. A collection of nonsense that can somewhat be explained by Sir Burton, who speaks in hopeless riddles.
Thankfully, the smartest person at NASA (Tony Hale) affirms that the best way to defeat Quintessa’s sinister plan is by leveraging nuclear explosions that will act like a Tiger Woods golf shot.
Whew, I feel safe now.
Actually, I was mystified, because I cannot speak Michael Bay’s language, at least in the “Transformers” Universe, but I should not be surprised. After the entertaining first film, “Transformers” (2007), Bay has been jamming explosion-filled diets of big screen junk food down our throats for four sequels now. For those who never grew up with Optimus Prime, Megatron and Bumblebee toys and who appreciate lucid movie plots, these “Transformers” movies can be painful. “Transformers: Age of Extinction” (2014) is worst picture in the series, primarily because it dragged on for 2 hours and 45 minutes with a shameless, grandiose importance of “The English Patient” (1996).
The only positive aspect of this film? It ran 16 minutes shorter than its predecessor.
At least this cinematic nightmare was not as long, but 149 minutes is still a brutal chore. Well, when entering a “Transformers” classroom, perhaps the best course of action is to simply turn around and walk out.
Jeff – a member of the Phoenix Critics Circle – has penned film reviews since 2008 and graduated from ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism. Follow Jeff and the Phoenix Film Festival on Twitter @MitchFilmCritic and @PhoenixFilmFest, respectively.