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Transformers: The Last Knight review

A perfect example of what happens when promise is squandered

Paramount Pictures

Transformers: The Last Knight is two-thirds of a decent summer blockbuster, but the final act is complete garbage.

The last act, which almost feels like it belongs to a separate movie, isn’t just boring, but it’s redundant to every other Transformers movie. If you’ve seen any of the franchise’s films in the past decade, then you’ll already have an idea of how Transformers: The Last Knight ends. Director Michael Bay relies so heavily on doing the same thing — working the same plot that we’ve seen in other Transformers movies, using the same slowed-down cinematography that grows more frustrating and eyeroll-inducing with each frame — that it’s easy to forget how enjoyable the first two-thirds of The Last Knight are.

This is one of the first Transformers movies that I enjoyed — for a brief time — in years. There’s a better thought out and developed story guiding the movie. The acting, especially from talents like Sir Anthony Hopkins and newcomer Isabela Moner, is fantastic. There’s a real sense of purpose that The Last Knight defines early on, giving it something that the series has been missing for years: a reason to continue.

The issue, again, comes down to Bay ignoring everything he did well with the first two acts in the film’s final 45 minutes. The Last Knight returns to rest upon the laurels that has been driving Transformers for years: undeniably beautiful CGI.

The problem is that almost every movie is beautiful now. Technology has reached the point where the wildest imaginations can become reality on the big screen. Simply having a beautiful movie is no longer enough, not when another beautiful movie will roll around the corner the following week.

The Last Knight needs to be more than a traditional Transformers movie, and it needs to be more substantial than something pretty to stare at for close to three hours. What’s aggravating about the film is that it almost accomplishes that. The originality, humor and story that Bay brought to most of the film is admirable, but any ounce of joy that comes with watching The Last Knight quickly disappears in that third act. Instead, you’ll spend the rest of the film anxiously bouncing your knee, trying not to kick the seat in front of you, wondering how long a movie could possibly be.

The Last Knight had the chance to be the Transformers movie that reenergized the franchise, but instead wound up as one of the most disappointing entries yet.

Paramount Pictures

The Last Knight picks up after the events of Transformers: Age of Extinction. Optimus Prime is floating through space, trying to reach his original creators and Cybertron, the planet he originally came from. While on his journey, aspiring inventor Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) is hiding out in a junkyard in South Dakota, officially a fugitive on the run after hiding and protecting a number of Autobots. Remember, in this semi-post-apocalyptic age, Transformers have become public enemy No. 1, being hunted down day after day after day by the TFA, an organization dedicated to capturing and imprisoning the machines.

After a series of strange, cataclysmic events, Yeager is brought to England, where he meets an Oxford professor, Vivian Wembley (Laura Haddock), and Sir Edmund Burton, a member of the secret community built to look out for and work alongside Transformers. It’s through their meeting that both Yeager and Wembley learn something interesting about their own pasts, leaving it up to them to stop the devastating and imminent attack from Quintessa, otherwise known as the alien creator of the robotic Cybertronians.

What makes The Last Knight an interesting movie is how little it focuses on Quintessa, everyone’s favorite Decepticon, Megatron, and the rest of the groovy baddies that took up so much screen time in previous movies. The Last Knight chooses to center on the humanity that exists alongside these Transformers. More importantly, it tells a story about having the courage to stand up for what’s right and not persecute an entire group of people because of fear-mongering. There’s a tale of honor sewn into almost every scene of The Last Knight that makes it feel so much more mature than what other Transformers movies have been, like it has an important message it needs to get across. It’s not like The Last Knight is the be-all and end-all of summer blockbusters, but for what it is, the movie started out as more than just mindless fun.

I appreciate what Bay was trying to do with the story, and he deserves credit for making a good portion of The Last Knight the type of movie that actively requires your attention. It’s because of that, because of the hard work that he put in to make this a good movie, that it’s so woefully disappointing. Nothing can salvage the movie after it takes a turn for the worse. Nothing can save it from itself.

Transformers Paramount Pictures

The only thing that comes close is Hopkins’ Sir Edmund Burton. Hopkins’ performance as an eccentric, charming older man with a secret knowledge of London and a quick wit is the best part of the movie. Hopkins gives a fantastic performance and, as a veteran of the silver screen, knows when to overplay or underplay his role. He’s both a wonderful leading actor in scenes that require it and a perfect supporting figure when it’s demanded. He doesn’t hog the scene when he’s on screen, but his performance is impossible to overlook, demanding your respect and attention with every sentence spoken.

The acting in general is more than fine. There are some weaker performances — unfortunately, Haddock as Vivian Wembley falls into that category — but for the most part, everyone understands their role and what is required from them. The silent communication that happens between the people on screen keeps things well-paced and, as a result, every character feels just as important as the last.

As I’m writing this review, a part of me wishes that I could erase the final act from my mind and just talk about how surprisingly fun The Last Knight was at points, but I can’t. I can’t forget just how bored and frustrated I got with the end. I can’t forget how many times I glanced down at my phone to check the time, wishing it would just end. I can’t forget how upset I was that The Last Knight turned into a run-of-the-mill Transformers movie. There was so much going for it and then, in the blink of an eye, it was all gone.

Transformers: The Last Knight had the foundation to be one of the more enjoyable summer blockbusters I’ve seen so far this year. It could have marked a strong start for the upcoming season of big-budget, loud, superhero-driven movies. Instead, The Last Knight represents a problem that many blockbusters have: It relies far too much on its looks, on its ability to be cool.

But as I said before, every movie is pretty these days. Movies need to be more than that if they want to succeed. It’s because of how groan-inducing those 45 minutes are that The Last Knight never amounts to being anything more than pretty, no matter how hard it tries.

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