“For one world to live, the other must die.”
Directed by Michael Bay
Starring Mark Wahlberg, Laura Haddock, Josh Duhamel, Anthony Hopkins, Santiago Cabrera and Peter Cullen
In the wayback, King Arthur and his knights triumph over the Saxon hordes when the ‘wizard’ Merlin (Stanley Tucci) brings a group of twelve Autobots to join them in the form of King Gidhora.
Centuries later, Optimus Prime (Cullen) is drawn back to Cybertron, where his mission to destroy his creator is interrupted as Quintessa (Gemma Chan), self-styled ‘goddess of life’, delivers the bitch-slap of obedience and tasks Prime to retrieve her staff of power, given to Merlin long ago.
Back on Earth, a new special forces group called the TRF – totally different from Cemetery Wind and way less serial killer – roam the world taking out Transformers, led by Santos (Cabrera) and Colonel Lennox (Duhamel), an Autobot ally of long-standing. Cade Yaeger (Wahlberg) works against them to protect Autobots, with feisty orphaned teen Izabella (Isabela Moner) stowing away to join him after her Autobot protector is killed. In the same encounter, a dying Autobot bestows on Cade the talisman of Iacon.
Posh Brit Sir Edmund Burton, 12th Earl of Folgan (Hopkins), his tightly-wound robot butler Cogman (Jim Carter) and the Autobot Hot Rod (Omar Sy) bring Cade and posh hottie academic Vivian Wembly (Haddock) to a castle/Autobot retirement home, where he reveals the secret history that we already got in the opening. He eventually explains that Cade is the Last Knight, chosen for his courage and valour, and because he hasn’t got any lately, to recover the Staff of Merlin and prevent the destruction of Earth at the hands of Quintessa. Vivian, meanwhile, as a direct descendant of Merlin, is the only one who can actually wield the Staff.
Oh, and Cybertron is about to crash into Earth (again), the TRF makes a mugs’ deal with Megatron (Frank Welker) in the hopes of using him and his Decepticons to flush out the Staff, and former-agent Simmons (John Turturro) keeps calling Folgan from the Autobot haven of Cuba with hints. And mysterious ‘horns’ burst out of the Earth, revealing that Earth is actually Unicron, and supposedly either Cybertron will drain the life from Earth to be reborn, or Unicron will consume Cybertron.
What’s wrong with it?
Dear lord there’s a lot of shit going on in this movie. There are a lot of barely distinct characters, and that’s just the humans. As a result, no-one really gets much of an arc at all.
The scene where Megatron demands the release of his team and each one gets an intro reel and a name caption ill-advisedly reminds one of Suicide Squad. This would have been okay – maybe – if these characters had had a significant role, or their personalities had mattered as more than a throwaway.
Wahlberg once wowed us with his acting ability, formidable for a former boy band singer. He no longer does this.
Vivian is introduced playing polo with douchebags, constantly harrassed by her female relations about finding a man – or woman – to settle down with instead of wasting her life on dusty books, and dresses… well, the way Michael Bay thinks librarians dress, I suspect. Bay also appears to have gone to considerable lengths to make Laura Haddock look as much like Megan Fox as possible.
John Turturro’s cameo continues to drive the nails into the coffin of his credibility as an actor.
The Twelve Knights of Iacon put the beatdown on Prime for betraying them to Quintessa, whom they dub ‘the Great Deceiver.’ It would be good to see where they get this from, since everything she says in the movie is basically the absolute truth. Besides, he was brainwashed, not misled.
The line of Merlin is called the Witwiccans, and includes Sam Witwicky, so if Vivian is the last one, does that mean that Sam and his dad are dead? And why is this in the bad section?
There’s a Transformer in the shape of a Royal Navy submarine, but it never transforms. In fact, it just vanishes as the action gets going. The Dinobots are also mysteriously absent from the later scenes, but Alliance has a special regret, because the sub is described as ‘she’ by Folgan and it’s not like there are any other female Transformers doing anything but being the Devil.
And where did the Dinobots go?
