‘The Last Knight’ proves there’s little life left in ‘Transformers’ franchise
There comes a time when everything has run its course. Unless you’re talking about “The Simpsons,” which feels like it will run until the world ends. But, for the most part, every story has an ending. The same is true for film franchises.
Sometimes you decide the ending, and you go out on a creative and commercial high. Other times you hang on too long and the market tells you when it’s time to go. This summer’s Box Office has been a referendum on aging franchises. The latest films in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” and “Cars” franchises posted low openings, while films like “Alien: Covenant” failed to meet expectations.
Last Friday another creaking franchise bowed to less than spectacular returns as “Transformers: The Last Knight” opened amid modest Box Office expectations ($65 million) and failed to meet those expectations. By a lot. It took just $44.7 million opening weekend, which is by far the lowest domestic opening of the franchise. While director Michael Bay, who has helmed all five “Transformers” films, suggested the next 14 installments are already written — and a spin-off focusing on Bumblebee is already in production — it seems like the marketplace might be suggesting “Transformers” run at the Box Office is at an end.
This latest film is set sometime in the future. Optimus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen) has left earth in search of his creators. In his absence, tensions between Autobots and Decepticons reached an all time high, leading the world to ban the robot warriors and to hunt them.
With some entire cities in ruins, Cade Yager (Mark Wahlberg) remains committed to helping the Autobots in defiance of the world governments. He soon finds himself pulled into a much bigger fight, one that’s been going on for centuries. And this coming battle threatens to be the end of earth.
I’d say more about the plot but, first it doesn’t really seem to matter to the experience of the film and second it doesn’t seem like they put a lot of time into the plot. When “Transformers” debuted in 2007, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it and how good it was considering the source material.
A decade and five films later, these movies have become predictable, lazy and a chore to watch. I thought the previous installment, 2014’s “Age of Extinction,” was awful. Somehow “The Last Knight” manages to be more ridiculous and worse.
Earlier this summer we were treated to a high-profile dud in “King Arthur.” Amazingly, that is now not the worst film this summer to center its plot on King Arthur, Merlin and the knights of the Round Table. This fifth “Transformers” film also has a plot revolving around the King Arthur legend, including an extended flashback to that time period to begin the film. It doesn’t work as either a flashback, which feels ridiculous, or as plot moving forward, which never really connects in a coherent way.
At their best, these “Transformers” films provided a little action, a little comedy and a nice two-hour diversion. This movie stretches to two and a half hours of bloated meandering that seems meant to show off its special effects and budget, but achieves little else. Talented actors like Anthony Hopkins, Stanley Tucci, John Turturro, Tony Hale and Wahlberg have little to do, only adding to the ways this film doesn’t work.
I’ve often enjoyed Bay’s movies, but this effort feels tired. He’s said this will be his final go at the “Transformers” franchise, and maybe that’s a good thing. Perhaps new blood with fresh ideas could breathe life into these films once again. Or, perhaps, like all stories this one has simply reached its inevitable conclusion. Since at least one more movie is in production, I doubt it. But for those that suffered through this summer mess, one can always hope.
“Transformers: The Last Knight” has been rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for violence and intense sequences of sci-fi action, language, and some innuendo.
One star out of four.