It’s hard to go into any film that is the fifth in its series without at least a small amount of skepticism. Add in a so-so third installment, and why-did-they-make-this fourth film, and it’s fair to say that I went into “Transformers: The Last Knight,” with my fair share of expectations.
As the film opens with King Arthur you may find yourself wondering if you’ve wandered into the wrong theater or been sucked into some circle of hell where your forced to relive this summer’s failed blockbusters. Not to worry, this King Arthur (Liam Garrigan) is fighting the Saxons with the help of his fabled knights, who also happen to be Transformers. We learn that Merlin (Stanley Tucci) has forged an alliance with the Transformers, and been entrusted with a powerful alien staff.
Fast forward to present-day, and, well…it’s a hot mess. Optimus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen) is off searching for his home planet and creator, and getting hypnotized by a space witch (voiced by Gemma Chan). Transformers (of the Autobot and Decepticon variety) are considered illegal in most countries, which is a problem since more and more of them are coming to earth. The TRF (Transformer Reaction Force) is making misguided deals with Megatron (voiced by Frank Welker). Last, but not least, Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) is still thanklessly helping Autobots while running from the law.
If that seems like a lot I’ve got some bad news, we haven’t even gotten to the meat of the story. Sadly, the introduction of Sir Edmund Burton (Anthony Hopkins), his snarky robo-butler Cogman (voiced by Jim Carter), and the unlikely descendant of Merlin, Viviane Wembly (Laura Haddock), is the best part of the film. I say sadly because it’s lost in the middle of a huge mess.
In some ways, the sheer chaos of the storyline helps to pass the time, which is a small blessing with a cruel 150-minute running-time. The time flies when you have no clue what’s going on. In other ways, it leaves you scratching your head. For example, the incident of the disappearing secondary characters. Spunky and sassy sidekicks, Izabella (Isabela Moner) and Jimmy (Jerrod Carmichael), are given memorable moments and then are quickly ushered off screen, disappear from the plot entirely, and then are briefly resurrected for the film’s finale. Both characters are delightful and memorable, which is why it stands out when they just vanish. It’s a bizarre choice that makes you wonder if they’re only there to fill a diversity quota.
Somewhere in the mess of Merlin, King Arthur and the forgotten side characters is the potential for a good story. The mixing of the Transformers’ history with the legend of King Arthur is actually a good idea, the execution of “The Last Knight” though is messy and feels crowded. Add in odd continuity issues like Wembly being the descendant of Merlin, when Joshua Joyce (one of film four’s baddies who was also played by Stanley Tucci) is a dead ringer for the wizard, and it feels like the plot of this film got away from its creators.
For all of its failings, there’s something endearing about the Transformers themselves. Which is why I’m fairly confident that fans of the Transformers will enjoy this opportunity to see their beloved characters on the big screen again.
…just for fun: