I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.
Connor Bynum // Film Critic
The first TRANSFORMERS movie came out when I was 16 years old. And like any opinionated aspiring film student, I was determined to defend the hell out of what I thought was the coolest thing in the history of ever. Fast forward to 10 years and four sequels later, and I can honestly say that I’ve run out excuses. This franchise has become nothing more than a tired exercise in excess and explosions.
But who am I kidding? You and I both know that at this point, it could not matter any less what I have to say about this garbage. You’ve already made up your mind on whether or not you’re going to continue to finance Hollywood’s favorite malignant tumor. Yet, I cannot help but feel that if this review can keep at least one person from paying their money to see the same movie a fifth time, I’ll have made a difference. So let’s get through this.
The story to TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT is mind-numbingly incoherent, even for the already low standards set by this series. Essentially, Optimus Prime (a bored Peter Cullen) has returned to his home planet of Cybertron only be enslaved by his maker, Quintessa (Gemma Chan), and sent on a mission to save his home world that will destroy Earth in the process. If this sounds familiar, that’s because it is. This storyline is more or less a combination of the events of the third and fourth films in the franchise, but repackaged into something “new.”
To its credit, THE LAST KNIGHT is somehow able to take itself too seriously and at the same time be completely absurd. Such a delicate balance can only be achieved by a special kind of psychopath. Michael Bay returns to direct and is clearly just going through the motions this time around. Also reprising his role from previous entries is Mark Wahlberg as the failed inventor/successful dude-bro Cade Yeager. Cade has taken into hiding after the events of 2014’s AGE OF EXTINCTION and fosters refugee Autobots who are now all being hunted down by the U.S. Government. Again. Yeager’s daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz) wisely sits this one out, because associating with Transformers has never been known to end well for anyone.
Newcomer to the series, Isabela Moner, plays the strong willed and tough talking Izabella (with a “Z”) whose parents were killed in the events of the third film. Izabella is a conflicting character because trailers would have one believe that she plays a prominent role in the film. No. She all but disappears from the story after the first hour or so and doesn’t show up again until the last act.
The main problem with this character isn’t that she’s annoying. She is, but that’s not the main problem. Her first two scenes carry the emotional weight that belong in the end of any normal film. They imply that she’s been through a long emotional journey and her tear-filled performance is meant to stir similar feelings in the audience. Yet Bay throws these moments into our faces within five minutes of her introduction, giving the audience no reason at all to connect with her on an any level. We just met her and she’s in tears over the loss of her friend that we also just met. Who cares?
Also on the female front is Laura Haddock (GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY) who plays the inexplicably single scholar Vivian Wembley. That’s pretty much it for her character. Moving on.
Sir Anthony Hopkins does his best to liven up the story as billionaire historian, Sir Edmund Burton, but is never able to shake the perception that he wandered onto the wrong set and nobody bothered to tell him about it. Accompanied by a painfully annoying robot butler, Hopkins is unfortunately wasted potential.
If you are foolish enough to shell out the big bucks to see THE LAST KNIGHT in IMAX 3D, be warned this actually adds more reason to dislike the film. While the use of 3D is perfectly fine in a film featuring top notch visual quality, Bay simply doesn’t seem to have a grasp on how to properly use the IMAX format. Notably popular Christopher Nolan films like THE DARK KNIGHT and INTERSTELLAR would have specific scenes or set pieces filmed in IMAX and would have a more traditional aspect ratio for other scenes. (IMAX scenes take up the entirety of the screen while non IMAX scenes have the distinctive black bars at the top and bottom). This method works for Nolan’s films because he knows when and when not to use the format. Bay forgoes this subtlety by having seemingly every other shot in the film switch back and forth between the two aspect ratios and it’s nauseating.
THE LAST KNIGHT is an abomination. It may have one or two enjoyable moments and some of the best visual effects artists in the business, but Bay isn’t going to stop making these movies if we keep paying to see them.
TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT opens Wednesday, June 21.