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Explosive fifth 'Transformers' film forgot the plot

About 10 minutes and at least as many explosions into “Transformers: The Last Knight,” the fifth installment in director Michael Bay’s juggernaut franchise based on the Hasbro toys, a soldier cries above a chaotic battlefield, “This is what the end looks like!”

If only the same could be said for this movie, which drags on for two more hours before Bay runs out of things to blow up and finally ends it. At 149 minutes, “The Last Knight” somehow manages to be less coherent, less entertaining and less worth the price of admission than its predecessors.

But as astonishing as those feats may seem to those who endured the last three “Transformers” sequels, they pale in comparison to the film’s crowning achievement. That honor must go to the staining of the great Anthony Hopkins’ reputation – only Bay could make us cringe at Hopkins’ typically flawless delivery, because only Bay would make the Academy Award-winner utter slang and words such as “dude.”

The plot, to the extent that there is one, centers around a pair of all-powerful weapons of Arthurian legend – Merlin’s staff and a talisman that transforms into a certain sword of legend – which we are led to believe are artifacts left on Earth by Transformers long ago. These weapons, we learn in rare scenes with coherent dialogue, are why the robots return to Earth to wreak havoc among people. Now it’s up to the Autobots and their band of human pals, led by returning players Mark Wahlberg and Josh Duhamel as well as newcomers Hopkins and Jerrod Carmichael, to save the day.

If all this sounds familiar, that’s because it is. Remember the AllSpark? The cube? How many world-conquering weapons are these robots going to lose on Earth only to conveniently find when it’s time for Bay to make another sequel?

“The Last Knight” is full of questionable plot points like this, which pile up over the two-hour run time until the movie is more plot hole than plot.

Why is there a skyscraper in the middle of a ghost town in the badlands? Why does that abandoned building have a working elevator? How are we still seeing Bay’s patented lens flares inside a spaceship at the bottom of the ocean? Did NASA seriously not see an approaching planet because it “hid its approach behind the sun”? If, like me, you find yourself asking these questions in this movie, you’re missing the point.

For all its flaws, “The Last Knight” doesn’t really want or need a plot, nor substance, logic, a story arc. Bay has outgrown such antiquated notions, thanks to the enormous box office success of the franchise and his utter disregard for critics’ opinions of it. This is a vehicle of flash and spectacle, a movie so antithetical to the original’s tagline of “more than meets the eye” that it almost seems deliberately ironic.

But at the same time, this is the strange appeal of Bay’s work. It’s terrible, but it is undeniably his terrible, the hyper-realization of a 13-year-old boy’s fever dream given life through an enormous budget and a grown man’s enterprise. And if you can stand to step into that 13-year-old boy’s brain for 149 minutes, then by all means go see “Transformers: The Last Knight.”


“Transformers: The Last Knight”

★ ½ (out of 4)

Mark Wahlberg and Josh Duhamel return in the fifth adventure of the humans and Transformers. Rated PG-13 for violence and intense sequences of sci-fi action, language, and some innuendo. 149 minutes.


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