Did you see Michael Bay’s fifth movie in the disturbingly profitable Transformers franchise this weekend? Did you have a question about it, besides “Why is this movie about giant robots and explosions so boring?” Our patented Spoiler FAQ has all the answers you need and also probably several you didn’t.
Here we are again.
Hello, my old friend. I wish I could say it was good to see you.
We might as well get started. What is Transformers: The Last Knight about?
It’s about everything. Everything that happened to pop in Michael Bay’s head over the course of god knows however long it took to churn out this thing. In a way, it’s completely unique among the Bayformers films in that it has more story than the previous four films combined.
Michael Bay made a Transformers movie with a story that actually makes sense?!
Oh, god no. There’s a ton of story, but maybe a quarter of it drunkenly follows what could charitably called “the plot”. And virtually nothing whatsoever connects to the previous films, unless you consider “constantly contradicting them” to be a connection.
Why can’t Michael Bay keep track of the canon of his own four films?
I have a theory. You know how babies’ brains haven’t developed, so whenever their parents wander directly out of their eyesight, they start crying because they assume their parents, having disappeared from view, must be gone forever?
It’s called object permanence, and Michael Bay doesn’t have it either. Once he is done with a Transformers movie, he completely forgets everything that’s happened in it, and he starts the next one with his brain as smooth as a baby’s bottom. It’s the reason why the Transformers are always hunting for a new dumb object that is the most important thing in the universe that no one has ever mentioned before, why Megatron sometimes dies but is suddenly fine in the next movie, why after the Autobots save the Earth in very public ways all Transformers are always being hunted when the next film starts, and why humans keep making dumb, dumb, dumb partnerships with the Decepticons even though the Decepticons keeps trying to kill humanity every. Single. Time.
All of which happens in The Last Knight, of course.
I guess we might as well dig into the actual story, right?
Yeah, because I only have a certain amount of time I can think about The Last Knight before I involuntarily lose consciousness. We begin in 484 AD in England, during the Dark Ages, with King Arthur and Merlin and the Knights of the Round Table fighting an impressively multicultural Saxon horde of decorative-skull enthusiasts by catapulting giant, VW Bug-sized, flaming, spiked balls into them.
Uh, they’re spiked and they’re flaming?
Well, sometimes you also want to set a guy on fire after you crush and impale him. Anyway, despite the fact Arthur and his crew are murdering several hundred Saxons per minute, they’re outnumbered, so a drunk, bumbling Merlin rides to the nearby crashed Transformers spaceship and asks for help from the robot that lives there. Mind you, this is a giant, fairly visible alien spaceship that only Merlin seems to know exists, and that a robot lives inside.
This robot does not want to help Merlin or humanity, but changes his mind. He helps Merlin in two ways; the first is that he gives Merlin a “magic” staff and the second is that he joins with 11 other Knight-bots to form a giant three-headed dragon which murders many, many Saxons, including by just landing on them and rolling around for a bit.
Doesn’t seem very knightly.
The interesting thing here is the staff given to Merlin, which has immense power.
He use it to cast some cool spells or something?
Nope, because it only has one immense power and that’s the power to revive Cyberton. It does — and I can’t stress this enough — absolutely nothing else. It benefits nether Merlin nor humanity in any way. They don’t need it, no humans ever need it. And yet the Knights not only give it to Merlin, they key it to his DNA so no one other than his descendants can use it despite the fact no human can ever use it for anything. Also Merlin gets buried with the staff so literally not even his descendants can use it, either.
The one thing the staff can apparently do it transfer the power of Earth to Cybertron, so that Cybertron can be resurrected. The sole being on the remnant of the planet is Quintessa — who, for Transformers fans, is nothing at all like a Quintesson. She says she created all the Transformers and, not unexpectedly, wants to revive her planet after it was destroyed by the Autobot/Decepticon war.
It actually is, although she’s portrayed as evilish — evilish enough that at some point in the past, her 12 Knight-bots steal her staff, which again, is the only thing that can resurrect their dead planet, and hide it on Earth.
