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In analogue film projection, the illusion of motion is created by a shutter that covers the projector’s lens as each frame advances. Without an intermittent shutter, the images fuse together and become a blur. “Transformers: The Last Knight” feels like it doesn’t have that shutter. It’s a blur of motion, a two and a half hour drone of constant noise and explosions without rhyme or reason. It’s such a sickening assault on the senses that it starts to feel like a fever dream…of poop.
Forgive me if the following plot synopsis sounds a little slap dash, but I have no idea what was going on. The movie starts in medieval times with a massive and incoherent battle. (It’s not clear who’s fighting whom and why. The armies keep shifting locations: they’re walking between the trees; no, now they’re on the battlefield; nope, now they switched sides with the other guys. Huh?!). And the incoherence just continues unabated.
Apparently, the titular robots have been on earth since the Dark Ages and they give a scepter to Merlin that… does something? The film cuts to the present day, where nominal robot hero, Optimus Prime, returns to his ruined home world of Cybertron.
Upon arrival, he’s immediately turned into a villain with just a few lines of dialogue by a floating, silver octopus. Nemesis Prime (No, seriously, I think he calls himself this at one point) returns to earth, ruins of his home in tow, and plans to destroy our planet in order to rejuvenate his. Standing in his way are a returning Cade Yaeger (Mark Wahlberg, who somehow says that name without laughing) and Vivian (Laura Haddock), a British professor who has to use that scepter to stop him. I guess. I don’t know.
Michael Bay directs once again and brings with him his usual sad antics. I already mentioned the incoherence of the visuals and the story, but he also brings his blatant sexism. When Vivian is introduced, the first line directed at her is, “There’s a reason you’re always single.” Because, you know, a woman without a boyfriend must be deficient somehow. The next time we see her she’s parking a car poorly, knocking over several bicycles. I could almost feel frat boy Bay nudging me in the ribs, spilling beer on my shoes, whispering, “Women, they can’t even drive, amIright?”
At least, I thought, we’re going to get some decent action sequences. Yeah, Bay’s command of the filmic language is incoherent at best, but he does blow things up good from time to time. But even that fails. The action sequences are not exciting, randomly starting and stopping without proper set up and no sense of escalation. Stuff just starts blowing up and then stops blowing up. Of course, stuff is constantly blowing up, even when there’s no action. Cade Yaeger (I can’t not write that whole name) pours himself cereal at one point and I was surprised that his bowl didn’t explode into tiny, beautiful, slow-motion fragments.
It also amazes me that Bay spends so much money (budget: $260 million) and effort on effects that convincingly bring the robots to life, but then doesn’t bother directing the actors doing the voice overs for those robots, creating an odd disconnect between what you’re seeing and what you’re hearing. They look like they’re there, but their voices don’t sound like it. They’re just clipped sound bites randomly inserted into the scenes. Each time they open their mouths I just saw John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, etc. all locked in a sound booth, spitting into their microphones.
And the human dialogue doesn’t fare any better. Cade Yaeger, while fighting with Vivian, says that he doesn’t care if she’s a doctor, a professor, or “whatever pseudonym you use.” Err, I don’t mean to nitpick, but those aren’t pseudonyms!
Then Anthony Hopkins shows up and brings some class to the proceedi…oops, no he doesn’t. He mush mouths over his lines either because he’s embarrassed or because he knows they don’t make any sense. Then to add insult to injury, he’s forced to say, “You want to know, don’t you, dude?” followed by, “What a bitchin’ car that is.” Now I know how Sideshow Bob felt on “The Simpsons” when Vanessa Redgrave declared that she was “gonna haul ass to Lollapalooza!”
“Transformers: The Last Knight” is easily one of the worst movies I’ve seen in a movie theater. Incoherent, overlong, and over-stupid, it goes on and on like some kind of idiotic perpetual-motion machine. After about an hour and a half, I began looking at my watch. Ten minutes later, I looked again…. only two minutes had elapsed. By the end, my watch had seen more face time than the movie screen. And you know what? My watch was more entertaining.