Week of 6/18

Transformers: The Last Knight (*/****)

The films of Michael Bay put me in a position that I don’t find myself in very often, nor one that I enjoy in the least. Being on the side of conventional knowledge in the case of a derided filmmaker is punishment enough for my conscience and ego, yet I must also face the additional unenviable annoyance of disagreeing with my fellows over specifics. Bay’s films are loud, stupid, long, and garish, true, yet nothing in particular in my set of preferences precludes a film with these characteristics from quality. No, my own specific aversion to Bay’s body of work is that I find them to be unconscionably clinical and rote. Contrary to his reputation for bringing forth “Bayhem,” his modus operandi has always struck me as grafting a couple of flashier bells and whistles onto otherwise tepid specimens of the Hollywood moneymaker du jour (even his famously “unhinged” Bad Boys II is just a bloated, slightly meaner buddy comedy at the end of the day). And, like clockwork, Transformers: The Last Knight follows suit in this pattern; the only difference being that this time, Bay is playing off of a trend that reduces even his ostensible identity of maximalist maestro into the role of brand babysitter. It’s impossible to quickly summarize the premise and story of The Last Knight since, in addition to retaining Bay’s penchant for being somehow endlessly explanatory and impenetrably obtuse, it is more a collection of series odds and ends than any sort of narrative. There’s some nonsense about wizards and ancient MacGuffins and anti-Transformer strike teams, yet all roads lead to the destination of series callbacks, prospective future developments, and Pavlovian nostalgia triggers (of now two separate generations). The series, born largely from intersections in marketing opportunities, now joins the ranks of 75% of blockbuster franchises in being a very long advertisement for itself, and Bay — a filmmaker who no matter his lack of fascinating register, at least expressed a definitive mean streak — is now robbed by either fatigue, studio pressure or both of even that dubious distinction.