To its credit, “Transformers: The Last Knight” is not as annoying as its predecessor - the godawful headache that was “Age of Extinction” - but just barely. Though I am grateful this one (which is number five in the never-ending blockbuster series) didn’t sink lower than objectifying an underage girl to the point of explaining the legal loopholes of why it’s okay for her adult boyfriend to have sex with her, “The Last Knight” is anything but a patch on what has come before. Say what you will about Michael Bay, but there is an undeniable fascination (driven by self-loathing and contempt, mind you) in watching the director find ways to top himself in slapping excruciating moneymakers together. As his farewell to the franchise (God willing), Bay throws up two flaming middle fingers to his audience. A fitting goodbye for him, I suppose.
I can’t, for the life of me, tell you what exactly goes down in “The Last Knight.” (All the more power to those of you who can.) What I can tell you is that the Bayhem signifiers are all present and accounted for. There’s the macho white dude (Mark Wahlberg), the Barbie doll women - yes there are two, and one of them is 15(!!!). Laura Haddock plays a character strikingly similar to Kaya Scodelario’s in “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales,” in that both are high-minded and of noble professions, yet she wears enough makeup and sports enough cleavage to get 13-year-old boys excited. Isabela Moner plays what is essentially Bay’s version of Rey from “The Force Awakens,” and even she is in a low-cut top throughout the whole movie. But hey, at least she’s not dating an older guy! Then there’s Anthony Hopkins, filling in the series' A-lister slot simply to boost credibility and appeal to seasoned viewers. As the de facto exposition machine of the film, Hopkins turns in the most bizarre performance of his career. He often comes off as senile, or just plain loopy, but when it comes to informing Wahlberg and Haddock of their so-called destines, Hopkins resorts to narrator mode; the combination of the two is jarring.
There are a number of other faces here, both new and old, but I won’t bother listing them off because Bay sure didn’t give a thought to them either. As for the alien robots, they are once again shoved aside in favor of their human counterparts. Even Optimus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen), who is literally the poster boy for this series, is missing from about three quarters of this two-and-a-half hour piece of factory sludge. He winds up crash-landing on Cybertron, the war-torn home of the Transformers, and meeting his supposed creator, Quintessa (Gemma Chan). The sorceress corrupts Optimus, bidding him to destroy Earth so that Cybertron may live once more. This is a subplot that might have made for a more interesting (if not better) film, but Bay ignores the particulars of Prime’s seduction and betrayal to focus on what he knows best, which is making everything go boom, including your ears, eyes, and brain.
As I mentioned earlier, the disgusting Bayisms from “Age of Extinction” are toned down, but there are still plenty of others that continue to ruin the party. The comic relief remains unbearably unfunny. Not even the great Anthony Hopkins can turn a frown upside down here. What’s clearer in “The Last Knight” than ever before is that Bay’s sense of humor isn’t just horrible, but that he services everything at his disposal to nothing but sorry attempts at comedy and overinflated spectacle. More than any other film of his that I have seen, save for “Age of Extinction,” Bay’s desire to construct a cinematic roller-coaster rears its ugly head. It’s biggest problem? It doesn’t feel like a roller-coaster at all; more like Bay straps you in an underwater jetpack and sends you zooming through the depths with extremely limited oxygen.
“The Last Knight” - or as I call it, "The Death of Editing" - commits the aggravating sin of juggling, nay, throwing around so much plot that any and all coherence is lost. We are subjected to globetrotting hell, where there are no actual scenes, just fragments of locations and conversations that, more often than not, last less than a minute. (At least “Revenge of the Fallen,” horrific as it is, has some semblance of a narrative.) And if that wasn’t bad enough, fans of the series will likely be frustrated by the near-total lack of continuity in regards to some of the subplots. I don’t know how many more times we will see Megatron reincarnated, but could we at least get a passing reference as to why his appearance keeps changing? Also, what in the world is Stanley Tucci doing playing freaking Merlin in that Dark Ages prologue? Wasn’t he already in the last one? I guess we’ll never know, and frankly I don’t care much anymore, and neither should you, unless you’re curious about what a Bayhem-induced tumor feels like.