Review: Chaotic ‘Transformers’ pummels senses

It’s big, it’s loud, it’s dumb. Welcome to another ‘Transformers’ movie, just like the other ‘Transformers’ movies

Adam Graham
The Detroit News

The climax of “Transformers: The Last Knight” takes place concurrently underwater and in outer space, and it’s difficult to tell what is going on in either, or even to discern which is which. It doesn’t matter, really. Two-plus hours into the fifth entry in a completely incoherent, totally incomprehensible series, nothing at all matters except the smashing and clanging of giant robot parts, heroic looking shots of humans and occasional glimpses of an American flag.

In other words, “The Last Knight” is just like the other “Transformers” movies. At least give director Michael Bay credit for consistency in his crunching, smashing, headache inducing orgy of metal. To switch things up now would go against his very being, and if it was his aim to make the biggest, dumbest movie series conceivable, he has achieved his lofty goal. Count “The Last Knight” as another feather in his cap.

“Transformers” movies can only be measured by their respective loudness, and it should be noted most of the dialogue in “The Last Knight” is yelled. There are some stabs at humor, mostly courtesy of Cogman (voice of Jim Carter), a robot butler modeled after “Star Wars’” C-3PO, a comparison even the script acknowledges. There are speeches about the importance of home, some casual misogyny toward the film’s female lead, blatant examples of product placement and a whole bunch of digital whirs of computer-generated action as the robots smash and clang one another.

Fifth verse, same as the first.

“The Last Knight” aims to expand the parameters of the Transformers universe by giving some historical context to the gigantic robots’ involvement in human affairs; the movie even stages a scene showing how the robots fought Nazi forces in WWII. It opens in Medieval times, with Merlin being given a magic staff by an ancient Transformer. In the present, that staff holds the key to all the powers in the universe, or something, and the only ones who can find it and activate its powers are, for some reason, Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) and Vivian Wembley (Laura Haddock).

In order to get them to work together, Vivian has to first spot Cade with his shirt off and turn into a babbling pile of mush, and Cade has to comment on Vivian’s “stripper dress.” It turns out Vivian is an accomplished professor at the University of Oxford, but the script mostly focuses on her inabilities to find a boyfriend. (Bay leers less at her than he does at his leading ladies in the other “Transformers” movies, so, you know, progress.)

Sir Anthony Hopkins is on board as Sir Edmund Burton, a historian who specializes in Transformers, and it’s a credit to Hopkins’ natural gravitas that he can make that seem like a thing that is plausible. Isabela Moner is also on board as Izabella, a precocious tomboy-type whom Cade refers to as “little J. Lo.” It’s classy stuff all around, folks.

And then there are the Transformers themselves; Optimus Prime is being held captive in outer space by a floating sorceress named Quintessa, who orders him to Earth to wreak havoc. Various other Autobots, Decepticons and Dinobots mill about, including Bumblebee, who at one point uses a Big Sean lyric to voice his displeasure with a situation.

There is local interest in “The Last Knight” since crews filmed scenes for the movie in the Detroit area last summer. The dilapidated remains of the Pontiac Silverdome show up on screen for about 30 seconds early on, and there are scenes shot downtown at the corner of Fort and Shelby (spliced in, quickly, into a chase through the streets of London), at the Fisher Building and the Packard Plant.

But it’s hardly worth sitting through the chaos of the film to see the local landmarks. “Transformers: The Last Knight” is a punishing, pummeling experience. At one point, a message is scrawled in the background of one of the scenes that reads “I have to kill you.” It’s not explained, it’s not referenced, but it sums up Michael Bay’s goal with this series. He is trying to do you harm.


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‘Transformers: The Last Knight’


Rated PG-13 for violence and intense sequences of sci-fi action, language and some innuendo

Running time: 150 minutes