At this point in the franchise, the question isn’t “is this one any good”, but “how bad is it”. The truth is there are worse films out there than Transformers The Last Knight. Although outside of Michael Bay’s filmography, I can’t readily think of any. It’s a curious indictment of the commercial (as opposed to creative) side of Hollywood that a filmmaker so utterly devoid of talent can continue in his job. Yet the maths doesn’t lie, and we keep going back for more in the futile hope that, someday, somehow, we might finally get a Transformers film that is any good.
And why not? We’ve had quality superhero films and quality Star Wars/Star trek films; is it really too much to ask for a Transformers film that is more than just a jumble of half baked idea tossed into a blender; or a script that’s more than just a word salad of infantile exposition and bad comedy?
The plot is irrelevant. But this one has decided on an Arthurian flavour (last time it was dinosaurs) and involves King Arthur (snigger), Transformer Knights, Stonehenge, and yet another ancient McGuffin that is important to a Decepticon invasion of Earth. Who cares about the details. This is actually fine, except for the fact that Bay insists on cluttering up the film with completely pointless and stupid scenes, and superfluous subplots and characters that stretch the runtime beyond human endurance. You could cut 50% of the movie without losing anything important. It’s also massively derivative. Not in a deliberate, affection homage as with, say, Oblivion’s mosaic of popular sci-fi tropes; but in a lazy, cynical way that plunders other films to string together the various set pieces. So we have the opening sequence of Gladiator, a Chappie-style urban warfare scene involving two legged robots; a scene involving a submarine (no, really); Indiana Jones & The Last Crusade style Arthurian tomb raiding; an Abyss-style underwater spaceship; an embarrassing Suicide Squad–style introduction to some Decepticon mercenaries (that is forgotten about in an instant), and an end battle that resembles both Independence Day Resurgence and Avatar.
It isn’t all bad news though. As much as Michael Bay continues to lower his game, ILM continue to raise theirs and the effects work here is benchmark level CGI. As well as the super-detailed and photorealistic robots, we have a gargantuan oceanic vistas and beautiful scenes of Cybertronian destruction porn. Some of the action scenes, when they are coherent enough to actually be seen, are also impressive and a big improvement on the orgy of trash we got in the likes of Revenge of the Fallen or 2014s Age of Extinction. Somewhere, buried under the clutter, is some semblance of a semi-watchable popcorn film.
I could talk about the cast, including Anthony Hopkins (who should be ashamed of himself), English brainbox and new-hottie-on-the-block Laura Haddock (because obviously we need someone to translate ancient symbols), Mark Wahlberg’s hateful Cade Yeager and the usual roster of military types, sidekick buffoons and the a crew of forgettable Autobots; but then I’ve wasted enough time talking about the film (not to mention watching it).
Suffice to say this is more of the same; not as wretched as the very worst (pats 2 and 4), but probably on a par with the third instalment. The good news is that Bumblebee (the only likeable character in this) is getting his own spin off, and a new director to boot. Can that be any good? At least we can be reasonably sure it can’t be any worse.