I spoil the end of the movie in this review, if a movie this horrible to begin with can truly be said to be spoiled, so proceed at your own risk. But, trust me, it’s a lousy movie which you shouldn’t see so the risk is pretty minimal.
Transformers: The Last Knight opens during the Dark Ages during a war between King Arthur (Liam Garrigan) and an unknown force. The men in King Arthur’s cadre of warriors ask him about Merlin (Stanley Tucci) and where he is, while others write Merlin off as a worthless drunk. We then cut to Merlin and find that he is, indeed, a drunk, but that he knows the location of a Transformer. The Transformer has a staff that Merlin needs to control a dragon Transformer, and when drunk Merlin swears off drink and money for the rest of his life if he can have the staff, the Transformer for some unknown reason decides that Merlin can now have the staff and Merlin saves the day for Arthur with his mechanical dragon. Why the staff is needed to bring the dragon into the fight is never made clear. Why the dragon is needed to win in the first place is also never made even remotely clear since Arthur had 5 normal Transformers fighting for him where their unnamed enemy just had normal Dark Ages people with normal Dark Ages technology. And, in the main story which takes place 1600 years later it is also never made clear why this staff can only be wielded by a descendant of Merlin nor why the staff is needed at Stonehenge when the planet of Cybertron and the creator of the Transformers, Quintessa (Gemma Chan), are attacking Earth. It’s even unclear in the film’s climax because when Vivian Wembley (Laura Haddock) the said last descendant of Merlin gets her hands on the staff, the dragon shows up and the heroes just win. Because. Cybertron is still there and it isn’t clear what happened to Quintessa, but the script and director apparently decided the plot did what it needed to do, so the heroes win. Yay!
At one point mid-movie when Cogman (Jim Carter), a rather annoying butler Transformer (that’s a thing) is speaking to is speaking to Cade (Mark Wahlberg) one of the other Transformers, I can’t tell which one since all the Transformers show up at random with no purpose and have a line or two each at most, approaches them and asks “Who is this?” Cogman immediately spins around and breaks all of the fingers on the larger Transformer’s right hand. Why? I guess random acts of extreme violence performed on a large thing by a small thing are hilarious in the minds of Michael Bay and his fans.
Slightly before this, our female lead Vivian gets into an argument with her elder female family members about why she doesn’t have a boyfriend, so she gets into a car and reads a note, but the car is a Transformer which immediately kidnaps her! Why did she just climb into a random car? Beats the crap out of me. How did she know there was a note inside that was for her? Who knows? But she needed to get kidnapped and whisked away to Sir Edmund Burton (Anthony Hopkins) otherwise how could we have a good looking woman in the movie to gawk at?
This is the intelligence on display throughout the entirety of Transformers: The Last Knight‘s running time. It’s not too uncommon for the cast and crew of a film to miss an important detail or two and leave behind plot holes to annoy their audience, but Transformers: The Last Knight never bothers to make any sense of anything from the get-go. A character motivation is whatever Michael Bay incorrectly believes will get the biggest laugh and nothing more. Occasionally it’s whatever will let him blow things up, but not a single action taken on the part of a single character is tied to any exposition, world laws, motivation, nor anything else other than the law of what would titillate a teenage male of very low intelligence.
Transformers: The Last Knight is the cinematic equivalent of a cat chasing a laser pointer where the audience is the cat. It’s staring at a screen, drooling, and exclaiming “Oooh colors!”, and if that were all there was to this movie I would simply chalk it up as a bad movie, tell you I don’t recommend it as anything more than the possible subject of a do it yourself MST3K party, and leave it at that. But, Transformers: The Last Knight takes it one step farther and actually crosses the line from horrible into downright offensive.
Yes, it does have the racist undertones of previous movies, but those jokes are at least a little toned down here, not that that’s an excuse just an explanation that this isn’t the film’s biggest problem. Transformers: The Last Knight includes two characters amongst its cast that are touted as smart people. One is the female lead Vivian mentioned a few times earlier. She has a PhD in history and archaeology and is a professor at a prestigious English university, I can’t recall exactly which one. The other smart character is a scientist of an unknown discipline who people in the Earth military call on when it’s found that Cybertron is making its way directly toward Earth.
Throughout the course of the movie, Vivian makes snarky comments to Cade, falls in love with Cade because he has abs, screams, wears skintight clothing and glasses (because she’s smart), finds out she is the last descendant of Merlin, gets kidnapped, and ends the movie when she touches the staff she’s supposed to touch. It’s bad enough that so much of this is incredibly sexist, but it’s made worse by the fact that her multiple advanced degrees and prestigious employment are in the movie purely so Michael Bay can say he has a smart woman in the movie and so she has an excuse to look down on people arrogantly until she sees their abs. The unnamed military scientist’s role is even worse, put into the film only to play an obnoxious, arrogant nerd stereotype and to scream about how physics are more dependable than magic only to then be wrong and screw up every single thing he does. Transformers: The Last Knight does not settle for merely being stupid, it goes all the way to straight out anti-intellectual.
Final verdict: If Tom & Jerry cartoons confuse you due to the high amount of intellect required to understand them, then perhaps this is a movie for you. Otherwise, Transformers: The Last Knight is a movie that is not content to be simply terrible and a jumbled mess of confused actions and images, it is also racist, sexist, and paranoid of anything with an IQ greater than the mid double digits and any degree of any kind. Transformers: The Last Knight should not just be avoided, it should be shunned, as it is the embodiment of exactly the attitude which is running through American culture right now that makes us so susceptible to charlatans and those who seek to exploit anyone they can for their own greed and narcissism. This film is worse than bad, it’s downright irresponsible and evil.