INANE ACTION FUELS “TRANSFORMERS” INTO A DEATH SPIRAL
A Film Review by Tim Riley
TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT (Rated PG-13) It is probably too much to hope for that the fifth installment of director Michael Bay’s overwrought “Transformers” franchise of robot wars proves to be so nonsensical that we could finally see the enterprise go down in flames in a well-deserved death spiral. Sadly, there will be an audience for “Transformers: The Last Knight” but the fervent wish is that this column could serve as a cautionary warning to save your hard-earned money from being used by the film’s numerous producers to buy some Caribbean islands.
The most charitable thing to say about “The Last Knight” is that it is a chaotic, jumbled mess of brutal action that serves to turn medieval and even more contemporary history completely on its head in a bizarre twist of revisionism.
According to the geniuses behind this action misfire, the Transformers were around during the Middle Ages to save King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table from being wiped off the face of the Earth by barbarian hordes, with Merlin (Stanley Tucci) playing a role to summon their help.
In what figures to be a key plot point in the present day, Merlin’s magical staff has a lot to do with King Arthur’s battlefield success against all odds and could serve to repel more contemporary evil forces.
The shape-shifting robots, including a gigantic fire-breathing dragon, also had something to do with battles at Stonehedge, but now I can’t really recall the purpose of this particular scene. But then, a lot of things make little sense or, in most cases, none at all.
Entering the modern era, we find that the Transformers joined forces with the allies to defeat the Nazis. I guess we can now forget about how the steadfast, resolute Winston Churchill so valiantly rallied Great Britain in the war effort until the United States became involved.
Optimus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen) is off sulking on some distant planet, and even if he were around at the start one could wonder if he would take the side of the humans fighting the bad robots. On Earth, the Transformers have been declared illegal and a military task force under the command of William Lennox (Josh Duhamel) hunts down all Autobots, leading to a remote junkyard somewhere in flyover country where Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) is hiding out with his sidekick Jimmy (Jerrod Carmichael).
While navigating the urban wasteland of an abandoned city, Cade comes across a spunky 14-year-old Izabella (Isabela Moner), a street-wise orphaned girl who looks like a young Jennifer Lopez tough cookie in training more than willing to join the robot wars. Now, “The Last Knight,” so lacking in coherence and any resemblance of realism, suddenly has Cade and his crew ending up in Great Britain in search of Sir Edmund Burton (Anthony Hopkins), who lives in a castle that might hold the key to unlocking mysteries of the Transformers.
The search for enlightenment, or whatever, leads them to sexy Oxford professor Viviane Wembley (Laura Haddock), apparently the only living descendant of King Arthur who just might know where to find Merlin’s magical staff to summon the help of good robots. The only thing interesting about the learned professor is that, aside from her smug sense of intellectual superiority over the unwashed American visitors, she looks great in a low-cut black dress that might be worn by a stripper. Coherence in the plot is a problem that cannot be easily disguised by the constant cacophony of clashing robots amped up for mass destruction. Why is Agent Simmons (John Turturro) in Havana making calls on a pay phone in the public square?
How did a submarine ride come into play nearing a climactic action sequence under the sea where action shifts to a place that seems to be an underground grotto? Maybe I suffered mental fatigue after too much sound and fury amounting to bombastic foolishness. Fittingly enough, “Transformers: The Last Knight” has been rated PG-13 for “violence and intense sequences of sci-fi action, language and some innuendo.”
It’s curious then that the material may be inappropriate for children under 13 because, if anything, the target audience appears to be that of 12-year-olds eager to see Hasbro toys animated into weapons of mass destruction. On the cinematic front, the worst news to come to my attention is the possibility of a sixth chapter for “Transformers” or a spinoff where the Autobots are created by the vintage body parts of Ford Pinto station wagons. I may be alone on this but I hope it does not come to pass. I was hoping to have some fun watching “Transformers 5” and I hate to be disappointed. Mark Wahlberg had his moments delivering some snarky one-liners, but other than that the human actors come up short.