By now, you may—or may not–have seen Michael Bay’s latest “masterpiece” also known as Transformers: The Last Knight rampage, brawl and pillage through your latest Cineplex.
Naturally, every movie that Bay makes is immediately attacked by critics with the veracity of mosquitoes biting open skin in late July and August. So, not only out of sheer curiosity and fandom, but I decided to devote a couple of hours to myself and check out a cheap $7 matinee showing in downtown Cleveland at Tower City.
Amidst all of the red, white and blue of USMNT supporters in town to see the United States eventually win Group B of their CONCACAF Group B down at the so-called Factory of Sadness, better know as FirstEnergy Stadium—and me chatting them up—on my way to my date with Optimus, Megatron and company, I had already prepped myself in seeing some YouTube clips of said box-office bomb.
With reviews from Rotten Tomatoes giving a 15 percent out of 171 reviews and saying stuff such as “Cacophonous, thinly plotted, and boasting state-of-the-art special effects, The Last Knight is pretty much what you’d expect from the fifth installment of the Transformers franchise.” and self-righteous douchebags such as The Wrap’s Alonso Duradle saying, “…fear not, fans of the franchise: if you’re here for the director’s trademark chaos editing (where fights go from points A to D to Q), toxic masculinity (and female objectification), comedy scenes rendered tragic (and vice versa), and general full-volume confusion, you’ll get all those things in abundance.”
And last, and certainly not least in uber Bay-hater and grudge-carrying critic, Peter Travers of Rolling Stones with his usual condescending snark in handing out a rare zero-star review in saying, “Every time Michael Bay directs another Transformers abomination (this is the fifth), the movies die a little. This one makes the summer’s other blockbuster misfires look like masterpieces.”
I mean based on these reviews alone, especially Travers, you’d swear that Ed Wood was directing The Last Knight instead of Bay. And also, you really have to wonder what is behind Travers open and utter disdain for Bay.
Like, did he screw him over or something? Reviews from so-called critics like Travers come across as unfairly biased and self-serving, since he has openly admitted that he hates anything Bay does, and will never give him a fair shake.
While I’m no certified critic, nor will I ever claim to be one, but if there is any franchise that has proven to be critic-proof it is the Transformers franchise. So I invite all movie-goers and fan to try to watch The Last Knight with an open mind and ignore what the critics have said about it. Because if you go into it expecting a gritty, heart-warming independent film, The last Knight is NOT for you.
It’s a summer tent pole full of explosions, sexual, racist and cultural innuendos. Basically, you know what you’re signing up for, so acting it you’d expect something different is nothing short of insanity.
Going forward, this is both an opinion-based column filled with potential spoilers. So if you have not seen the movie yet, please stop here now.
Ok, in reference to the movie itself, it starts off during the English Dark Ages with King Arthur and his knights engaged in a desperate battle against the Saxons, and are desperately losing. King Arthur is steadfastly insistent in trusting his wizard, Merlin to find a magical weapon to help them win the decisive skirmish.
Merlin, stumbles upon a crashed Cybertronian ship that has the Twelve Knights of Cybertron, and after some begging and pleading, they agree to help Arthur and Merlin by passing him the staff.
Riding back into the fray along with the Twelve Knights—transformed into the three-headed dragon, Dragonstorm—they help Arthur vanquish the Saxons, and the rest as they say is history.
Fast forward 1,600 years to modern-day Chicago—which does a great job channeling its inner Beirut/Baghdad—and all Transformers are outlawed and hunted down by the Transformer Reaction Force, regardless of faction, and a group of kids decide to get a little too curious and find themselves face to face with a TRF mecha, before being saved by a fellow 14-year-old named Izzabella, a survivor of the Battle of Chicago.
Channeling her inner feminist, don’t-need-no one J-Lo type of spunk, Izzy along with her robot companion, Squeeks, helps lead the young group to safety under a hidden Autobot, Canopy. Canopy is then ID’ed by the TRF, who then fire on both his and the kid’s location, which personally disturbed me since kids were in the target area.
Was that really necessary! Seriously?
Ultimately, Cade Yeager—now on the run and wanted by all governments—arrives to save the day with Bumblebee, while receiving a talisman from a crashed Cybertronian, escapes the TRF. Unbeknownst to all, Deception scout, Barricade sees all of this and reports back to a very buffed-up and Ultron-looking Megatron.
First off, Megatron looks like he either been bench-pressing either some dead Autobot scrap metal, or took some serious industrial-grade steroids, cause that boy looks yoke. I meant, I get why his initial character design was panned so much by online critics and fans, but Bay and company, pulled it off. Right down to his trademark cannon on his right arm, straight from the original G1 cartoon and Frank Welker lending an angrier, meaner and straight-up evil take of the much-revived and seeming harder-than-a-cockroach-to-kill Deception leader.
To paraphrase Josh Duhamel’s TRF character Colonel William Lennox, later in the film, but Welker’s rendition of Megatron will give you nightmares.
Meanwhile, we see Optimus Prime, seeming frozen and floating freely in space finally landed on a destroyed and barren Cybertron. After seeing what has become of his world, he encounters his “maker” in the sorceress, Quintessa.
Now full disclosure: For those who never saw the original Transformers 1980’s cartoon or the animated movie, Quintessa is a gender-swapped version of the Quintessons, the original beings with deep and dark ties to both the Autobots and Deceptions, from the home planet of—you guessed it, Quintessa.
And in another twist to Transformers lore, Quintessa convinces Prime that Earth is actually Cybertron’s enemy, Unicron, due his six trademark horns scatter over various parts of the globe. If you’re a long-time Transformers fan, like yours truly, you probably spewed up your over-priced popcorn upon that reveal.
