There’s no question that the Transformers franchise has produced one of the biggest gaps between movie critics and the ticket-buying public since the first film arrived in 2007. Every one of them has been absolute trash—completely overblown, often incoherent, and loud. And really long. They have a collective average of 29% on Rotten Tomatoes, with all of them certified rotten.
By the time the dust settles on Transformers: The Last Knight, the series will have taken in well over $4 billion dollars (yes, with a b) at the box office and earned an average A- rating via CinemaScore, which surveys the regular Joes and Janes of the world on their way out of the theater.
So what gives?
Two things. First, a lot of critics take their job way too seriously, approaching movies like The Last Knight with the same reverence and assiduity they have for, say, Moonlight or Manchester by the Sea. Sure the latter are empirically better films than anything Michael Bay has ever directed, but Bay isn’t trying to make something “good”. He’s making something big and loud and crazy and really, really fun to watch.
Second, there’s a good-sized percentage of the population that honestly enjoys going to see Transformers movies. And why not? I can’t imagine too many people walk away upset that they didn’t get their money’s worth. Bay’s movies are, in fact, big and loud and crazy and really, really fun to watch. From the non-stop explosions to the frenetic action to the mind-bending visual effects, each Transformers movie has upped the one before. And scoff all you want, but Bay does actually have an artistic eye—the colors are vivid, his films are beautifully shot, and he doesn’t shirk on the 3D.
And isn’t that what you want when you buy a ticket to one of these things?
Eh, enough pontificating.
The Last Knight, assuming you buy a ticket on purpose, is worth every penny. Mark Wahlberg returns as Cade Yeager, a pro-Transformers guy in a world where Transformers are still robots non grata. While Optimus Prime is drifting through space on his way to Cybertron, Cade is hiding his over-sized buddies in a junkyard, waiting for the inevitable day when Megatron and his baddies come calling.
At the same time, Anthony Hopkins is hanging out in England as the last of the Witwiccan order, trying to convince comely Oxford professor Viviane Wembly (Laura Haddock) that because she is the wizard Merlin’s last surviving relative, she has to help find a staff that Transformers gave to Merlin centuries earlier, so they can all prevent Cybertron from colliding with Earth.
All this, naturally, occurs after a Dark Ages-set prologue that shows us how Merlin, King Arthur, and the Round Table gang were all friends with Transformers, too. (And we later learn how Transformers helped defeat Hitler. Who knew?)
So no, The Last Knight doesn’t make any more sense and isn’t any easier to follow than Age of Extinction or Dark of the Moon. Or a calculus textbook.
And I’m perfectly fine with that, because it’s 149 minutes of slam-you-through-the-back-of-the-theater awesomeness. Once Bay stomps his foot down on the accelerator, he never lets up, making sure that you viscerally feel every single explosion, crash, and shootout. And there are plenty. And, in fact, they start before the movie itself, as catapulted fireballs shoot through the pre-credits Paramount logo.
By the time all is said and done, you will have survived an all-out assault on your eyes and ears that, no, won’t win a Screen Actors Guild award or be recognized by the American Film Institute, but it may just be the most fun you have at the theater this summer.
The Last Knight, frankly, is full of sound and fury, signifying nothing but a good time. But, again, that’s only if you buy a ticket to it on purpose.
Worth the 3D glasses?
If you only splurge once this year, make it be on this one. I can’t think of a movie recently that has been SO crafted to be 3D glasses-worthy. You won’t be disappointed.