New ‘Transformers’ flies apart on reckless plot

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Transformers: The Last Night is so disjointed and confusing that it causes inauthentic responses based on audience conditioning, more like Furby reactions than real engagement.
PARAMOUNT PICTURES Transformers: The Last Night is so disjointed and confusing that it causes inauthentic responses based on audience conditioning, more like Furby reactions than real engagement. PARAMOUNT PICTURES

Homo sapiens as a species have survived this long partially due to mechanisms in our brain that evoke an instinctive response to stimuli when there is not enough time for a full intellectual analysis. For example, we notice and react to sounds or rustling bushes with curiosity and heightened senses before figuring out whether we should fight, flee or relax.


Transformers: The Last Knight

PG-13, 150 minutes
Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX, Violet Crown Cinema


Some call this our lizard brain as a reference to its role in keeping our unevolved ancestors alive, but when it comes to movies like Transformers: The Last Knight, the term Furby brain is better suited as a description of our tendency to react to movies based not on instinct or intellect, but conditioning. When a protagonist contorts mid-fight in slow motion, we know on some level that we have to be awed, even if the move isn’t all that impressive. When a designated comic relief does something wacky, we know we should laugh, whether it’s funny or even makes sense. And when a casual reference to other aspects of pop culture is made, we pat ourselves on the back for our mastery of cultural scholarship, even if every other person on the planet understands the reference too.

This appeal to our Furby brain is all The Last Knight has going for it, because never in history has there been a movie where so much happens with little to no concern for why it’s happening. It’s astonishing how much work went into something that makes so little sense on any level, so all director Michael Bay can do is prod a part of our brain that provokes certain reflexes in the hope that we will feel like we had a real experience on an electrical level even as we struggle to understand why.

Except The Last Knight isn’t even good at that. If an audience member bought a ticket, odds are he is already sold on the concept of fighting alien robots, but that doesn’t give the filmmakers license to make individual action sequences equally unbelievable. Even if you were invested in the outcome of a given fight, good luck figuring out who’s who, which side has the upper hand or what anybody is saying. Bay apparently knows about these massive gaps in logic, so he resorts to deflection, answering questions that no one asked, hoping you’ll ignore the most glaring ones. Q: Why do Transformers keep coming here? A: Turns out Merlin actually had help from ancient Transformers. Q: Why do martian robots act like sassy human stereotypes? A: Did you know a Transformer killed Hitler?

Even if you were invested in the outcome of a given fight, good luck figuring out who’s who, which side has the upper hand or what anybody is saying.

We’ve made it this far without saying what Transformers: The Last Knight is actually about—which is pretty much on par with how the movie deals with its own plot.

Cade (Mark Wahlberg) is on the lam with some runaway Transformers, when a mysterious talisman left to him by a very old Transformer dying in the rubble of Chicago proves invaluable to both the Autobots and the Decepticons. The fate of Earth hangs in the balance, because a staff left to Merlin that can help Cybertron, um, Anthony Hopkins, is the last of a great line dedicated to, err, the Arthur C. Clarke quote about magic and technology.

Jesus, trying to make sense of this gives you an even bigger headache than the insane sound and ADD editing. Suffice it to say, there’s no explanation for why something is over in the blink of an eye, before Transformers are using “bitch” as a punchline and the most epic battle ever begins out of pretty much nowhere. Look, you can have whatever insane plot you want to justify the most preposterous action scene ever filmed. Just tell us the stakes first. Let us know who’s who, what’s what and how the scales are tipped in a given moment. That’s all any movie needs. Motivate the explosions and zaniness, that’s all we ask.

If we just give this movie $500 million up front, can we skip its theatrical release altogether?


Playing this week

Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX

The Shops at Stonefield, 244-3213

47 Meters Down, All Eyez On Me, Baby Driver, Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie, Cars 3, The Mummy, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, Rough Night, Wonder Woman

Violet Crown Cinema

200 W. Main St., Downtown Mall, 529-3000

All Eyez On Me, Beatriz at Dinner, Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie, Cars 3, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, The Mummy, Paris Can Wait, Rough Night, Wonder Woman, Zathura

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