So in a nutshell, The Last Knight’s version of Quintessa is based off of both a planet and a series of multi-faced beings, and that Earth is really Unicron in disguise. Got it.
Prime made reference to them as the “creators” who used seeds to terraform Earth in Age of Extinction, and they—the Quintessons—were the ones responsible for the Space Bridge technology that Sentinel Prime used when he defected to the Deceptions in Dark of the Moon, so while Bay doesn’t normally get kudos for anything but babes, boobs and explosions, he deserves a bit of credit for actually incorporating some actual Transformers lore into the franchise.
With his home world in pieces and heading towards Earth, Quintessa places Optimus under her control as Nemesis Prime and orders him to recover “her” staff that was allegedly stolen by the fore-mentioned Knights, so that Cybertron can be saved and that Earth/Unicron will die.
And wow, is it one of the greatest and most beastial heel-like turns by a hero in cinematic history. Optimus Prime is one of cinema’s greatest and most powerful and stoic icons, seeing him fueled with vengeance and scary purple eyes and seeming unstoppable.
Nemesis Prime = Beast Mode. Period.
Meanwhile, back on Earth, Lennox brokers a deal between Meagtron and the TRF to help hunt and recover the talisman that Cade now has and a la Suicide Squad—and causal racial robotal stereotype fashion—grants the release of Megatron’s “crew” of Nitro Zeus, Onslaught, Mohawk, Dreadbot and Berserker.
Holed up in the Badlands of South Dakota, Cade and the remaining Autobots fight off Megatron and TRF drones, before ultimately zipping across to the pond to England courtesy of Cogman, a “ninja butler” of Sir Anthony Hopkins’ Sir Edmund Burton, 12th Earl of Folgan, a astronomer and historian of the long history of Transformers on Earth.
After being properly introduced to Laura Haddock’s character, Viviane Wembly, a seemingly snobby and aloof professor of English Literature at the University of Oxford, does her best Lara Croft impression, right down to her daddy issues, of portraying the stereotypical uptight and reserved, yet hot and single—to the dismay of her diddling mum and family—role of educated British babe.
What is it with Bay and British women, like seriously? First Victoria Secret’s supermodel, and Jason Statham arm candy in Rosie Huntington-Wheatley, and now Haddock. Must be a thing, I guess.
In what is a classical example of the sexual tension and verbal sparring between Vivien and Cade, she says “You, American man..shut it”, to which he responds, “Ok, little princess wearing a stripper dress.”
Burton would later reveal that the Transformers have been on Earth since the dinosaurs, Dark Ages, feudal Japan and even World War II in helping turn the tide fore the Allies against the Nazis. Talk about jaw drop. Jaw. Dropped.
And the killer part, is that since Cade has the Knights talisman, that he has been chosen to be the Last Knight and that only Vivien can wield the staff in question since she is the last descendant of the ancient order of Witwicans—of which the late Sam Witwicky is also descended from.
Nice touch in throwing in Shia Labeouf.
Now knowing their mission, and after a car chase through the city of London, Vivien and Cade along with Cogman commandeer an old and decommissioned Royal Navy submarine, HMS Alliance to find the staff, supposedly buried within the Cybertronian Knights crashed ship.
After a skirmish between TRF and the revived Knights inside, Nemesis Prime arrives to collect Quintessa’s staff from Vivien, Bumblebee intervenes to fight Nemesis and after a fight on top of the raised ship above sea level, speaks for the first time, breaking Quintessa’s mind control over him.
Finally coming to his senses again, Prime has the staff taken from him by Megatron, who is also secretly working for Quintessa, and on the verge of being executed by the Knights, is sparred by Cade’s talisman that magically morphs into the mythical broadsword, Excalibur.
Vowing to atone for his brief betrayal, Prime rallies both the TRF and remaining Autobots to go inside the ignition chamber and recover the staff, so that Vivien can recover it, and save Earth.
With Stonehenge acting as ground zero, the Autobots fight their way onto Cybertron and ultimately defeat both Megatron—amidst the departing line of “we were brothers, once!”—and Quintessa, with Vivien recovering the staff. With the destruction of Earth averted and Cybertron destroyed Prime issues an order for all humans and Transformers to work together to help rebuild both worlds.
So, to surmise my overall opinion of the 149-minute train wreck that is supposedly The Last Knight. It’s typical Michael Bay with jump-cut editing, non-stop, dizzying action and salaciously and sexually objectified women—which I actually saw very little of, actually. Honestly, after coming out of Tower City, I was wondering, did myself and these so-called critics see the same movie, because I couldn’t honestly find much wrong with it, considering that I was also wearing my $500 pair of Burberry designer eyeglasses.
My biggest issue with Transformers 5 was that they didn’t do enough of a job to flesh out the history of the Quintesscons, or the planet Quintessa. While the being Quintessa is a stand in for both, TF5 could have delved more deeply into it. More than likely, the inevitable sequel Transformers 6 likely will.
The Last Knight is not perfect, nor does it claim to be. If you go into it expecting a tour-de-force Oscar-type of film, you will be sorry disappointed, and I think that is the honest problem with critics such as Travers, Rotten Tomatoes, is that they constantly—and at times—unfairly pre-judge Bay for his style, use of women and numerous explosions.
Personally, I’d wager in jest that they’ve never seen Transformers, nor really delved deeper into the history of the film and cartoon series itself, and are instead ripping it after before and after hand, based on their snobby and self-righteous prejudices.
Overall, see it for yourself, and ignore what critics say, instead of letting them make the decision for you.