Some films are made for the critics. Other films are made for the fans. But some films are made for a third audience: specifically, 13-year-old boys with mild-to-severe concussion. Transformers: The Last Knight falls into that latter category. Michael Bay's latest robot rumble is a two and a half hour special-effects fiasco in which so much happens. So much...and yet nothing at all.
The film begins in the Dark Ages, with King Arthur and his knights facing imminent defeat at the hands of the Saxons until a Transformer helpfully intervenes and saves the day. Later, we learn that they also hung out with Da Vinci, inspired Tesla and turned the tide against the Nazis. In fact, there's so much revisionist Hasbro history going on in this movie you genuinely expect to learn Jesus didn't turn water into wine – he transformed it (cue robotic morphing sound effect).
Transformers: The Last Knight is something of a paradox, in that it's simultaneously one of the dumbest and most needlessly complicated stories ever told. The short version is that there's a super-weapon hidden on Earth that everybody, both human and alien, is desperate to get their hands on. The longer version involves Merlin, British noble lineage, a Transformers deity, robot-hunting humans, robot-saving humans and, for some reason, John Turturro playing basketball in Havana.
This is a film that assumes nobody outside of England knows London isn't a five minute drive from Oxford. It's a film that begins in Chicago, then has its characters commute – only minutes later – to a Native American reserve in the desert. And in that desert, there's a tiny one-street shanty town that inexplicably boasts a 20-storey hotel. It's a film that says things like "the object is growing three metres a day" then, just two lines later, "it's growing exponentially". It's a film where nobody bats an eyelid at an alien robot t-rex, but if you believe in the possibility of magic well then you're obviously a crazy person. Perhaps worst of all, it's a film that has Sir Anthony Hopkins deliver the line "what a bitchin' car she is!"
Perhaps it's too much to expect that the fifth film in a franchise based on a children's toy line would offer anything more than the cinematic version of kids slamming their action figures together whilst yelling 'Blam! Ka-Pow! Pew Pew Pew!' And yet, the original Transformers found a way. Its characters had clearly defined motivations and its story was broadly comprehensible. By part five, however, the humans have been reduced to caricatures, while the Transformers exist only to destroy things and mumble the occasional rap lyric. As a showreel for the extraordinary capabilities of special effects departments, Transformers: The Last Knight is great. On every other front it's an abysmal waste of time.