True confession time: I actually liked the first Transformers movie. It was fun, didn’t take itself too seriously, and seemed to know exactly what kind of movie it was.
That’s no longer the case, really, and now we’re looking at a fifth installment, The Last Knight. SPOILER-FREE review after the cut.
Here’s the thing: pretty much every Transformers movie is the same. Completely ridiculous plot? Check. Overqualified actors appearing in the movie for some reason? Stanley Tucci, John Turturro, and Anthony Hopkins are all hanging around. Check. Notable minor role given to a recognizable, usually comedic face? There’s Arrested Development and Veep‘s Tony Hale. Check. A story that focuses mostly on uninteresting human characters? Check. A crude sense of humor? Check. Increasingly silly mythology? Massive check.
Acting as something like an end to act one (maybe), the movie shows a world mostly united against any and all Transformers with a handful of hold-outs, such as Turturro who spends most of the movie on the phone, Hopkins as an English Earl who flips the bird and uses un-English nobility words like “dude” and “dickhead,” and Mark Wahlberg returning as unsuccessful inventor Cade Yeager, AKA the guy from Texas with the think Boston accent. Cade is living in a junkyard in South Dakota, a fugitive from justice, with a handful of Autobots and Dinobots. Everyone is basically waiting for Optimus Prime to come back from Cybertron, seeing as how the previous movie ended with him going there to literally meet his maker.
This is a movie where there’s a lot of crazy stuff going on. Besides Tucci, the best thing from Transformer: Age of Extinction, playing an alcoholic Merlin in an extended King Arthur flashback, there’s goofy geopolitics, the usual odd prudish sexuality that director Michael Bay employs on a regular basis (female characters may dress suggestively and go to “second base” but that’s as much sex as he ever seems to have on-screen), and recognizable voices coming out of robot characters. This movie adds Steve Buscemi for one scene as a robotic junk man called Daytrader and a substantial role is given to Downton Abbey‘s Jim Carter as an occasionally murderous robotic butler. But there’s all manner of robots running around, sometimes with seemingly major characters disappearing for long stretches, and something approaching continuity for this series as it weaves more and more Transformers mythology into the setting in increasingly convoluted ways. Seriously. Wait until you find out who Unicron is in this universe.
This all sounds a lot more fun in writing than it did in presentation.
Basically, this is a movie for fans of the series and not much else. It’s ridiculous and not in an overly good way. Six and a half out of ten deserving potshots at Shia LeBeouf. Yes, that actually was a momentary thing that happened that, quite frankly, was a bit amusing.