Transformers: The Last Knight is, surprisingly, a movie.
The film is a direct sequel to Transformers: Age of Extinction, not that that is important. Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen), leader of the Autobots, is adrift in space, frosted over in route to his homeworld.
And he will remain frosted over for most of the movie.
Meanwhile, on Earth, various humans have agendas related to Transformers and there are Decepticons and Dino Bots and governments and people related to medieval royalty.
Let’s be fair to Michael Bay and his long-standing franchise. This is a step up from Transformers: Age of Extinction. From a directing standpoint, Bay’s erratically-edited and over-blown style is not too overbearing. In fact, it works just fine until the gaudy climax.
I mean, it is hard not to notice the constantly shifting aspect ratio, which is far more distracting than you might think. It is hard for the film to go three or four shots without changing its aspect ratio. A small price to pay for IMAX, I guess.
But, I am trying to be fair.
The story of this fourth sequel is not overtly atrocious. It’s presentation, on the other hand, is.
For starters, the script handles nothing adequately. Tonally, the film steps up to bat again and again against the pitcher that is comic relief. On nearly every occasion, it strikes out.
The only notable exception is Jerrod Carmichael, whose natural ability to deliver comedy salvages the bulk of his lines. Of course, this is what he was hired for, just as T.J. Miller in Age of Extinction. Otherwise, his character is entirely useless within the frame of the narrative.
The story also fumbles its way through both an A-plot and various subplots that carry too many characters to remain coherent. As a result, few of them receive any amount of depth. Save for a car named Bumblebee, of course.
Sure, the story can be followed. And just in case you can’t follow it, there are plenty of ADR lines recorded after the fact to point you directly to the point of what is already on screen.
Moving to a level as abstract as tropes, The Last Knight cherry-picks whenever it pleases, creating a non-original mashup of scenes that feel out of place. This includes various “nods” to Star Wars and a pair of scenes that are directly lifted from Suicide Squad.
Transformers: The Last Knight has entertainment value, which can be mined out of discrete moments and set pieces that do not have direct influence on the narrative. Otherwise, the comedy is crass and brash to no payoff, the characters fade in and out as necessary with little depth, and the story pushes on for 40 minutes too long as it readies for a giant climax with unsatisfying resolutions.
So, you know, it’s kind of a movie.
Transformers: The Last Knight: D+
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—Alex Brannan (@TheAlexBrannan)