The fifth installment of the “Transformers” franchise isn’t actually a movie.
“Transformers: The Last Knight” is a two-plus hour insult to anyone who loves losing themselves in a darkened theater. It’s the culmination of studio greed, creative indifference and the fact that, sadly, audiences will line up for virtually any franchise installment.
We’re the suckers.
And it arrives the same week we learned triple Oscar winner Daniel Day-Lewis is retiring from the big screen.
Who can blame him?
Maybe he caught a preview of Sir Anthony Hopkins mugging his way through scenes so rancid they might cost him his knighthood. Hopkins’ turn here could spark a wave of retirement speeches.
The previous “Transformers” films had their moments. A whimsical sight gag here. A stunning set piece there. Heck, the first film in the franchise was borderline terrific for two-thirds its running time.
They almost always devolve (transform?) into dumb, noisy spectacles. And you don’t have to be woke to grimace over the pinup-style treatment of the female stars.
You still could see semblance of storytelling lurking around the edges along with a gently patriotic spirit. Franchise director Michael Bay couldn’t help himself. Nor could capable actors like Shia LaBeouf, Mark Wahlberg, Stanley Tucci and John Turturro.
In fact, the veteran cast members should have held an intervention mid-production.
“What are we doing here?”
“Raise your hand if any second of this story makes sense.”
“Is it too late to start over?”
“Is there an escape clause in my contract?”
Nope. They all punched the clock, screamed their inane lines and cashed their paychecks. They deserve some of the blame along with Bay.It’s the culmination of studio greed, creative indifference and that fact that, sadly, audiences will line up for virtually any franchise installment.Click To Tweet
It’s lazy in film critic circles to blast Bay with both barrels. It’s also unfair.
He helmed the intriguing 2005 thriller “The Island” and delivered the best movie of his career one year ago with “13 Hours.” His 2013 comedy “Pain and Gain” delivered some droll moments between the head-clanging comedy.
Bay deserves every ounce of critical fury with “The Last Knight.” He had a tool kit any director would kill to possess. A huge budget. Talented stars. A loyal fan base. Cool toys. And he delivered … this.
Is a story synopsis even worth it? The film begins with an inebriated Merlin summoning a Transformer to help King Arthur and his mates in battle. Come back, “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword.” All is forgiven.
We’re then thrust into the present-ish, reuniting with cranky inventor Cade Yeager (Wahlberg) and a diverse cast of younger stars. Hey, those “Furious” movies do great with people of color … let’s try that!
There’s something about a mystical/powerful/vague staff that becomes the plot’s driving force. Only the film’s tone veers madly this way and that until you don’t know or care why you should bother figuring it all out.
FAST FACT: Steven Spielberg served as an executive producer on “Transformers: The Last Knight.” Let that sink in.
About every 20 minutes Bay stops everything to have Cade and an actress squeezed into a too tight dress (Laura Haddock) flirt as if programmed by the worst rom-coms ever made.
The action bounces from continent to continent along the way. Characters that seem critical to the story come … and they go. Turturro appears out of the blue and then goes away. Comic scene stealer Tony Hale (“Veep”) gets similar treatment, although he returns in a third act that should make him fire his agent.
And then Hopkins arrives on screen. At first he’s tasked with narrating this monstrosity. Even his dulcet tones can’t make rhyme nor reason out of anything we’re witnessing.
Later, he’s there in the flesh. And that’s when things get even worse.
He’s some sort of Transformers guru, tracking their earth-bound lineage over time. Only he’s muttering like a madman. That’s between barking out exposition that makes a confusing story even more opaque.
You got robots. Make ’em fight. And we’ll call it a day.
Hopkins’ work here is so embarrassing it dwarfs everything else. It’s like watching Buster Keaton dressed up in grease paint for a kid’s party.
And Hopkins’ dialog! He’s cracking wise without an ounce of humor one moment, then cursing out a robot the next. One of our finest stars is reduced to a role that a starving artist should turn down.
“What a bitchy car she is!”
“If I could find his neck I’d strangle him.”
“No whoopee, Mr. Cade?”
That points to just how ugly an enterprise this all is. Characters call each other “bitch” repeatedly in way that’s either sexist, coarse or a cocktail of the two.
The dialog handed to the Transformer ‘bots is even worse.They all punched the clock, screamed their inane lines and cashed their paychecks.Click To Tweet
And, in case all of this hasn’t scared everyone from seeing “The Last Knight,” there’s this inconvenient truth. Nothing makes sense. Action scenes go on and on. Actors hit their marks, tumble across expensive sets and shriek as if we’ll hold them accountable for this stink bomb.
It’s dumb, incoherent, insulting, silly, infuriating and singularly awful. “Transformers: The Last Knight” could be the worst mainstream Hollywood movie ever made.
HiT or Miss: Avoid. At. All. Costs.