Optimus Prime in TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT, from Paramount Pictures.

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Oh, how the mighty have fallen. It’s been a decade since the first film in the Transformers franchise took the audience by storm. Michael Bay’s film was fresh, enthralling, fun, and had great characters. It was a perfect storm, creating one of the most memorable action/adventure films in recent memory. Of course, when a movie of this magnitude takes off in a big way, sequels are an inevitability, and Paramount wasted no time on getting the sequel ball rolling. Unfortunately, with each passing sequel, the series has moved farther and farther away from what made the first film so successful. Instead of investing in a fun, but simple plot, with likable characters, each sequel has become more convoluted than the film before it, and introduces a string of characters you don’t care about. While one may hope the franchise could turn around, Transformers: The Last Knight can’t buck the downward trend, and instead ends up being not only being one of the franchise’s worst film, but one of the worst films of the year.

Transformers: The Last Knight is an over long, over stuffed, tone deaf film with little semblance of plot or character motivation. Instead, we’re given a film that’s being touted as “the final adventure”, but in actuality is nothing more than a set up film for the inevitable sixth installment in the franchise. Following the events Age of Extinction, Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) has found himself on the run from the government, known simply as “The Legend”, a man standing against those bent on taking out the Autobots. Transformers are clashing across the globe, fighting for the fate of their existence in a never ending war on Earth. Optimus Prime is nowhere to be found, and the future of the Earth looks to be in the balance, when the maker of the Transformer race decides to destroy earth to rebuild their planet. Together, Cade, Bumblebee, and the rest of the Autobots must band together with Sir Edmund Burton (Anthony Hopkins), a woman named Vivian (Laura Haddock), and a young girl named Izabella (Isabela Moner) to save the planet, and Optimus Prime.

The plot may sound exciting and new, but it’s not. In fact, that synopsis is an oversimplification of the film’s narrative. Instead, the film spends two and a half hours meandering through convoluted plot points dealing with King Arthur, the Autobots history, and a secret society that’s been protecting the Autobots since they arrived on Earth. The one thing that does make the film tolerable is Mark Wahlberg as Cade Yeager, though he’s essentially just playing himself. There’s no real range for the character, and no real development for him. None of the other characters really stick out. Isabela Moner, the franchise’s new young star, is almost an afterthought to the script, and adds nothing to the proceedings. Laura Haddock tries the best she can with the material, but her character is terribly underwritten, and she’s really got nothing to work with. But it’s really the use of Anthony Hopkins that’s may be one of the film’s biggest sins. He’s just here to spout nonsense, mumble, and swear, and it’s so beneath an actor of his caliber that it really pulls you out of the film.

But the characters aren’t the film’s only issue. Michael Bay’s fifth time behind the camera on this franchise is probably the most lackluster. His heart just doesn’t seem to be in it at all, and he doesn’t seem to care about making a good movie, he just wants to make a movie with explosions. It’s frustrating that he doesn’t care more about the script or the story in any real way, and it shows. There’s just no drive or energy in the film, and in all honesty, it feels like anyone could have directed this film. Even the action lacks any of the kinetic energy that you’re used to seeing in all of Bay’s films. Nothing in the film feels memorable, nothing stands out and leaves you in awe, and it all just feels completely devoid of life. The movie just, sadly, feels soulless from beginning to end.

But the film’s biggest issue is the story which was haphazardly put together. The film never moves from logical point to logical point because the story asks for it. Instead, things just happen because the movie wills them to be, with no real thought of why it’s happening. More than once in the movie, things happen because the movie wants them to happen, but it’s never been set up before that point. The fact that can happen so frequently throughout makes the film lazy, and in all honest, it talks down to the audience. Instead of giving them a well written film that makes sense, the filmmakers think that the audience will eat up whatever they give us, no matter how poorly it’s done. Unfortunately, this series has become notorious for that, and this film is the worst offender of the lot.

Transformers: The Last Knight is a sloppy, ill-conceived, and lazy film that does nothing more than sully the franchise’s potential. With five films in the franchise, it’s too bad that outside of the first, there really hasn’t been a film that lived up to that promise, and instead, each subsequent film has been a sad footnote added to the franchise. Poorly executed, and nothing more than pandering for another film in the franchise, everything about this movie feels too little, too late. Franchise fans deserve better, as do summer moviegoers. There’s nothing here worth anyone’s time or money, and audience are better off avoiding the increasingly toxic nature of this series. Put a fork in this franchise, it’s done.