Box Office Democracy: Transformers: The Last Knight
It’s strange to describe a movie as Michael Bay’s id run amok. Bay is already seemingly the living embodiment of the collective id of every even slightly repressed filmmaker to come before him. Transformers: The Last Knight is dozens and dozens of bad ideas stuck together with slow motion CGI and glistening skin. There’s a Transformer in this movie who has a gun that makes things move in slow motion. That’s either proof that Bay has no idea that people use his cliches to ridicule him, or proof he doesn’t care because no one will ever stop giving him giant piles of money to figuratively light on fire every couple of years. This is not the loving work of someone who grew up loving the toys or the cartoons or any of that; this is someone who smashed his toys together until they broke and then cried until they were replaced.
I’m honestly not sure there’s a synopsis of The Last Knight that would read as anything other than the ravings of a madman. It turns out Transformers have been on earth since Arthurian times. They’ve been involved with every major human event in history including World War II. A secret cabal of historical figures have been involved in keeping them secret. They also protect a magic artifact that can only be used by the descendant of Merlin. Also, Optimus Prime is evil and wants to destroy earth— but honestly, that doesn’t have much effect on the events of the film. The movie we get is two hours of running around trying to prevent something from happening, and then an underwhelming 20 minutes during which the bad thing happens anyway but is stopped like it’s no big deal.
It feels like there’s so much less spectacle in this movie which can’t be true because giant robots fight each other for no reason all the time. Maybe it’s just that the fights have no discernible stakes and no one making any decisions about the plot is ever involved in the fighting. The Transformer with the most lines is a C-3P0 ripoff (called out as similar in the movie itself) that doesn’t seem to transform in to anything. Megatron and Optimus Prime stay on the sidelines while third string robots from the last movie that I can’t be bothered to remember fight over and over. It must be hard to make giant robot fighting seem so inconsequential.
The Last Knight does an honestly amazing amount of metaphorical nerd punching. Every character that has studied something is a naive idiot and real knowledge can only be attained from being near Transformers. Oxford professors don’t know anything, NASA physicists are smug idiots with bad ideas, and the Prime Minister of the UK is a schmuck. If you’ve ever read a book on purpose, Michael Bay wants you to know he thinks you’re an asshole and have nothing of value to contribute to society.
I don’t know what the point is of telling you this. If you’ve watched Michael Bay movies since Bad Boys II went to overthrow Castro for no reason after the story ended, you’ve probably known Bay doesn’t care anymore. He’s chasing the rush of the big explosion and the nine figure gross. People go and see his movies because they like his visual style, and while it’s absolutely not for me it’s definitely for someone. When the lights came up on this two-and-a-half-hour unintelligible wreck of a movie, people in my theater applauded. I love a dessert but I would prefer it be a part of a meal that includes a sensible entree; some people just want to eat Pixie Stix for dinner and wash it down with Red Bull. The Last Knight is a movie for them. I hope they like it.