SHORT TAKE: Not even the presence of Sir Anthony Hopkins and the adorable Mark Wahlberg can save this awful outing of numbingly repetitive action scenes, plotholes and unfollowable script.
I would watch Anthony Hopkins read the phone book. I’ve been a fan of his since I saw him as Corky Withers, the eccentric troubled ventriloquist in the 1978 suspense thriller Magic. He has played a priest, a psychic, a serial killer, Odin, Richard the Lionheart, a veterinarian, a cad, a butler, Charlie Chaplin’s biographer, a truly terrible Zorro and C.S. Lewis. I have LOVED everything I have seen him in. Even if he is bad he is wonderful. There is something captivating about every performance he gives. And it’s a good thing he has a lot of scenes in Transformers because it is the only thing that kept me sitting through Transformers – The Last Knight.
You know – it was bad enough that Disney created an entire string of movies based upon a single image in a Disney ride. Now we are treated to a series of movies based upon a combination of a Japanese toy bought out by Hasbro and Rock ‘em Sock ‘em Robots marketed by Mattel.
I’ve never been a big Transformers fan anyway, but had great hopes for what I thought a genuinely clever idea: that the magic of the Arthurian legends was, what has been described by Arthur C Clarke as “sufficiently advanced technology”.
The premise is that Merlin was a drunken charlatan who comes upon a crashed Transformer, from whom Merlin prevails by way of the Transformer’s better nature to aid King Arthur in his quest to unite the world to a civilized society against the barbarian hordes – to gift him with an ancient staff and to fight as a metal dragon to defeat the barbarians. Why this Transformer trusts Merlin, how Merlin found him and how this self-proclaimed alcoholic incompetent manages to control such advanced weaponry so that it fights against the right group and doesn’t just massacre everyone is never explained. Same goes with most of the rest of the movie. Terms are thrown around like: TRF, the “talsiman”, infernocons, Steelbane, Decepticons, Megatron, Knights of Cybertron, Unicron, etc – which, I suppose if you are an initiate into the Transformer franchise the lexicon will make sense. But every movie should stand on its own. It should not rely so heavily on previous movies that it leaves you head scratching through most of the movie.
The plot never covers why Cade (Mark Wahlberg) is hanging out in a devastated and abandoned Chicago (or why Chicago is abandoned – it's not radioactive or anything) tending to critters the rest of the world is out to kill…..or fight with, depending on where you are in the story. It is never convincingly explained why our military is ordered to change allegiances mid-way through the movie. The characters are never seriously injured…or DIE…from impacts, falls, crashes, shock waves, or other events which would break the bones, crush the skulls, concuss, or rupture organs in us mere mortals. Aside from abrogating ALL tension or concern about the characters it is so blatant that it impairs the already tenuous suspension of disbelief necessary for all good stories. And the constant action is never done in such a way as to give you a clear clue as to who you are supposed to be rooting for. The Decepticons look so much like the Autobots which look like the Knights – and they all fight against or with each other depending upon the minute marker in the movie but without much regard to any explanation or convincing motivation by the characters.
Thinking I must have missed something in a previous movie, I went back and read the plot lines of all the other Transformer movies: Transformers, Revenge of the Fallen, Dark of the Moon, and Age of Extinction. The stories all read like an excited little boys’ fantasy play fresh from opening his birthday toys with his older brother who throws in a few scantily clad girls right from his own fantasies to keep things interesting for himself.
Why would advanced technological metal alien life forms take on the attitude and appearance of: samurai, sleazy traveling salesmen, caricature cigar chewing (why would a metal alien chew a cigar???) Sergeant from stock World War II movies. Why would an advanced metal alien which can blend together to make a larger robot then separate again, fly across the galaxy, and utilize technology that can bring metal appliances to life —- not be able to fix the voice box of one of its own? That is just a dumb affectation.
Stan Tucci is amusing in the beginning as the discount Lord of the Rings Dwarf-like reprobate Merlin. And I love Mark Wahlberg. I think he did a stupendous job in Lone Survivor. I am proud to call him a fellow Catholic. I think he is a wonderful comic actor. And he did a good job trying to slog through this movie with character intact. But if even Sir Anthony Hopkins couldn’t save this Transformium turkey then it was a cinch he couldn’t either.
It is obvious that the makers of these movies really love their subject. They come to it with an enormous amount of zeal and enthusiasm. But I was sorely disappointed in their handling of what could have been a creative approach to this worn out and poorly conceived franchise. Like a child on a sugar high who can’t get three coherent sentences out in describing their new toys, Michael Bay, his scriptwriters and team mates just throw incomprehensible fight scene after fight scene at us until we are too fatigued to pay attention any more.
If you ever get this as part of your Netflix or Amazon prime – for free or next to free, you might want to fast forward to the scenes with Sir Anthony as Sir Edmund Burton – where he narrates the Arthurian legend behind the Transformers attachment to Earth in general and mankind in particular. The imagery of the classic Knights of the Round table flanked by the Transformer Knights is pretty cool. But, unfortunately, that was the highlight of the movie.
On top of that there is unnecessary profanity, some of it coming out of the mouth of a 14 year old girl who is crow-barred into the story to give Wahlberg’s character, Cade, a pseudo-daughter to protect.
Sad to say – Transformers – Last Knight is about as clunky as the Rock ‘em Sock ‘em Robots upon which they are partly based. So if you want something with a bit more dignity, creativity and majesty about knights and magic and alien environments then go watch Thor instead…. or Excalibur…or Bugs Bunny in King Arthur's Court.