Movie review: 'Transformers 5' is overlong, overblown and overstuffed

Fred Hawson

Posted at Jun 23 2017 01:10 PM

MANILA -- The initial reviews for "Transformers: The Last Knight" are very, very bad. 

Its approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes is only 16%, worst of the whole franchise. Rolling Stone magazine even gave it a zero-star rating! Word of mouth from people who had seen it on opening day Wednesday were likewise giving it a big thumbs down. Anyhow, this is the only major movie opening this week, so I still went to watch it, but with really very low expectations.

This one starts all the way back to the time of King Arthur, when we see powerful staff given by a Cybertronian knight to the magician Merlin. Then, the setting then shifts to the present day after the events of the last movie. Optimus Prime is corrupted by his Maker, the sorceress Quintessa to destroy Earth so their own damaged planet of Cybertron can be revived. Meanwhile, Cade Yeager and his Autobots are in hiding from the international forces tasked to destroy them. 

When Yeager gains possession of an ancient talisman, he also becomes the target of Megatron and his Decepticons. Yeager is spirited away to the United Kingdom by Sir Edward Burton of the Witwiccan Order, who updates him about the long history of the Transformers on Earth. 

Also along for the adventure is the sexy (but of course) British professor Vivien Wembly, supposedly the last living descendant of Merlin, who is the only one who could activate the staff given to Merlin, which is the only thing that can bring Cybertron back to life to destroy Earth. 

As if the main storyline was not complex enough, we also get side stories about Izabella, a 14-year old orphan kid; Jimmy, Cade's cowardly assistant; Seymour Simmons hiding out in Cuba; Col. William Lennox and his new assignment; and the various antics of the surviving Autobots (like Bumblebee, Hound, Drift, Crosshairs, Hotrod, plus Grimlock and other Dinobots) and the Decepticons (like Onslaught, Mohawk, Nitro Zeus, Dreadbot). The Knights of the Round Table, a flying three-headed dragon, and even the Excalibur sword make guest appearances.

This whole film was one big mash-up of Michael Bay's various testosterone-infused dreams, with trash-talking robots snapping heads off each other, snazzy sports cars and trucks, soldiers and military combat operations, medieval knights on horses with swords, and non-stop explosions, explosions, explosions. The leading man gets to show off his abs (during a nonsensically rapid outfit changes in three succeeding scenes) as well as get a kiss on the lips from a much-younger woman with a British accent and body-hugging black dress.

Mark Wahlberg is likable whatever he does, even as the frustrated inventor Cade. However, those two kids Izabella and Jimmy (played by Isabela Moner and Jerrod Carmichael) and all the boisterous robots around him are all too hyper and uppity, really loud and annoying. 

Optimus Prime is really in a league of his own among the Transformers. His voice by Peter Cullen is capable of evoking incomparable pathos. Too bad his dramatic story arc here got messed up in the cacophony of everything else happening at the same time.

New leading lady Laura Haddock (whom we just saw earlier this year as Peter Quill's mother Meredith in "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2") was made to look uncannily like former Transformer leading lady Megan Fox. The role is sexist for sure, but Haddock gave it more dignity than Fox ever could.

I was surprised to see Anthony Hopkins involved in a film like this, but it was clear that he was having fun with his outlandish role as expert on Witwiccan lore. I don't think I had never seen him so loose and gleeful in a role before. That scene wherein he was laughing in the speeding car and that one telling off the British Prime Minister were delightful enough to save this whole film from a more dismal rating.

I had previously written about two Transformers films: "Dark of the Moon" in 2011 and "Age of Extinction" in 2014. For both films, I had assessed them to be lavishly overstuffed and overblown. Director Michael Bay does not change his formula a single bit for this fifth installment of the franchise. In fact, he even ups his ante further this time, making his new 149-minute (practically 2 hours and a half) film is the most overstuffed and overblown of them all. 4/10

This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."