Optimus Prime (voice: Peter Cullen) has left Earth to return to Cybertron where he meets an evil mother robot who turns him evil and sends him back to Earth to swipe Merlin’s staff so the planet of Cybertron can suck the life out of the Earth. Really. But forget about that as we won’t hear any more about it for two hours. Instead we’re on Earth with Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg), who’s a fugitive because all transformers are now “illegal.” Cade protects them in his huge but somehow hidden junkyard. He picks up a replacement daughter, but she ends up doing nothing. He is given a talisman that makes him the thirteenth knight of the round table, which also ends up as nothing except it causes Sir Edmund Burton (Anthony Hopkins) to summon him to England to meet Vivian Webley (Laura Haddock), the last descendent of Merlin who happens to be both a professor and ridiculously hot so Michael Bay can focus on her ass. As Sir Burton and his super steampunk robot explain—and explain and explain and explain—only Vivian can find and use Merlin’s staff and if she doesn’t in two days, the world will end. No, I’m not kidding. That’s the plot. Honest. That and a lot of generic stuff with the military and a subplot of Transformers playing ball in Cuba (still not kidding) and a bitchy scientist who exists because Michael Bay doesn’t like scientists. Then they all run around a lot and there are many, many explosions.
What’s the point? This is a Transformers movie and Transformers movies are all the same. There’s no good one. Nor is there a bad one. They are all ugly. They are all noisy. They are all nonsensical. They are all overly serious with a lot of lines that should be jokes if they weren’t delivered with great pretension. The difference in quality between the films—or in plot, or in character development, or in number of explosions—is trivial. And no one will, or should, start with the 5th. So if you hated the others, you’ll hate this one. And if you liked the others, there’s no helping you.
So what can I say? What’s different? Well, it is less racist then other outings (which means it is only a little racist). So…that’s good. The sexism is also dialed back a bit. The “jokes” are less cringe-worthy than in the second film, though still not funny. We have longer segments than usual without transformers doing anything, which I really can’t say is good or not, but it is a thing. The dino-transformers do more fighting and the dragon transfomer looks pretty cool by 1990s standards. Micheal Bay’s military fetishism is still on display, but his libertarian-anti-government side is stronger so we are more often meant to dislike the military. Product placement is down from the last film, though still obvious. And Anthony Hopkins can somehow say his ludicrous lines without embarrassing himself, and that’s real talent.
And that’s it. Otherwise, it’s the same garbage that Bay has spat out for ten years. This is supposed to be Bay’s last Transformers film, but it is also supposed to be the birth of a Transformers Universe of films, starting with a Bubblebee movie, so there’s no good news to be had, except, maybe, in the box office. Last Knight made over 400 million less than Transformers 4: Age of Extinction, and at least 200 million less than studio expectations. It still made a profit, but that’s not a sign of health for the franchise and the accountants won’t have missed that. It’s too much to hope that they’ll stop making Transformers movies, but I am a hopeful kind of guy.
The previous films were Transformers (2007), Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009), Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011), and Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014).