Shouldn’t they want to save Cybertron? Why would they steal it?
I guess because they love Earth and humanity so much they don’t want them destroyed? Even though at that point they hadn’t been to Earth, so why would they care?
Hey, you’re the one who’s supposed to have the answers.
Fair point. By the way, this is the second item that can destroy the Earth that a group of Transformers have taken directly to Earth and abandoned instead of leaving it to be protected by giant robots, that is, themselves.
Oh my god. The Sun Harvester in Revenge of the Fallen.
And there’s that object permanence problem again! Back to the Dark Ages: The Knight-bots are so impressed with one group of humans’ noble goal to kill another group of humans that they join with Arthur and swear to help and protect humanity for all time. So they stay hidden but show up to various events and conflicts over the centuries (which Katharine has marvellously broken down here). This includes showing up in the American Revolution and Bumblebee murdering a ton of Nazis during World War II — an event he doesn’t remember and the movie doesn’t even come close to explaining — although a Transformer pocket-watch apparently killed Hitler.
How can they hide if they’re literally involved in every major war?
Very poorly, one would think, given that they are giant robots being seen by dozens, if not hundreds, of people at a time whenever they show up to help. However, after the King Arthur partnership, the “Secret Order of the Witwiccans” was formed to help keep the Transformers hidden.
Wait. How does a giant robot disguise himself during American Revolution? What the hell is he transforming into?
Maybe a wagon or something? I don’t know.
Actually, why are they bothering to hide at all? Wouldn’t all the “humanity hates and fears the Transformers, although mostly just the Autobots for no reason whatsoever” problems have been solved if these Knight-bots just came forward and let humanity get used to giant honkin’ robots for 1500 years?
Goddamn it. Let’s get back to the Witwiccans.
Let’s. It’s a group that includes, of course, Leonardo da Vinci, George Washington, Frederick Douglass, Queen Elizabeth, the Wright brothers, and a bunch of other random historical figures.
Wait, Frederi —
No. Stop. Do not think about this or you will lose your mind at how awful it is.
Ergh. What do the Witwiccans have to do with Sam Witwicky from the first three movies?
Apparently, he was a descendent of Merlin… but he’s not said to be a Witwiccan, which is hilarious given his last name. But since Anthony Hopkins’ character, the last of the Witwiccan group and the guy who dumps this exposition later in the film, announces to new character Vivian she’s the last living descendent of Merlin, apparently Sam’s dead.
Oh my god.
Enh. There’s only one Witwiccan left running the secret society, and he’s nuts, so I have doubts that he’s really fully up-to-date on the Merlin family tree. I mean, who in real life knows what Shia la Boeuf’s been up to for the last three years?
Wait, don’t —
I mean… where’s the Boeuf?
Goddamn you to hell.
To be fair, Michael Bay is 100 per cent petty enough to kill the star of the first three movies off-screen just because la Beouf quit the franchise.
Wait a second. If the Witwiccans are supposed to be keeping the Transformers a secret, and then the Autobots and Decepticons fought in and destroyed major parts of Chicago, Hong Kong, and at least one of the Egyptian pyramids…
Yes, the Witwiccans are extremely bad at their self-appointed goal. Although apparently they have also been commissioning paintings and photographs of historical events where people are hanging out with Transformers, so it seems they have been terrible at this from Day One.
We finally skip forward to the present day. After the destruction of a major metropolitan area in the previous movie (again), all Transformers are supposedly being hunted (again), although this somehow only applies to the Autobots (again), while the military has inexplicably allied with a proven-evil Decepticon, Barricade (the police car that has “to punish and enslave” on its side, which is only getting creepier as the years go on) to hunt the Autobots.
Meanwhile, a group of kids sneak into the ruins of Chicago, which is patrolled by a bunch of ED-209s from Robocop who are programmed to murder anyone who trespasses into the property, including children, but apparently has a hole in the goddamn fence. Also new character Izabella is living in the ruins helping the Transformers that are wrecked and trapped there along with that goofy robot Squeeks.
