The Last Straw
A recent piece in the Hollywood Reporter found that a typical fan of Michael Bay’s cockroach-like series, impervious to the nuclear bomb of critical scrutiny, thought Man of Steel was the best movie ever made and Mila Jovovich the best living actress. With data like that making its way into the briefcases of Paramount executives it’s little surprise there’s been no attempt to unseat the crypto-fascist, libidinous, locker room lounging helmsman of these ugly (his insult of choice) toy ties-ins, nor blacklist the cabal of screenwriters, if writers they are, who act as his enablers. If you love movies you hate Transformers but Bay and his paymasters don’t give a megafuck about you. Not when there’s ticket buyers who list their favourite brand as Diet Coke.
You certainly don’t need me to tell you that Transformers: The Last Knight is overlong, overwrought and underwritten, but I will anyway. You’ve seen it all before, after all – perhaps, if you’re desperately unlucky or in a relationship with one of those Hollywood Reporter respondents, four times.
The Last Knight is shot in 1:85:1 in anticipation of finding a home on television, with miserable viewers given the option to pause, stop, fast forward or leave the room. Bay’s stuffed the bird with his trademark celebration of physical perfection and associated brands, at the expense of those who fall short, callously jeered for being ugly and fat. This is a joyless, charmless, indeed witless pyrotechnic and CGI confection loosely structured around generic blockbuster staples – ancient prophesies, a maguffin, alien invasion, global threat, broken families and redemption for a dysfunctional parent. It’s a script template, with the occasional copy and paste from Bay’s own Armageddon, including the description of an incoming body as “a global killer”, with no original detail added. And naturally, given Bay’s concentration on the purity of his glossy aesthetic, there’s no humanity either.
After five of these fucking movies Bay still has no interest in character and a curious disdain for the family friendly tone implicit in the material but never quite delivered on his watch. The guilty men and women populating this still coarse and crude universe, teetering on profane though the concept targets children, don’t perform so much as self-consciously mug their way through scenes.
This yammering shtick is designed to pass for both humour and personality while serving neither. Mark Wahlberg, Anthony Hopkins and Laura Haddock (no relation to Captain) are Bay’s real robots, chuntering along while disparate plot threads play out without tension or consequence. Men and women for Bay are distillations – strength and wisdom for the penis brigade, beauty and vulnerability for the feminoids. Each Transformers movie looks to put the best stock in jeopardy in the hope of forming a good breeding pair. Oh, and there are alien robots too.
Once Bay delighted in orchestrating on screen mayhem but the Last Knight plays like a badly edited worst hits package; a movie that starts in the dark ages then figuratively stays there. At a numbing 149 minutes, there’s time to soil both Arthurian legend and contemporary pop culture. Both are ruins by the mercifully truncated end credits.
Perhaps there’s only so many ways a camera can swoop in and out of robot fights or move in on sparking cleaved metal, but there’s a turgid feel to the action; a tangible lack of new ideas. We’re left wondering what’s in it for the man who’s inexplicably devoted the last decade to making these disposable entertainments. What’s he achieved? Not acclaim, not audience affection and certainly not creative development. Just a record number of bad reviews. Here Michael, have another ya bastard.