Director: Michael Bay
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Anthony Hopkins, Josh Duhamel, Laura Haddock, Isabela Moner, Jerrod Carmichael
Written by Corey Hughes
Whether you love it or hate it, franchising has become a fundamental influence on Hollywood’s success in film today. From the Marvel Cinematic Universe to the Fast and Furious series, movie franchises come in many shapes and sizes. Yet despite an overwhelming consensus of negative reviews from critics, the Transformers franchise is one that refuses to die down.
And why should it? With Michael Bay’s retail-toy adaptations being as lucrative as they are, Bay wipes the tears of negative criticism with $100 dollar bills. But with ‘The Last Knight’ reputedly being the final one to be directed by Bay, (fingers crossed), is there a possibility that the fifth film will defy all odds?
Summarising a synopsis for ‘The Last Knight’ is as useful as a eunuch in a brothel. As the film begins, we are thrown back into the ‘dark ages’ of England, where King Arthur and the Vikings are at war. With the battle against Arthur and his men, the king seeks out the magic of Merlin (Stanley Tucci’s second outing in the franchise) to tip the balance of war in his favour. 1600 years later, the fate of the human race relies entirely on the discovery of Merlin’s magical staff. Blah, blah, blah; if you’re really into the plot at this point, then all credit to you.
This boils down to what I believe is Michael Bay’s biggest flaw as a filmmaker. Barring his over reliance on slow-motioned, explosive and debris-propelling action, he is entirely incompetent at telling a coherent and engaging story. His films, especially his treasured Transformers flicks, are told exclusively through these grand, spectacular action set pieces. Narrative, for Bay, seems secondary; a grout to fill in the gaps. The action, nonetheless, does look spectacularly convincing. The use of CGI, especially for the appearance and movement of the Transformers, is unparalleled in its presentation.
With the story being as convoluted as it is here, with multiple sub-plots in play, the film is desperately calling out for strong performances, but there’s none to be seen here. Although new arrival Anthony Hopkins’ portrayal of the crude, but whimsical old Brit is amusing, it’s Wahlberg’s ‘The Happening’-esque wooden performance that will have you shaking your head in disbelief. Yet that’s the least of the film’s problems. ‘The Last Knight’ establishes no sense of continuity from its predecessor and with the onslaught of new characters being vomited onto the screen, Bay and co. are discouraging their viewers to invest in the characters and the conflict that they find themselves in. Even the on-screen relationship between Wahlberg’s Cade and Laura Haddock’s highly-educated and snobby Vivian Wembley seems forced, with no eye for attention being invested in their developing attraction. It’s sloppy, unconvincing, and if we didn’t care about the film before, we surely don’t now.
In the end, this fifth outing for the Transformers franchise regrettably ticks all the boxes for a totally unforgettable Michael Bay action flick. Hot girl? Check. Unforgivable product placement? Check. Flat-lined humour with a paper-thin story? Check. Resisting the urge to pluck your eyes out from their sockets? Check.
On a more light-hearted note, I’ve created a new drinking game for ‘The Last Knight’: take a shot every time Optimus Prime declares, “I am Optimus Prime!” That way, by the time the final credits roll, you’ll be absolutely shit-faced. It’s by far the only way you’re going to enjoy this one.
Corey’s rating: 3.5 out of 10