Let me say this up front: I haven’t seen Transformers: The Last Knight. I don’t plan to see it. None of my colleagues have plans to watch it either. As to the why of that decision, here’s my take, offered up in the form of our traditional “Things Parents Should Know.”
1. What’s it about?
In this latest installment of the decade-old Transformers movie franchise, we find that, despite every assertion to the opposite in previous movies, Transformers have been involved with Earth since the dawn of time and are responsible for the majority of human history. Also, Optimus Prime gets brainwashed/has a crisis of morality and slices off even more faces…angrily.
2. That’s it?
No; there are also a lot of humans doing a lot of really, really stupid things that ultimately affect the plot in no appreciable way. Mostly they’re wandering around so that they can be placed in peril, like the walking props they are. Likely, one of them will be the key to whatever the MacGuffin is in this movie.
3. Will I like it?
4. Will my kids like it?
5. That seems pretty harsh when you haven’t seen the film. How could you have reached such a binary decision based on a few trailers?
I would love nothing more than to say that this Transformers film is different. In fact, when I heard that Michael Bay would (really) be handing over the reins for The Last Knight, I was hopeful. After all, a movie that dives deep into Transformers mythology and finally admits that “fine, the Transformers have always been on Earth” has all kinds of potential to be satisfyingly geeky and fun in a way that the old cartoons wantonly embraced (see “A Decepticon Raider in King Arthur’s Court“). But then Michael Bay decided (as he always does) that he likes money and decided to bring his patented brand of puerile humor and racist caricatures back to the big screen.
6. But the trailers make the movie look like fun!
Not a question, but I’ll allow it. Because they do! And I think that trailers are the perfect medium for Michael Bay’s filmmaking – there are lots of action pieces, hints at a deeper story, and visuals so impressive that you’re practically vibrating out of your seat to see more. But if there’s one thing that the first four movies have in common – it’s that not a single one of them has delivered on the promises set forth in their trailers. Cool characters introduced in those 90-second mini films turn out to be 10-second cannon-fodder. Satisfying plots turn out to be overly long stories that are loosely plotted, logically suspect, and filled with offensive, single-note treatments of minorities, women, men, and robots.
7. Is that why it’s rated PG-13?
If the first four movies are any indicator, the rating is for non-stop violence, racist jokes, and sexist tropes that Bay thinks are somehow still relevant in 2017. Also, an Autobot will likely say a scatological swear, which makes no sense at all since they don’t have bodily functions. If the 2007 movie’s full 30-second creeper linger on Megan Fox’s backside or the entire “humorous” subplot in Age of Extinction that focused on the legality of carnal relations with a minor are indicators (and they should be), you’ll find plenty of things that you need to talk to your kids about after the film.
8. When’s a good time for a bathroom break?
Go at any time. It makes absolutely no difference what part you miss, you still won’t understand what’s going on. This is by design.
9. Will I want to see it again?
Even if you suffer from blunt head trauma and the memory of your first viewing is (blessedly) expunged, your body will instinctively shut down if you try to subject it to a second viewing.
10. This is amusing. But what if it’s actually a good movie?
It would be fantastic if the Transformers films lit out from the path that Michael Bay has put them on. From the early spoiler reviews I’ve read, however, it doesn’t sound like The Last Knight is the movie that will do that. It’s formulaic pablum that only uses the new mythology to give us a couple of cool characters and ultimately leaves the movie universe more of a mess than when it started.
I’m more hopeful that the Bumblebee solo movie, with its 1980s setting and new director, will be the breath of fresh air that the franchise needs. That is, until Michael Bay takes over the project to ensure that ‘Bee’s love of urinating on humans is highlighted. But, hey – false hope is still hope, right?