Santos is all about the righteousness of killing Transformers, right up until Cade snarks at him once, and then it’s all: You’re right! Team Prime for the win! Oh, my beautiful Aramis, you deserved better. Not much better, you did sign up for a Michael Bay Transformers movie, but better.
Folgan sends Viivan and Cade on a scavenger hunt to find the clues to the Staff’s location in her father’s study, which leads to an hilarious scene where her relatives – who, being upper-class English ladies, do nothing all day but sit around drinking tea and gossiping – mistake the sound of ransacking the place for energetic sexy fun times, and thence to the HMS Alliance. Folgan joins them there and tells her that a) her father owned the submarine (which is a bit presumptuous, as she’s a Transformer and thus a sentient being,) b) she’s a Transformer, c) he left the Alliance to her, and d) the Alliance knows where the Staff is. If he knew that, why send them on the scavenger hunt?
Vivian’s relationship with her father is beyond complicated. She tells her mother he had no honour and never did anything but tell her not to touch his stuff, but then she has this flashback to sitting in his study, reading a book together, which was kept in her secret cupboard in his wall.
Can we say shoehorned romance?
Cogman describes himself as a sociopath, continuing the abuse of the term.
There’s this NASA douchbag who starts out okay, being blahblahed by the bureaucrats as he tries to explain the concept of global extinction, but then becomes the voice of dickery as he dismisses the ‘hobgoblin’ solution of sending Vivian after the staff (because biometric scanning and vital components are an offence to science,) and instead advises using nukes to play Newton’s Cradle with Cybertron’s dangling continents. Nukes. In the upper atmosphere. No harm there, I’m sure.
What’s right with it?
Wardrobe aside – seriously, she does not give walk and talks all day in those heels – Vivian is a massive step up on female leads in the previous Transformers films. Izabella actually makes two decent female characters, topping Age of Extinction‘s one, both of whom have agency.
Although barely in the film, the death of new character Canopy has more pathos than that of… pretty much any previous Autobot in this series.
Anthony Hopkins gets to shoot Megatron with a machine-gun laser cane.
While still very busy, the robot fights are definitely clearer than in previous installments, and the humans are less annoying. Mostly. Simmons.
In order to trump the last one, Prime enters the final battle riding a robot dragon.
I’m pretty sure that not one bottom was ogled by the cameras in the making of this movie, although we did get a lingering shot of leg with heels.
At least the character with a French accent is played by a French actor.
How bad is it really?
Part of the problem with The Last Knight, as with Age of Extinction, is that Revenge of the Fallen and Dark of the Moon set the bar so low that ‘it doesn’t suck’ becomes a positive endorsement. The Staff may be a total Macguffin, but at least the rules don’t change over and again like the Matrix of Leadership. Vivian dresses for the male eye and is kidnapped by her supposed allies, but she has agency. In the grand scheme of things, The Last Knight is not very good, but it works as disposable popcorn fun with far less bitter aftertaste than earlier installments.
And I’m not going to complain about Unicron, because that’s just a lift from the Aligned Continuity.
Best bit (if such there is)?
Ultimately, it’s the fact that none of the spectacle on display ever really pops out to stick in the mind that dooms the Transformers movies to increasingly snarky retrospectives, with only their vast, commercial success for comfort.
What’s up with…?
- ‘The Great Deceiver’? Seriously, she tells Prime that she wants to suck Unicron/Earth dry to save Cybertron, which is pretty much all true.
- Megatron’s Suicide Squad? It’s not even as if Mohawk, Berserker and… the other ones are all that well known.
Production values – As ever, the film is state of the art, although looking back at earlier installments its shocking how quickly that becomes a clunker. It’s also full of little voice over loops just to remind people what’s going on. I swear Lenox said that they needed a gun emplacement taken out at least four, maybe five times. 8
Dialogue and performances – A disgustingly overqualified cast do their best with a forgettable, contrivance-ridden script. 14
Plot and execution – There is just so much going on. The action is all over the shop. 11
Randomness – King Arthur? Dragons? Cybertron out of nowhere? 12
Waste of potential – Far more Age of Extinction than Revenge of the Fallen, it fails to be worse in every way than its predecessor, so there’s that. 8