Yes, that's zero stars you see up there. Every time Michael Bay directs another Transformers abomination (this is the fifth), the movies die a little. Mark Wahlberg has announced that The Last Knight will be his farewell to the Bay franchise. Quoth the actor: "I get my life back."
Ha! Now Wahlberg knows how sentient film critics feel every time they exit another Bay travesty. Transformers: The Last Knight is all kinds of awful. It's also the worst of the series to date, which is saying something. The year is only half over, but even Pirates 5, Fifty Shades Darker, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword and The Mummy can't rob Transformers 5 of the title as 2017's most toxic film byproduct.
Speaking of King Arthur, did you know that the battle between Autobots and Decepticons started not at the Hasbro toy store, but back with the knights of the round table?!? Well, Anthony Hopkins sure does. The Oscar winner has been paycheck-persuaded to take on the role Sir Edmund Burton, an academic who claims that Transformers date back to the Dark Ages, presumably when Bay made his first movie. Sir Edmund even has a robo-butler, Cogman (voiced by Jim Carter, Downton Abbey's Mr. Carson), a character which rips-off C-3PO so blatantly that Lucasfilm should sue for plagiarism.
Hopkins knows the evil Megatron (Frank Welker) has plans to destroy Earth. Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen) has gone rogue. What to do? To stop Megatron, Sir Edmund needs the staff of Merlin (Stanley Tucci, disguised in the hope that maybe his fans won't recognize him). Ye olde wizard offers some drunk history on the magic of his staff. And then also, there's a bot war with the Nazis. Am I making any sense? The script makes even less. It's a 148-minute marvel of incoherence credited to Art Marcum, Matt Holloway and Ken Nolan, with dialogue that will play best with audiences for whom English is a second language.
But I digress. The plot takes us to the junkyard of Cade Yeager (Wahlberg, looking contented in the way of an actor who knows this will be his last Transformers). Cade protects virtuous alien Autobots from humans who can't tell good from bad, probably the same humans who shelled out $3.7 billion worldwide for the first four films in the mega-stupid series. Our hero's love interest is Vivian Wembley (Laura Haddock), a British historian who favors spike heels and push-up bras in the grand Bay tradition of objectifying women.
Somehow all this leads to a climactic, planet-saving battle at Stonehenge (is nothing sacred?) in which we're pounded with so much clanking noise and mind-crushing action. The director hints that No. 5 may be his last go at the franchise. Hold the hallelujahs: Bay has set a pattern that can go on poisoning the well as long this stuff turns a profit. It's not just that he is killing the art of movies – he's killing the joy of movies as well. His cynical, untouched-by-human-hands approach to filmmaking is that a sucker is born every minute and he's here to serve. My dream is that this whole tapped-out robo series will transform into a turd and audiences will have the good sense to flush it. That's an ending for you.