Image Courtesy of Paramount Pictures
Say what you will about director Michael Bay, because, more often than not, the man knows what audiences want and how to give it to them. He may not make the best movies, or the most sophisticated, but he sure as hell knows where to put a camera and how to stage hearing reducing explosions like clockwork. His granddaddy series, “Transformers” was a franchise he birthed in 2007, and ten years later we are staring down the tunnel of a fifth entry. I can’t speak for exactly what the plot of “Transformers: The Last Knight” was truly about. And I would love to have the four writers sit down and try to explain to us how the plot makes any sense, or how the characters get from Point A to Point B. But on the technical and visual side of all this mayhem, this series has always been known for the over-the-top “ker bloom” destruction, instead of focusing on narrative efficiency, and this entry is no different.
What we do need to know is that “The Last Knight” transforms us back to England during the dark ages. And we get an Anthony Hopkins voiceover about a magical staff, once honed by Merlin (Stanley Tucci) and his compatriots. And how it holds some key to the fate of humanity (as it always does). Fast forward roughly 1600 years, and Optimus Prime has just left earth to “meet his makers” leaving fellow inventor, and fugitive, Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) on the ground fighting the resilience against the TRF, an elite government task-force designed to kick Transformers off the planet.
Yeager shacks up inside a junkyard on the outskirts of Chicago, which is now an alien wasteland (after the events of “Dark Of The Moon” left the city in ruins). His sole purpose is to house the remaining Autobots on earth, among them fan favorite Bumblebee, until Prime comes back with answers. But with an imminent threat heading straight for our home planet, (hint: it’s Cybertron) - humans don’t have time to wait for Prime, they need to get their hands on Merlin’s staff because it holds the key for saving humanity.
The world is always ending isn't it? I’m serious, it seems like in every “Transformer” movie the world is in grave danger of being destroyed. Or characters say things like “this is the greatest threat our world has ever faced.” What makes it better is veteran Anthony Hopkins selling those lines, where he plays a crotchety old-loon with extensive knowledge of a bloodline dating back to the dark ages. He is a smart cookie, who says things like “cool dude,” with a right hand, robotic, butler named Cogman (Jim Carter) who steals many laughs, and the one instance where Bay’s cheap attempts at humor pay off.
Gosh what else needs to be disclosed in the the convolution of this plot, well, when Optimus Prime finally meets his makers, it does not bode well for us. He becomes a brainwashed puppet, sent back to earth to retrieve the staff and kill anyone that stands in his way. But the government wants Colonel Lennox (Josh Duhamel) and company to enlist the Decepticons to do their dirty work and get the staff for them. I know what you're thinking, “Megatron is alive?” - and the answer is yes. Yes, after literally watching him be ripped to pieces, I count, three times in this franchise..he is still kicking. It’s like this universe couldn’t come up with a worthy foe for Prime to throwdown with after his “original” departure.
There are moments in “The Last Knight” when your brain is allowed to take a quick reprieve from all the relentless violence, and there are ramblings of a toned down, and more focused picture. For example, every time Optimus Prime steps up to the plate, and gives a rousing speech of inspiration, or says cheeky one liners like “do you know who I am?” - it sure does bring out the little boy in me, and tricks your mind into remembering why you loved this series in the first place. And in IMAX 3D (the biggest stage in the world) - the action sequences explode off the screen.
To be fair, 98% of this thing is all about the Autobots doing what they do best, fighting. Bay has touted this is “The Final Chapter,” with a standalone “Bumblebee” picture in development. And maybe that’s about right. Ten years of Optimus Prime duking it out with Megatron and Bumblebee fighting alongside our heroes seems the perfect length. And there is fun to be had with “The Last Knight,” if you can find it among the chaos, and if you can remember it after the fact. B-