I find myself in a place in life where I have seen all five Transformers movies. We’ll gloss over how it all worked out this way, but after all that, my biggest question is: What ARE these movies?
They are spectacles of massive-scale destruction with the thinnest of pretexts holding them together. I cannot recall the “story” of any of them—including this one—which does not at all preclude one’s enjoying them; it’s kind of a requirement. What starts to get weird is that the stories bear no relationship whatsoever to anything that happens on Earth, and are in no way relatable to anything anyone has ever gone through. I mean, even destroying the Death Star is something I can kind of RELATE to. Here, a half-destroyed planet is dragging huge pendulums across Earth’s countryside as jets have a fight amongst these massive chains swinging through the atmosphere. I don’t know… maybe you’ve had days like that? So I’m just sitting there like: “I honestly don’t even know what this movie is, and why seeing this should be considered entertainment.”
One thing we can say is that is what global entertainment looks like. This movie would play the same in any language, for any culture, which is why they do so well internationally. We’ll leave to the side why people around the world, at this point in history, want to see detailed realizations of mass destruction, or why that is what America wants to export to them.
We also have to say that Michael Bay, whatever we may think of his politics, is extremely skilled at putting such things together and, in his way, is a dazzlingly brilliant cinematic technician. The other thing is that, because audiences will come as long as the destruction remains world-class, Bay can do ANYTHING he wants to fill in the rest of the movie [and keep himself interested], so in this case he has decided that he wants to show Arthurian knights and warfare. The other thing is that it allows him to fill huge stretches with pure comedy, which he also does. In fact, much of the movie is so knowingly ridiculous [like seeing Transformers in historical paintings, or seeing Whalberg walk through the air by stepping on drones] you have to just get into the overwhelming silliness of the whole thing, as the filmmakers clearly are.
All this comedy makes the decision to bring in Anthony Hopkins a brilliant one, as Hopkins is absolutely hilarious delivering lines about giant robots and planets at war with complete seriousness. And if you never thought you might need a comedy routine between Anthony Hopkins and Mark Whalberg, gosh, you might be surprised how badly you do. Now we just need to get both into a more tolerable movie.
By the way, Whalberg’s character is named Cade Yaeger, and if you want to start laughing, I suggest simply saying the name “Cade Yaeger” aloud a few times. Oh by the way, Cade Yaeger turns out to be the only person KING ARTHUR [yes, THAT King Arthur] has entrusted to carry on his mission in the present day.
So ultimately, you have a collection of insanely unreal fantastical images, held together by the thinnest of pretexts, filled in with a lot of comedy. If that’s what you want, it’s waiting.