Transformers: The Last Knight (TLK) is easily one of the worst films to grace the silver screen in 2017. Expectations were never high but if ever you needed a good example of franchise fatigue TLK delivers in spades. Seemingly made up as it goes, the latest Autobot excursion races along at breakneck speed, jumping from one underwhelming action sequence to another. The sight of enormous robots beating the crap out of each other against an apocalyptic backdrop once held some impact, but now feels tired and serves to parody itself.
The original Transformers was actually a solid adaptation, it had some heart, plenty of action (as per usual with Bay) and the initial CGI spectacle of watching the conversion from vehicle to bipedal mech was incredible to behold. The franchise then took a major misstep with Revenge of the Fallen (Transformer testicles anyone?), but managed to scrape back some grace with the over-the-top but spectacular set piece filled Dark of the Moon. And that’s where it should have ended. Since then the franchise has descended ever further into madness, and it shows no signs of slowing.
Featuring a storyline that throws together space gods, secret societies, ancient bloodlines and an all powerful staff, TLK is utterly bananas and tries to mask that fact by changing shot every 2 seconds (I found my eyes actually hurting from the transition speed). With Transformers now illegal on Earth and Optimus Prime having shot himself into space to find his maker, the remaining Transformers are forced into hiding as they’re hunted by the newly formed Transformer Reaction Force (TRF). The Chicago quarantine area is patrolled by automated robots (who look a hell of a lot like the ED-209’s from Robocop) looking for any signs of Transformer activity.
Mark Wahlberg returns as Cade Yeager, the mechanic on the run for his actions in Age of Extinction, who now harbours Transformers in a junk yard and finds himself front and centre in another battle for the Earth. No one’s performance in this film is great, Wahlberg just belts out his lines and Yeager feels increasingly shoehorned into significance. Though that’s always been a problem for the series, the human characters’ irrelevance to Transformer business. Anthony Hopkins gives a rather bizarre performance as Sir Edmund Burton, a man who knows the secret history of Transformers and seems to live in a huge castle in Dover, and yet the Prime Minister has no idea who he is. Hopkins veers between wise, all knowing keeper of secrets to mental old man within the same scene which makes him incredibly inconsistent as a character. It’s Burton who, via his incredibly irritating butler-transformer Cogman (voiced by Downton Abbey’s Jim Carter), orchestrates the film’s clusterf*** of a plot.
Laura Haddock plays Vivian Wembley (another unbearable character), a highly educated member of the British elite who specialises in historical legends and has daddy issues. There’s an awkward attempt at humour with a repeated joke about her family wanting her to find a man and being the progressive professional woman she is (there’s none of the blatant ogling that Megan Fox and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley had to endure, thankfully), naturally she wants to be respected for her work but then Mark Wahlberg turns up and he has abs so y’know…. but anyway she turns out to be a direct descendant of Merlin (Stanley Tucci) and the only person who can use Merlin’s staff to prevent the end of the world.
One of the most painful aspects of TLK is the writing. Jokes don’t land at all, conversations are awkward and ill-structured with dialogue that’s clunky and offensive to the ear. Oh and that massive showdown between an evil Optimus Prime and fan-favourite Bumblebee that featured prominently in EVERY trailer? Over in a couple of minutes and ended by a moment that gave me flashbacks to the now infamous ‘Martha!’ scene in Batman v Superman.
The few strengths that TLK possesses are eroded by franchise fatigue, the once awe inspiring CGI transformation sequences are now old hat and familiar while the throwbacks to Transformers lore and characters now reeks of desperation as Paramount tries to inject some longevity into a series that should have ended two instalments ago.
So save yourself time and money and watch one of the many superior films out there, because even as a Transformers fan, this one is just too painful to endure.