“I should not be watching the fourth sequel to a movie that came out when I was in high school. Wait, everyone in this theater seems like they’re in high school. How old were they when the first Michael Bay Transformers movie came out in 2007? Seven? Do they think of this as the sequel to an old movie then? Or was the first one a formative experience for them at seven years old? Were there any sequels to movies I saw when I was seven being released when I was 17?”
These are the thoughts I had as Transformers: The Last Knight began, and maybe the last I had until it ended. The film, Michael Bay’s fifth live action version of the ’80s cartoon based on the Hasbro toy series, begins long ago in the days of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, which is fitting, because it makes me feel old.
To be clear, it literally begins with the Knights of the Round Table, who, with the help of Merlin and a three headed dragon transformer, fend off an army of some evil Viking types. This will make you convince yourself that Merlin is not played by Stanley Tucci even though he appears to be Stanley Tucci, because Stanley Tucci already starred in the *previous* Transformer as an evil businessman type character who lived in the present day. You will be wrong: I checked, and Merlin *is* played by Stanley Tucci, even though that makes no sense.
Transformers: The Last Knight starts with a new protagonist, Izabella (Isabela Moner), an orphaned 14-year-old girl who hangs around with Transformers, who are now leaderless and hunted by some part of the American military, who are opposed by another part of the American military. But it’s not long before you are reminded that Mark Wahlberg is in this movie, returning as Cade Yeager, heroic Autobot ally man. Once he shows up, things get increasingly about him in this two hour and 29-minute movie, to the point that Izabella basically disappears from the movie for what feels like and may actually be the length of an entire, other movie.
I don’t really know what to tell you about Transformers: The Last Knight other than that the way Michael Bay shoots half his scenes has devolved into a swirling ball of confusion that makes me say the kinds of things I laughed at adults saying about the first Transformers movie when I was a teenager. There are scenes in here that are filmed and edited like impressionistic montages, which would be cool, if they weren’t supposed to be straightforward, plot-propelling action scenes. I don’t know if it’s me or the movies, but the rapid cut cavalcade of explosions, shouting, clangs, camera swooshes, and Bay’s idiosyncratic version of army worship are completely baffling to anyone invested in Being Able To Tell What The Hell Is Even Going On.
I don’t have a powerful conclusion here. The Optimus Prime has turned evil subplot advertised lasts about one scene? Anthony Hopkins is here? There’s some racist Transformers again? I don’t know what you want to hear. Why do you care? Why does anyone? Let me leave you with this: Michael Bay directed The Rock, which is straight up one of the greatest action movies ever. A few years ago, Guillermo Del Toro dropped Pacific Rim, maybe the greatest giant robot fighting movie of all time. And if you type netflix.com into your browser, there are a whole host of other movies you can watch right now that are even less like Transformers: The Last Knight.