It's 484 AD and a drunken Merlin (the always-perfect Stanley Tucci) rides his horse toward a massive battlefield to meet with King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table. Before the battle, he forges an alliance with a hidden group of Transformers that combines into a massive flying dragon and turns the tide of the war against the Saxons. This is a movie. People made it. Ridiculous. Stonehenge also shows up. Just sayin'.
When you watched the first "Transformers" movie a decade ago, did you ever imagine that the franchise would eventually make close to $4 billion over the course of five feature films? With a Bumblebee spinoff movie set for 2018 and "Transformers 6" coming in 2019, there's no end in sight to Michael Bay's 'splodey paean to excess and consumerism.
The franchise's latest mixes it up a bit, setting it a little ways in the future. Transformers are now illegal on Earth (except for Cuba) and it's basically a war between their species and ours. The planet is borderline post-apocalyptic with the remains of Autobots and Decepticons scattered around, evidence of massive battles left to rust where they lay.
The robots that have survived are in hiding, desperate to avoid the U.S. government, which is systematically hunting them down with unlimited resources and their own robot army (that look suspiciously like ED-209 from "Robocop"). Also, Transformers continue to land on Earth for an unknown and mysterious reason, keeping the human populace fearful of all Autobots and Decepticons.
The last we saw of Optimus Prime (in "Transformers: Age of Extinction") he was headed into space looking for the creators of his race. Megatron had lost the battle once again and retreated, swearing to return with a vengeance.
There's even a cute robot reminiscent of WALL-E or BB-8, ready to be marketed and shipped for Christmas, but you really can't blame Michael Bay since the Transformers were invented to sell toys in the first place. When each movie has macguffins with goofy names like the AllSpark, the Matrix of Leadership (seriously) and the Seed, the plot is really secondary to the imagery and explosions.
"The Last Knight" is filled with the flourishes that make Michael Bay swoon, such as low-angled shots of people stepping into frame, slow-mo explosions and military/mechanical fetishism.
Mark Wahlberg returns as horribly-named Cade Yeager, single father and (ahem) genius inventor. Along with returning cast members Josh Duhamel, John Turturro and a paycheck-grabbing Anthony Hopkins, everyone acquits themselves admirably, considering these movies are mostly people pretending to talk to robots. The real question is why "The Last Knight" needed to be 149 minutes long. These movies are still ostensibly for kids, so why does Bay think they're capable of sitting still for two and a half hours?
You know exactly what you're getting with this. The story is a convoluted mess but there's lots of exciting action and pretty explosions following bad jokes and ham-fisted dialogue. It's more entertaining than the last one, but none of it captures the highs of the Battle of Chicago in "Dark of the Moon." It's the purest distillation of the big, dumb, fun summer blockbuster... for better or worse. It's 'Murica: The Motion Picture, flag waving included.
Transformers: The Last Knight
Dir. Michael Bay
Old Mill Stadium 16 & IMAX, Redmond Cinema