By Will Jeffers and Travis Trombley
You might say there’s more to them than meets their Rotten Tomatoes scores.
The Last Knight, Bay’s latest installment, in fact, is probably the best film of the 2017 summer cinema season.
While far from alone, the strongest reason for this claim is in the film’s casting. Sure we are once again treated to Marky Mark’s disarming Bostonian accent and comedic timing, but he’s not the brightest star here. And despite the welcome return of faces from the series’ past - like that general from the first movie, the dreamy Lennox and his pal Epps (the latter known for the brilliant “Bring the rain!” line), the whacky Sector 7 agent played by John Turturro, and Stanley Tucci (though this time as an alcoholic Merlin), it is the presence of Sir Anthony Hopkins whose presence as a wise, old guide helps the film transcend its peers.
That’s right: SIR. Anthony Hopkins is literally a knight due to his thespianic talent. The man won an Oscar for Best Actor with about 13 minutes of screentime in Silence of the Lambs. He practices each line he’s given no fewer than 100 times. He’s a master of screen presence and articulation.
The logic here is simple:
- Every film Anthony Hopkins is in is great.
- Anthony Hopkins is in Transformers: The Last Knight.
- Therefore, Transformers: The Last Knight is great.
Thankfully, Ken Nolan, Art Marcum, Matthew Hollaway rollout a screenplay that meets the heightened expectations generated by Hopkins’ presence. Perhaps more than any of the other Autobot adventures, this is perhaps the most narratively complex. With its seemingly random twists and character introductions, the experience felt akin to reading a Faulkner novel for the first time. There’s always a sense that something important is happening, but you just can’t quite identify it. Or figure out how one scene even led to the next scene, for that matter. Or understand why a character is doing what he or she is doing… It almost demands multiple viewings, I guess, and that’s the mark of a masterpiece.
Another major boon for the film narratively speaking is the introduction of Nazis. That’s right, we learn from a flashback that Bumblebee was actually a member of a covert, anti-Nazi task force of Transformers and Allied soldiers. Now, it’s no secret that the presence of Nazis makes any film better. Everyone knows which two Indiana Jones films are the best, and guess which political party plays a role in each. Coincidence? I think not.
This film also invites viewers by heavily referencing or straight up borrowing iconography and narrative beats from other pop culture franchises. There are Tie Fighter drones for the Star Wars lovers, a Tomb Raider scene complete with a history nerd delving into an ancient tomb only to awaken and have to fight off mystical guardians, a few dinosaur Autobots with thunderous footsteps for the Jurassic Park fans, and some Arthurian mythology mixed with swordplay and a dragon for the fantasy genre folks in the crowd.
Finally, this film comes with a simple, overt message for the masses to heed: we can all be heroes. Like that polo star, doctor-of-philosophy who could wield the magic spear because she’s a descendant of Merlin... Plus, unlike other stories that hide such messages behind nuanced symbols or confuse them in ambiguity, Last Knight makes it easy for us to get the idea by having Optimus straight up say it at the end - very convenient.
Really, Last Knight is a rather dumb movie that’s too long, narratively bloated, and visually unspectacular. But, damn it, I still left the theater having enjoyed myself for some reason. I guess it taps so well into that nostalgic feeling of dumping a box of action figures onto the bedroom floor and smashing them into one another, except the spittle-filled explosion noises are replaced by multi-million dollar special effects.
Also we left hungry. Because the movie is 2.5 hours long...