She lives in ruins where giant but not transforming robots are trying to shoot her, in order to help the aliens that destroyed a giant chunk of Chicago and killed her parents? Seems like a poor life decision.
Ah, but it pays off when she discovers one of the Knight-bots in the wreckage! (Not really.)
What’s he doing there?
I have no goddamn idea. Was he part of the big fight in Transformers: Dark of the Moon? Why? If so, why is there only one Knight-bot there? Did none of the other Transformers notice the one weird ancient robot that had mysteriously joined the action? Was he just randomly passing through the war zone and got shot down?
Again, you’re supposed to be the one with the answers.
Well, the reason is so that the Knight-bot can give Cade Yeager, who suddenly shows up, a Talisman which is itself a Transformer — it can crawl around on tiny legs — but is still choosing to look like a weathered, 1500-year-old relic.
So why’s it important?
Well, the Talisman is the key to unlocking the place where the Staff of Merlin is located. And it’s implied that by finding it, Quintessa suddenly knows its time to bring Cybertron to Earth to suck out its life energy, so it seems like it would have been a great idea for the Knight-bot to not give it to anybody.
What’s her plan to get the Staff?
Luckily, a briefly-dead-yet-again Optimus Prime, floating through space, lands randomly on Cybertron and she turns him evil and orders him to get her the Staff.
But still, with the ultimate goal of saving Cybertron.
Yep. Meanwhile, everyone on Earth assumes the approaching planet will crash into our planet and destroy it when it arrives. This turns out to not to be true at all.
Also, the Earth is kind of Unicron.
I beg your pardon?
…yeah. So spiky bits slowly start shooting out of the ground in various countries. Kind of impressively, the fact that Earth has a giant, planet-sized robot in it doesn’t have any bearing on the rest of the movie.
Back to Cade, who is hiding in a junkyard with the Autobots from the last movie, along with the Dinobots, and a bunch of baby Dinobots, too.
Yeah, tiny pterodactyls, triceratops and a fire-breathing Tyrannosaurus Rex.
They sound adorable!
They are, actually!
Where did they come from?
Where did these Baby Transformers come from?
I — oh my god.
Right? Are the Dinobots laying eggs? Are they having sex with each other? Can all Transformers give birth to baby robots or just Dinobots? Either way, why? Do these babies grow up to be regular Dinobots? Will they stay tiny robot babies forever?
Well, according to fan fiction —
Shut up. Anyway, Megatron also somehow knows Cade has the Talisman, which is supposedly needed to find the staff, which Megatron wants, because he has a list of the apparently dozens of ultra-powerful Transformers artefacts that are littering the planet, and is searching for them one by one.
The military overhears Barricade talking about the Talisman leading to the Staff and decides it’s a weapon they just have to have, and decide to join forces with the Decepticons to get it, despite the facts that 1) all the Decepticons are very evil; 2) it would probably be easier to ask the good Cade and the Autobots if they could take a look at the Talisman than sending a bunch of evil robots to murder them; 3) both the military and Megatron want the Talisman so someone’s going end up disappointed, and, again; 4) the goddamn Staff doesn’t do anything for anybody anyway.
Seems par for the course for a Transformers movie.
In order to facilitate Megatron murdering the good guys and taking the Talisman for himself, the military also releases a bunch of other murderous Decepticons we’ve never seen before and who exist solely to get murdered by Autobots five minutes after they’re introduced or to just wander off-screen. A perfunctory battle ensues, the new Decepticons die, Megatron flees, and then an insane Transformer robot butler named Cogman who looks like C-3PO shows up to take Cade to Anthony Hopkins’ Exposition Mansion, where he’s also summoned last living descendant of the drunk fraud Merlin, Vivian Wembly.
Tell me about Vivian.
She’s a brilliant professor at Oxford who holds doctorates in history, philosophy and letters, who has daddy issues and aunts that just desperately want to get her a man, and who, in Cade’s own words, is wearing a “stripper dress”. You good?
