“Transformers: The Last Knight” Review
Note: Includes Minor Spoilers for Transformers: The Last Knight
Transformers: The Last Knight picks up right from where Transformers: Age of Extinction left off. Optimus Prime heads back to Cybertron in order to confront the creator of the Transformers. However, what he discovers there changes him from a friend to a foe. With a plan to destroy Earth underway, the Autobots must find a way to save a planet whose residents are still hunting them down. Their quest will finally answer the question: why do the Transformers keep coming back to Earth?
Whether you realize or not, if you’ve kept up with the Transformers film franchise, then you have seen Transformers: The Last Knight before. It was released roughly eight years ago as Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. Indeed, the fifth installment of the Transformers series follows the basic plot points of Revenge of the Fallen to a “T”, from discoveries surrounding the history of the Transformers to a doomsday device that has the potential to destroy the entire planet.
And what a lot of history there is to explore! The film opens with a sequence where a set of 12 ancient Autobot knights come to the aid of King Arthur during his darkest hour. Of course, as this is a Michael Bay production, Merlin, Arthur’s trusted confidant and court magician, is portrayed as an over-the-top drunkard. Merlin’s staff, based on Transformers technology, is ultimately this movie’s magical device that can restore the Transformers’ world of Cybertron, even though that was precisely what the purpose of the AllSpark was during the past four movies.
While Arthurian legend might be the driving force behind the convulted “story” of the film, it is far from the only historical connection. In fact, Sir Anthony Hopkins plays Sir Edmund Burton, a member of a secret society called the Witwiccan Order. Yes, they actually named a secret society after Shia LaBeouf’s character from the first three Transformers films. According to the movie, pretty much every historical figure you can think of knew about the Transformers, from Abraham Lincoln and the Wright Brothers to Stephen Hawking. Apparently, a Transformer who turns into a watch was actually the one who killed Hitler.
The Last Knight has much of the cringe-worthy comedy you’d come to expect from the Transformers movie. However, this comedy somehow seems even more painful coming from an actor of Hopkins’ caliber. It’s really surreal to hear Sir Anthony Hopkins call one of the Transformers a “bitchin’ car.” Or hear him sing “Move Bitch” by Ludacris along with his robot butler. Yes, there is a tiny Transformers butler that appears throughout most of the film. At first, his character was somewhat entertaining. Nevertheless, the longer he stays in the film, the more irritating he becomes. Speaking of characters that don’t contribute much to the overall story, a teenage girl named Izabella joins the Autobots near the beginning of the film. However, she, along with more than half of the Autobots, disappears until the climax, where even her character questions why she is there at all.
Fortunately, Mark Wahlberg’s Cade Yeager is much better in this film than he was in the last one. In fact, he seems to be the first human in this whole film series to actually connect with the Transformers on an emotional level. If only he had the same chemistry with his love interest, Viviane, played by Laura Haddock. Although Viviane is a highly-educated Oxford professor, most of her character revolves around the fact that she is still single. The cherry on top of these unfortunate implications is the fact that she has “daddy issues.”
Other human characters include the return of Josh Duhamel’s Captain Lennox, as well a small cameo from John Turturro. Most audience members probably don’t really care about the humans, however, as they’re here to see the Transformers. And there sure are a lot of them in this film. In fact, this movie seems to include more Transformers than any other movie in the franchise. However, quantity doesn’t exactly translate into quality, as the Transformers, both old and new, still seem to be somewhat lacking in personality, although they have more depth here than any other movie outside of the original film.
The main villain of the film, Quintessa, hardly appears at all outside a few scenes where she turns Optimus Prime to the dark side. Megatron and his minions are a more present threat, and even they don’t accomplish much throughout the movie. And if you thought that an evil Optimus would be cool, then you’re bound to be disappointed with how the movie barely does anything with the concept.
The good Transformers aren’t that much better, although they do feel like a cohesive team in this one. While the Transformers returning from the last film might be less annoying, that’s probably only because they don’t appear on screen quite as often. The newest Autobot to join the ranks, Hot Rod, doesn’t really have concrete character traits outside of speaking French and transforming into “bitchin'” cars. That seems like quite the shame, as the original Hot Rod had a much more bombastic personality.
If by this point in the franchise you don’t care about the difference between Autobots and Decepticons, then you’re not alone. Even though the franchise’s narrative has gone to great lengths to show that the Autobots are good and the Decepticons are bad, the humans still hunt both factions indiscriminately. Scratch that, actually, as the government eventually strikes a deal with the Decepticons, even though they are clearly the evil robots.
To give credit where credit is due, the Transformers movies are back to looking pretty. The cinematography lends to some really cool shots, although it is annoying how the aspect ratio of the film keeps on switching back and forth. The action is also back to being exciting at times, instead of a constant mess of headache-inducing carnage. There’s a really cool fight on top of an alien ship that is just emerging out from under the water, with waves crashing against the Transformers as they fight.
Furthermore, the narrative introduces interesting tidbits of Transformers lore, even if it doesn’t really do anything with them. The story is engaging at first. However, any mystery is pushed aside when the characters find a book that literally tells them exactly what they need to know.
Transformers: The Last Knight is better than Age of Extinction. In fact, it may very well be the second-best movie in the franchise. However, that’s not saying much, as it exudes the same problems that the other Transformers sequels possess. Cool action sequences can’t cover up glaring plot holes and a bone-thin story structure, and spending so much time on ineffective comedy gags only adds to the pain.
The movie ends on a sequel hook, meaning that the studio is certain that Transformers: The Last Knight will earn enough money to merit a sixth installment for the series. Unfortunately, they’re probably right. Michael Bay has gone on record to say that this is his last Transformers movie, but we’ve done this song and dance before and he always comes back. Perhaps if Bay does finally leave, the Transformers films could benefit from some fresh blood. As it stands, they are held back by the same shortcomings that have led to their negative reception time after time.
Interested in what we had to say about the rest of the Transformers film series? Well, I binge-watched the entire franchise, and you can read my review for the other four films here.
Note: All images featured throughout this article are credited to Paramount Pictures/Hasbro
Zachary Berry currently resides in the Dayton, Ohio area. However, he enjoys traveling from place to place, as he was born in Oklahoma City and has also lived in Albuquerque and Orlando (such is the life of a military brat). Zachary graduated from Ohio University with a major in Strategic Communication, which is fancy talk for advertising and public relations. Beginning his career at The News Wheel as a lowly intern, he was able to climb his way to the top, eventually claiming his place within the last cubicle on the left. Other jobs that Zachary has held include driving around a safari truck at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. When he’s not putting his nose to the grindstone, Zachary enjoys watching and critiquing movies and television. See more articles by Zachary.