No matter what anyone tells you, there is absolutely nothing wrong with enjoying a dumb summer blockbuster. Nothing at all. There is, however, something wrong with trying to defend movies that reach a new level of stupidity and laziness that I didn’t even know existed. And Michael Bay’s Transformers: The Last Knight easily falls into that category.
This film not only marks the fifth entry in the Hasbro franchise, but also Bay’s (supposedly) final time being its overseer. The fourth installment, Age of Extinction, seemed as though Bay would be done after that 165-minute abomination. Sadly, he and Paramount decided to continue on with the same exact formula. As with any franchise, I hoped that Bay would try to reinvent what audiences could expect from a Transformers movie. But instead, Bay made The Last Knight just as bloated, boring and mindless as every entry before it.
What initially intrigued me about The Last Knight – being a huge fan of history – was the Medieval settings teased in the trailers. I, like most, could definitely get into giant robots attacking mighty castles or battling it out on the fields of England. And for a few short minutes, that’s exactly what we get. It’s just that as soon as Bay’s terrible sense of humor, unbalanced tone, and carefree nature concerning anything but creating a “spectacle” kick in, it’s game over for the audience.
The Last Knight quickly transitions back to modern day (that’s not without adding a cringeworthy cameo by Stanley Tucci), and we meet back up with Mr. Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg). The aspiring inventor helps save a group of kids who are running from some type of poorly thought-out Homeland Security robot. He teams up with a few annoying, uninteresting characters as they try to (yet again) save the world. We travel across England, learning about the Transformers’ history — as told by Sir Edmund Burton (Anthony Hopkins). All of it makes zero sense at face value, and even less when you try to think about it. Bay feels the need to throw a thousand ideas and plot points at once towards the audience, rather than letting a few specific ones sink in. So all that we’re left with is a mindbogglingly incoherent mess.
Considering Bay is five Transformers films in now, it doesn’t surprise me that he’s pretty much just treading water at this point. What does confuse me is that he seems to care deeply for the work he’s doing. He is an auteur director, for better or worse, and yet so many of his films still feel so empty. I would put The Last Knight at the top of that list — particularly since he assembled this 149-minute slog with such lazy, asinine direction. And his editing of story, character and theme (if any) are as equally weak. That dumbfounds me. Well, kind of. While Bay surely has some attachment to the iconic Hasbro franchise, he clearly enjoys getting to play with $200+ million much more.
What’s most upsetting to me about this latest entry (and don’t worry, there will be at least one a year for the foreseeable future) is that I went in really wanting to like it. I knew most critics would bash it, but I didn’t want to be one of those people. There are moments in the third and fourth installments that showcase Bay’s unique sense of cinematic action and spectacle; I even think the first film is an overall enjoyable blockbuster. I just wonder if halfway through production on The Last Knight, Bay suddenly wished he could be someplace else, doing something completely different. I think it’s fair to say that since I was thinking the exact same thing.