(vomits in mouth slightly) Yup.
Vivian’s dad secretly left her a clue to the whereabouts of the damned Staff, so she and Cade trash her dad’s office, and after a punishingly long time Vivian considers the clue might be located in the secret goddamn compartment her dad has.
Then there’s a massive car chase through London with MI-6 operatives, members of the dumb anti-Transformers task force, and Deceptions in which the Autobots and Cogman kill many, many innocent motorists to hamper their pursuers. Eventually they end up in a submarine which is a Transformer that never bothers to transform or talk, so why bother telling us it’s a Transformer at all, and they travel to a crashed spaceship at the bottom of the ocean where Merlin is buried.
Merlin is buried at the bottom of the ocean?
Yeah, apparently after the Knight-bots gave Merlin the Staff and decided to spend their lives helping humanity, they put Merlin’s corpse in their spaceship, flew the spaceship in the ocean, and decided to help humanity by hiding and guarding the Staff that they gave to Merlin so he could help humanity in the first place even though it doesn’t do anything so why did they need to involve Merlin at all. I mean, what was the point of the Knight-bots swearing to help humanity when they just ended up doing the same goddamn thing they were doing before Merlin staggered drunkenly to their ship?
Uh, is this an object permanence problem?
Yes, but that’s not the worst part. The worst part is when Vivian and Cade find and open Merlin’s tomb, and discover the Staff, which, in a moment so heartbreakingly dumb it makes my blood pressure rise just remembering it it, Cade decides the Staff is a dumb useless stick and throws it away.
Cade, who lives with Transformers, things that literally hide their incredible powers, who experienced all that Transformium nonsense in the last film, and has been told specifically that the Staff is the key to saving the world, glances at a long, cylindrical item made of an alien metal in the tomb of goddamn Merlin and is the middle of a giant goddamn alien spaceship on the bottom of the goddamn ocean and comes to the immediate goddamn conclusion it can’t possibly be anything but a goddamn stick and throws it away.
You seem upset.
Let me point out something else. You know that trope where the heroes search for a magical maguffin to prevent the bad guys from getting it, but end up leading them right to it?
This is the ultimate example of this. Think about it: The Staff is buried hundreds of kilometres underwater in a spaceship no one knows exists, protected by some Knight-bots (it’s impossible to tell how many robots are doing anything in these goddamned movies). Only one person on Earth knows how to get there — Vivian’s dad — and he’s dead, and left a clue so vague that literally only Vivian could figure it out. The Staff was 100 per cent safe until these dumb-dumbs decided to go find it.
Wasn’t there some kind of prophecy mumbo-jumbo?
It’s mentioned maybe twice, but what the hell is this prophecy? “A great evil is coming to Earth. At some random time, one of the Knight-bots will leave our utterly unknown, perfectly safe underwater spaceship to give someone the Talisman, which is the key to finding the Staff, whose sole purpose is to help the great evil destroy the planet. Also, let’s make sure that when the Talisman is found, everyone starts trying to find the Staff, WHICH WE OURSELVES HAVE AND COULD GIVE TO ANYONE AT ANY TIME IF WE WANTED TO. THIS WILL MAXIMISE THE CHANCE THAT THE STAFF WILL BE IN CIRCULATION WHEN THE GREAT EVIL FINALLY SHOWS UP.”
“ALSO, WHEN THE HUMANS DO COME FOR THE STAFF, AS WE HAVE EXPRESSLY TOLD THEM TO DO FOR SOME REASON, WE’RE STILL GOING TO GET MAD AT THEM AND TRY TO KILL THEM FOR TRYING TO TAKE IT.”
The Knights attack Cade and Vivian?
Yes, then evil Optimus Prime suddenly shows up, takes the Staff and starts fighting with Bumblebee, who finds his actual voice for 30 seconds and turns Optimus Prime good again through the Power of Friendship. And that’s before Megatron even more suddenly shows up, grabs the Staff, and flies off. I think he literally says “Yoink!” when he does it.
