Mark Wahlberg is The Chosen One – believe it or not this is an actual a plot point in Transformers: The Last Knight – and for those of you who thought Wahlberg playing an inventor in Transformers: Age of Extinction stretched the laws of credulity beyond the breaking point, well you are in for a treat, as our blue collar hero is now mankind’s only hope this time out. From the film’s title I assumed that it would turn out that Optimus Prime was somehow connected to the robots from Arthurian time but no, it turns out Marky Mark is the Once and Future King. This is the fifth movie in the franchise and just when you think things can’t get any more convoluted and or idiotic Michael Bay ramps up the stupidity meter to eleven.
Once again Earth’s history is being rewritten by director Michael Bay only instead of prehistoric history being mucked with the film opens with Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table being overrun by the bloodthirsty Saxons (we will forgive the fact that there is no evidence of Arthur existing as depicted in the myths because history apparently also left out that there were giant robots at the time), but then a drunk Merlin (Stanley Tucci) begs for help from a local Transformer, who was just hanging around the wreck of his ship, and is given a staff made of alien tech as well as the assistance of a three-headed robot dragon, think Mecha-King Ghidorah only not as cool, and the day is saved.
The film then jumps to the current timeline where the world’s governments have declared Transformers illegal and have created the Transformer Reaction Force (TRF) to hunt down and either imprison or kill any Transformer or Decepticon they find. We are first introduced to a spunky Latino orphan named Izabella (Isabela Moner) who lives in the bombed out remains of Chicago and she spends her time fixing the injured Transformers that are hiding out there. How she became an expert on medical procedures for giant robots is left to your imagination. After her and a bunch of trespassing, kids are chased by some giant ED 209s operated by the TRF they are rescued by Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) who then encounters an ancient Transformer by the name of Steelbane who gives Cade a metallic talisman that imparts him the title of Chosen One. This kind of thing never happens to me. We also encounter our old friend Lennox (Josh Duhamel) who is apparently on loan to the TRF and after a showdown with Cade and Bumblebee, he lets our heroes go.
Describing the plot of this movie is almost impossible as it’s a complete mess of action scenes randomly interrupted by expository dialog provided by either Agent Simmons (John Turturro), who appears in a pointless cameo from Transformer loving Cuba, or from British Lord Sir Edmund Burton (Sir Anthony Hopkins) who is the last member of an ancient order that has been keeping track of the descendants of Merlin and the secret history of the Transformers.
The military big wigs overhear a conversation between Megatron (Frank Welker) and Barricade about some all-powerful weapon and how Cade is the key to retrieving it, because of the whole talisman Chosen one thing, and in one of the dumbest decision among countless dumb decisions the military decides the best way to get this all-powerful weapon is to make a deal with Megatron. This is a deal that involves releasing a squad of Decepticons from custody who will then help Megatron recover the talisman from Yeager, and the military plan to steal it back from Megatron. I can’t see any way in which this plan could go wrong.
Meanwhile Cade and the remaining nice Autobots have been living in a junkyard in South Dakota, making life difficult for the local Native American community, when the Decepticons attack and they are forced to flee to a nearby deserted town. This is one of those towns that randomly has skyscrapers suddenly appearing in it. While fleeing both the Decepticons and the TRF Cade and company run into a robot by the name of Cogman (Jim Carter) who is a fussy yet sociopathic butler to Lord Burton. Cade and Bumblebee take off to Jolly Ole England with Cogman, leaving behind Izabella long enough for us to forget she was in this movie. When they get to England they are introduced to Vivian Wembley (Laura Haddock) an Oxford professor who just so happens to be the last surviving relative of Merlin.
But what about Optimus Prime? When we last saw the leader of the Autobots he was flying off into space to find their creator and give him a stern talking to. Well poor old Optimus (Peter Cullen) ends up finding the shattered remains of their homeworld of Cybertron, which makes him very sad, but then he encounters a sorceress named Quintessa (Gemma Chan), who professes to be the maker that he was searching for, and she tells Optimus that she needs Merlin’s staff to drain the Earth so as to rebuild Cybertron. Did I mention that Earth is actually Cybertron’s “ancient enemy” Unicron and it is now slowly waking up?
Quintessa uses her “maker” powers to turn Optimus Prime into Nemesis Prime and sends him to Earth to retrieve Merlin’s staff, with a vow to destroy anyone who stands in his way. Now if any of this is making sense to you then I’m doing a better job of it than Michael Bay did. The amount of plot flung out in between action sequences, and there is, of course, a staggering amount of action set pieces, is almost more than previous four films had combined. What is truly strange is at 149 minutes this is the shortest in the series but yet I found myself exhausted and beyond caring about what was going on before the film had even reached the halfway mark. Now I love a good action movie as much as the next guy, and I have sat through all four of previous entries, but there is such a thing as action fatigue and this film suffers from it greatly.
What, you want to what Bumblebee was doing in Nazi Germany? Well according to Lord Exposition the Transformers had been secretly aiding humanity ever since the Dark Ages. We even learn that Hitler was actually killed by a Transformer disguised clock. This begs the question, “Did the Nazis have Decepticons on their side?” Because if not WWII should have been a lot shorter than it was. If we let slide that somehow the Transformers were able to fight in two world wars without their secret getting out we still have to ask why Optimus Prime or Bumblebee have never mentioned this before. If Bumblebee has actually been around fighting Nazis that’s the movie I want to see not this total mess. There is a difference between retconning your story to fit the current plot and just making shit up as you go, and this is certainly a clear case of the latter.
As this is a Michael Bay film it is full of frenetically cut action sequences, sexist and racial jokes that rightfully fail miserably, and all the characters are about as dimensional and as interesting as cardboard cutouts. Even the robots get a short shrift treatment this time out as the villainous Megatron seems only there to appease fans of the cartoon and not for any purpose to the story they are trying to tell, and Optimus Prime’s turn to the dark side is as lame as it is lazy.
Now If you loved the previous four films in the series you may get a kick out of all the action and cool robot fights, and Anthony Hopkins seemed to be having a good time spouting all that nonsense, but for me I’ve about reached my breaking point with this franchise, and I can best sum up my reaction to Transformers: The Last Knight by quoting the Grinch Who Stole Christmas, “Oh, the noise! Oh, the Noise! Noise! Noise! Noise!”
Transformers: The Last Knight (2017)
Apparently this will be the last in the series to be directed by Michael Bay and though I can’t imagine anyone turning this mess into some sensible form I’m curious to see what it will look like. As is this latest installment is just one huge mess and should be avoided.