Transformers: The Last Knight is a befuddling film on multiple levels. On one hand, the fifth installment of the franchise is a towering special effects achievement. Director Michael Bay, Hollywood’s king of blowing stuff up, truly raises his action game. Shot with IMAX 3D cameras, the technical brilliance of The Last Knight cannot be understated. It is incredible to see. The fault lies in the scattershot plot. Elements from the previous films are mixed into an updated storyline, drumroll please, from the 1986 classic cartoon, The Transformers: The Movie. It doesn’t make a lick of sense, but is an intriguing turn in the overall plot direction. Transformers fans are going to have a field day with this one. Minor spoilers are ahead.
Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen) has long left Earth on a quest to find his creator. In his absence, Transformers continue to arrive. The U.S. Government has created the Transformers Reactionary Force (TRF) to handle their ongoing threat. Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) has hidden the remaining Autobots in a South Dakota junkyard. He and Bumblebee venture out to save good robots in distress. They are constantly hunted by the TRF, much to the chagrin of Colonel Lennox (Josh Duhamel); who remembers when the military was allied with the Autobots.
Yeager’s rescue mission to the Chicago quarantine zone uncovers two things. The first is a plucky orphan, Izabella (Isabella Moner), who knows how to fix the robots. The other is an ancient amulet from the time of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. Transformers were responsible for his legendary victories. A secret organization led by Sir Edmund Burton (Anthony Hopkins) has buried their influence over humanity. The discovery of the amulet points to a hidden weapon that heralds an apocalyptic battle for Earth’s survival. Meanwhile, in the depths of space on the dead world of Cybertron, Optimus Prime has found his maker.
The plot swings like a boomerang between different characters and locations. It’s confusing as hell keeping track of what exactly is happening. I could drive a tractor through the plot holes. That should be a damning critique, but it’s not. I loved the 1986 Transformers movie as a kid. The Last Knight takes a narrative chunk from that film and repurposes it. Only diehard fans who’ve seen the thirty-year old cartoon will know what I’m referring to. The Last Knight is the set up bridge to a wider Transformers Universe.
The film is a constant, unrelenting action barrage. The new characters inject humor when the spectacle starts to overwhelm. Anthony Hopkins, Jerrod Carmichael, and Cogman (Jim Carter), a sociopathic servant droid, are hilarious. They keep everything on track when the 3D explosions and gunfire start blurring. The female lead, actress Laura Haddock, is pivotal; but spends her time trading innuendo with Mark Wahlberg. Michael Bay continues to embrace juvenile sexual humor, but that’s par for the course the fifth time around.
Transformers: The Last Knight rekindles my personal interest in the franchise. It incorporates themes from the 1986 film, which should tickle fanboys a plenty. None of that matters to Transformers neophytes, who would be utterly confused by the meandering plot. In that case, let the spectacle work its magic. From Paramount Pictures, see Transformers: The Last Knight in the best theater possible. The behemoth action scenes, in glorious IMAX 3D, are totally worth the price of admission.