Well, that’s unfortunate. All those Knight-bots don’t try to stop him?
The ones that our heroes didn’t kill? Nope. See, after Optimus turns good and Megatron flies off with the Staff, the Knight-bots decide that it is infinitely more important to kill him for being turned evil against his will than continue to protect the staff after it has been stolen by bad guys.
That’s… very dumb.
Oh, but then the Talisman turns into Excalibur in Cade’s hand, and the Knights stop. Note: Excalibur has no bearing on the rest of the film.
Oh my god.
Object permanence. By this point, Cyberton has arrived, and the planet just stops like a kilometre from Earth. Just hangs there. No gravity issues, no destruction other than when pieces of Cybertron fall off and crash on Earth. Other than that, though, the planet poses absolutely no threat until someone gives Quintessa the Staff.
How long does it take Quintessa to get the Staff?
Not long at all. Turns out that evil, evil Decepticon leader Megatron also evilly wants to resurrect his home planet, and has also been working with Quintessa well before Optimus Prime turned good again, which doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense either, come to think of it.
Then the movie takes a quick break to murder Anthony Hopkins in the dumbest way possible. Stonehenge is the place that Earth/Unicron’s energy can be sucked out of, so everyone heads there. Including Anthony Hopkins, who goes there, by himself, and decides to start shooting like five Decepticons with a gun — which, of course, has no effect whatsoever — and the Decepticons murder him pretty much instantly.
Why does he do this?
Oh, even Anthony Hopkins has bills to pay, I assume.
So Cybertron is here, and despite it being a dead planet, somehow Quintessa has a million soulless drones to try to kill everyone, including the huge amount of military forces that have arrived to uselessly fight the giant robots, just like they do in every film. The girl and her dumb robot somehow blow up a gun which no one else could blow up for some reason, wasting a lot of time. Somehow nukes are fired right next to Cade and Vivian and they’re OK. Various hunks of Earth begin flying around with the pieces of Cybertron, and then for some reason gravity stops working for a while. Optimus Prime literally waits 15 minutes to join the battle, as countless people die horribly, so that he can come in riding on the three-headed dragon/Knight-bot combiner, but lets Bumblebee shoot Quintessa in the back, so she’s defeated in mere seconds. Also, remember how the Staff was bonded to Merlin’s DNA so only his descendants could do something with it?
Here’s the something: It allows Vivian to remove it from the Earth Energy-Sucking outlet. That’s it. She can unplug it.
I need a drink.
She unplugs it. Day is saved. Movie pretends Cade and Vivien have any sort of attraction to each other, roll credits. After Quintessa dies, Optimus Prime does a monologue and the film ends about 30 seconds later. It doesn’t bother trying to wrap up anything.
What about Cybertron?
What about “It doesn’t bother trying to wrap up anything” was unclear? Cybertron is still hanging out there, right above Earth. The movie ends with a giant, shattered robot planet hanging out about a kilometre above Earth, which appears to have no consequences whatsoever. Hell, whenever Transformers 6 is made, it might not even be there any more.
Object permanence, my friend.
Yeah. You want to know the worst part of Transformers: the Last Knight, though?
That’s why I’m here.
It’s that Michael Bay didn’t give a damn.
Usually when Michael Bay directs a movie, the story is garbage, but there’s always his spectacle to fall back on. You can complain about whatever you want — and I do! — but in terms of putting grandiose spectacle on the screen, Bay knows what he’s doing.
Somehow, The Last Knight has the most boring spectacle I’ve ever seen. It feels like a ripoff of hunks of the previous four films. There’s no energy, like Bay was utterly bored the whole time, even though making movies of things blowing up is his raison d’etre. Honestly, although I have never trusted when Bay says he’s done with the Transformers movies because he always gets pulled back in, I wonder if this really is his last one. Because it truly seems like he could not have cared less about the final product.
That wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.
No it would not. I also wonder if that’s why there’s so much terrible, terrible story. He was so bored with his own action scenes that he was forced to keep adding gibberish to pad out the movie’s running time.
