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History repeats itself in misguided 'Transformers: The Last Knight'

Transformers: The Last Knight (Paramount)

Transformers: The Last Knight
2 out of 5 Stars
Director:
Michael Bay
Writers: Art Marcum, Matt Holloway, Ken Nolan, Akiva Goldsman
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Laura Haddock, Anthony Hopkins, Josh Duhamel
Genre: Action, Sci-Fi
Rated: PG-13 for violence and intense sequences of sci-fi action, language, and some innuendo

Synopsis: Optimus Prime learns that in order to save his dying world of Cybertron he must recover a staff given by his ancestors to Merlin, the great wizard of ancient lore.

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Review: Five films into his Transformers experiment, Michael Bay has yet to make a film that remotely captures the thrills of the original animated series. The closest he came was with “Transformers,” the first entry in the series. I remember enjoying the film in theaters during the summer of 2007, but my opinion of the movie has waned over the years as the flaws in Bay’s approach to the series have become more and more apparent with each film he makes. The joy of the first film was just getting to see the Transformers in a realistic environment. The story was terminally flawed by the juvenile humor and too much emphasis on the human characters. It was at least, by Bay terms, coherent.

“Transformers: The Last Knight” is built upon the King Arthur legends. It begins with Arthur defending off the Saxon invaders. A battle he would have lost if it wasn’t for a particular group of Transformers who had been discovered by the charlatan wizard Merlin. By establishing that the Transformers have visited Earth for hundreds upon hundred years. This allows the introduction of a variety of new forms of Transformers (dinosaurs and dragons) as well as offering the opportunity to present the more traditional Transformers vehicles from a variety of time periods.

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I'm not opposed to this idea, but the way it is handled with Stanley Tucci playing Merlin as a sarcastic, drunken jester gunning for laughs is a telltale sign that Bay and his writing team still haven’t sorted out when and how to actually be funny. Not that they are alone, “The Mummy” is plagued with the same problems.

The biggest problem with “The Last Knight” is that it is bogged down with so many pointless subplots and tangents that it never actually gets around to telling its central story. The narrative that is told is filled with clichés and stolen aspects from other films. Worst of all, the film still isn’t really about the Transformers. Optimus Prime is hardly in the film and the Decepticons only have a couple of scenes as the bulk of the film is about Mark Wahlberg’s Cade Yeager running around because he’s the “chosen one.” Then again, Laura Haddock’s Vivian Wembley, a British historian, is also the “chosen one.” The big difference is that Wembley’s role as the world saver makes sense; Yeager’s feels like it was tacked on to make one scene work.

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“The Last Knight” is essentially the same film that Bay has been making for the past 10 years. It features some fantastic art design, but is lacking in coherence when it comes to its story and fighting sequences. It fails to recognize that audiences are going into a Transformer film to see Transformers, not wade through a generic action film with a romantic undercurrent.

If you liked the previous films, then you’ll probably enjoy this one.

For me, as someone who grew up as a fan of the original series, it is disheartening that after five attempts Bay still hasn’t managed to make a film that is remotely as exciting as its source material.

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