‘Transformers: The Last Knight’ can’t shape-shift into a good movie

Optimus Prime and Bumblebee do battle.
Photo: Paramount / Courtesy

One and a half stars

Transformers: The Last Knight Mark Wahlberg, Anthony Hopkins, Laura Haddock. Directed by Michael Bay. Rated PG-13. Now playing citywide.

Given the amount of wholesale destruction the cybernetic aliens known as Transformers have inflicted on Earth, it’s a wonder any humans could view Optimus Prime and his friends as anything other than a grave threat to the planet’s continued existence. But if director Michael Bay weren’t able to stage increasingly elaborate world-destroying action sequences, there would be no redeeming qualities to these movies at all. As it is, even Bay’s huge, effects-heavy set pieces have become rote as they attempt more feebly than ever to pummel the audience into submission.

Just getting through Bay’s fifth (and, for the third time, reportedly final) Transformers movie, The Last Knight, makes for an exhausting endeavor. Once again, the plot is byzantine and inane, the characters are superfluous and barely one-dimensional, the comic relief is painful and the acting is almost entirely perfunctory. Mark Wahlberg returns as nominal hero Cade Yeager, although the real attraction is the Transformers, a bunch of chaotic CGI monstrosities who remain mostly indistinguishable. Good-guy leader Optimus Prime (voiced as always by Peter Cullen, in hokey Saturday-morning-cartoon tones) is offscreen for the majority of the movie, and when he returns he’s been brainwashed by the villainous Quintessa, who created the Transformers and now wants to merge their dying planet with Earth (or something like that), killing millions in the process.

This plan takes two and a half hours to culminate in an interminable, incoherent finale full of bombastic, disjointed action. Along the way, the movie flashes back to King Arthur’s knights and to World War II, with Anthony Hopkins delivering some of the most ridiculous lines of his career as he explains the secret history of the Transformers. Apparently they’ve been with humanity since the dawn of time. At this rate, we’ll never be able to get rid of them.

Tags: Film
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