How do you know for certain Michael Bay just didn’t care about this movie?
He staged a shoot-out with giant robots at Stonehenge and not a single stone was damaged in the slightest. That, my friend, is a Michael Bay who does not give a damn.
So supposedly all these random Transformers have been coming to Earth because it’s Unicron?
That’s what the movie asserts, although absolutely none of them know Unicron exists until Optimus Prime arrives, having been told by Quintessa.
If Cybertron is dead, where are all these Transformers being shot into space towards Earth from?
God only knows.
Why is Optimus Prime surprised that Cybertron is dead when he lands there, even though he’s the guy who led one of the armies that killed it?
What does Optimus Prime having the Talisman symbol on his body signify?
Nothing at all. It’s never mentioned again, obviously. Object per —
Yeah, I get it. Why can Bumblebee suddenly pull all his limbs together after he’s shot to pieces?
The movie does not even begin to hint at a whisper of an explanation for this.
Does the sole black character in the film announce he comes from “the hood” at some point?
He most certainly does.
Does a Transformer emit some kind of bodily fluid in this film?
Of course! Grimlock vomits up a car at one point, and what I assume is bright green robo-bile along with it.
But isn’t Transformers’ blood bright green?
Yes, but that would mean Grimlock vomits blood.
Unsettling. Do the Dinobots actually transform in this film?
Nope. Hey, do you know who’s in this movie?
The goofy tech executive from Age of Extinction? No, he isn’t.
He is! He’s drunk Merlin!
Yep! Know who else is in the movie? John Turturro, but as the same goofy dude he played in the first three movies.
That’s less surprising.
It doesn’t help that he doesn’t matter and is just there to add a needless link in the chain on the way to the Staff/maguffin, another one of the many ways this film wastes times between action scenes.
Isn’t Josh Duhamel also back?
Oh my god. I forgot. Every time a Transformers film ends I forget Josh Duhamel was in it or even exists.
Do I have a Duhamel permanence problem?
Let’s just move on.
Hey, do you know who else is in the movie? Hot Rod!
Oh my god! The leader of the Autobots after Optimus Prime died that first time? One of the most important Transformers in the canon? What’s his role?
Oh, he’s a meaningless character whose sole attribute is that he speaks with a cartoonish French accent, which the movie takes the time to tell us is not real, and he’s speaking in it solely because he’s a weirdo.
I need all the drinks.
Also he has a time gun for some reason.
I don’t even want to know why.
Oh, like there was a goddamn reason for it.
Why did Castro give Transformers asylum in Cuba, and why did the Transformers who moved there immediately adhere to shallow racial stereotypes of its inhabitants?
Sometimes I think Bay just does this borderline racist crap to make Hasbro executives lose sleep at night.
What does Cogman transform into?
The movie doesn’t bother to show us. Although given how much he looks like C-3PO — the movie even points it out — you could argue he turns into a copyright infringement.
Why does the military base have the words “I have to kill you” painted in its command room?
I don’t know and it disturbs me so, so much.
What’s with the robot Asian woman in the blue veil who shows up in the end credits to say she knows how to kill Unicron?
Who gives a damn?
So who, exactly, is the titular Last Knight?
Are you kidding me?
Nope. There are at least a few Knight-bots who seem to be totally fine when the movie ends, so there’s not a last one of them. Since they’re around, that also rules out Optimus Prime, too. So the only knight it could mean is a human knight.
Seriously, are you kidding me?
And apparently the Talisman which Cade very randomly encountered chose him because he embodies the qualities of a knight, which is why the Talisman turns into Excalibur for 30 seconds. Of course, these knightly qualities include chastity, which immediately turns into a conversation about how long it’s been since Cade screwed somebody, because this is a movie based on toys made for young children designed to sell them more toys.
I… I need to go lay down for a while. (leaves)
OH MY GOD I CAN’T SEE YOU WHERE DID YOU GO ARE YOU GONE FOREVER
WAIT WERE YOU JOSH DUHAMEL