By Andrew Jenck
The Transformers movie series is widely regarded as everything that is wrong with modern Hollywood blockbusters, being overly long, pandering, mindless action movies that still appease the mainstream audience. While I don’t hate the franchise as much as others, I do find it sad that we’ve now made it to part five. I want to make this abundantly clear: if you’ve seen any of the previous Transformers movies, you’ve seen The Last Knight. Nothing new is added to this installment as it involves the same basic plot and problems from the previous entries.
There’s a McGuffin that the Decepticons are after that stumbles into the hands of our main human lead. The story is over-bloated with seven different subplots, it raises the question of whether the Autobots’ presence actually protects the world. It has stereotypical characters, the humor is low brow, arch nemesis Megatron becomes a henchman for the new villain, and, of course, the Transformers are not the main stars of their own film. A major criticism of the franchise is that too much focus is dedicated on the human characters, to the point where it might as well be called Humans. In fact, there are more human characters with arcs than Autobots. Even the Last Knight title itself belongs to a human character. I understand that these types of movies require an audience-perspective character to make its universe more relatable, but none of these characters are relatable, being either too boring or too over-the-top.
Mark Wahlberg tries to convince us that he’s a “kick-butt” action star, but still has his signature, awkward quips. He has two sidekicks: the stereotypical, quippy nerd and the more-adult teenage girl who has the cute robot to sell toys. There are also the square-jawed military men who are conflicted of whether they’re fighting for the right cause. The old man who spews exposition, explaining the needlessly complicated mythology of the series. Finally, there’s the headstrong, eye-candy woman whose relatives feel like she needs a man in her life, and yes, it’s as obvious as you think it is. While I don’t find the Transformers themselves to be interesting or likeable, for being the title characters, they’re pushed to the side until the action scenes call for them.
The big selling point of this film is Bumblebee fighting against an evil Optimus Prime, and if you think that’s worth the price of admission, you’ll be greatly disappointed. Optimus sits out most of the film, even though he’s on all the posters, and the film never explores his relationship with Bee, as they’ve had no real relationship throughout the films. The whole reason why Optimus is evil is a cop-out (I’m not surprised). Finally, there’s as much fighting between the two as Batman fighting Superman in Batman v. Superman, complete with its resolution as idiotic as the Martha scene.
The climax is the only serviceable aspect of this film, as it’s well directed and has great effects; though, it lacks emotional appeal since, again, these characters are unmemorable. The action scenes always focus on the human characters. The Transformers action is either cut short or happens off screen and nothing is memorable in any way. Don’t expect anything on the level of Yondu vs the Ravengers or Wonder Woman in No Man’s Land.
You might think that I hate this movie. Although I do think it’s objectively awful, I can’t muster up such hatred. I’m more frustrated that, despite having the same flaws and story, casual moviegoers will flock to see this and excuse it as dumb-popcorn fun. I don’t find this to be fun in the least bit; when it’s not boring, it’s eye-rolling. I’ll see bad movies so that I can appreciate good movies and see why they don’t work. With this series, however, I feel like I’ve seen the same film five times. This is not a fun distraction because, between this and re-watching the previous films to refresh my memory, it was one of the most challenging mental workouts I’ve experienced. And I’m a college student.