A FEW (SPOILER-FREE) THOUGHTS ON ‘TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT’

Well, at least there isn’t a lot of product placement this time around.

The fifth or twentieth installment of the gigantic alien robot franchise thankfully deprives us of shots of corporate advertisements blatantly getting free publicity in a movie (Bud Light does a make a return cameo appearance). Apparently, in this film, times are so dire, with the military destroying every and any Transformer that sets foot on American soil (some fugitive bots do escape to Cuba, where John Turturro is waiting for them to play soccer, for some reason), companies don’t even bother making blazing ad campaigns anymore.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t stop this sequel from blowing insanely hard. Mark Wahlberg returns as the Autobot sympathizer-turned-fugitive, hiding wayward bots at a car junkyard located on Native American property. (There’s an awkward scene with Wahlberg and a Native-American that’s practically indicative of the racial insensitivity that’s evident throughout the whole gotdamn franchise.) Jerrod Carmichael, currently killing the sitcom game on NBC’s The Carmichael Show, gets stuck as his assistant and the resident Scared, Sarcastic Negro. And since Wahlberg’s jailbait daughter is off in college, we now have a teenage orphan (Isabela Moner) who director Michael Bay has no problem objectifying (those running shots!) for the camera.

She’s not the only eye candy. There’s also Brit actress Laura Haddock, playing a stuck-up professor of literature or science or some shit like that, whom Bay dolls up like she’s this porn star. Haddock and Wahlberg’s characters begin their relationship hating each other but, of course, that just means they’re gonna be all over each other by the movie’s end.

It turns out this rational professor is the direct descendant of Merlin (played in the prologue by Stanley Tucci, taking slumming to new heights), who once used a powerful staff given to him by a Transformer back in the day to aid King Arthur in some war. Transformers ended up becoming knights in his Round Table. (After this movie, I don’t ever want to hear anyone bad-mouth the not-bad King Arthur: Legend of the Sword ever again.) It turns out Transformers have been fighting the good fight in wars for centuries. Bumblebee was even in WWII!

At this point, I should mention Anthony Hopkins shows up in an obvious for-the-paycheck role as a secret-order historian (with a mini-Transformer as his servant) who informs Wahlberg he’s been chosen to stop the world from ending — I think that’s how it goes. The plot started getting murky at this point.

OK, let’s get this shit out of the way: I know the Transformers franchise is supposed to be silly, mindless, summer entertainment that shouldn’t be taken seriously. (I don’t think anyone mistook these movies for prestige flicks.) However, would it hurt Bay to make one of these with well-developed characters, a coherent plot and action sequences that isn’t just loud, chaotic mayhem? One of the action set pieces takes place at Stonehenge, proving that Bay will destroy world history just to get some awesome, explosive visuals.

As usual, Bay and the 88 screenwriters who put this shit together spread a heaping coat of crassness on the whole thing, which is heavily visible in the property-obliterating action sequences as well as the obnoxious characters. Practically all the characters, both human and alien, are fuckin’ dicks.

Bay pulls out so many low-common denominator thrills, he shoots scenes using both regular and IMAX cameras, making every sequence change aspect ratio on a dime. Unlike Christopher Nolan, who sets asides scenes to be shot only in IMAX cameras, Bay takes all the cameras he has and shoots everything in one, big, gotdamn bundle. Yeah, Michael Bay shouldn’t be allowed to operate IMAX cameras.

So, what can be worse than this movie? The post-credits scene that practically sets up what’s going to happen in the next movie. God, I hate this franchise.