Transformers: The Last Knight is the first film in the venerable franchise based on Hasbro toy line to fill every single one of its human roles with Chinese actors speaking Mandarin. However, it’s also the first Transformers movie in which humans only appear for about twenty minutes of the running time.
I’ve read that Michael Bay outsourced to his second unit in Quingdao all of these obligatory scenes featuring meatbags talking (subtitled) to each other. This allowed him to focus his energies exclusively on crafting computer generated vista after computer generated vista of Autobots battling Decepticons for control of the universe.
The result is a nearly two and a half hour mostly uninterrupted color show of sensuous visual delights. Bots explode, tumble and flip this way and that in beautifully balletic action sequences marred by not a single fleshy face.
Metallic muscles and cords ripple and twitch in tension and ecstasy. Thus they reflect the lurid pleasure experienced by those of us blessed enough to be in the audience witnessing the Transformers’ unbridled dynamism.
Michael Bay has finally transcended the false illusions of narrative and cohesive structure altogether. By entering the realm of pure cinema with enormous wrangling steel chassis as both icon and subject, he’s an invented an entirely new filmic grammar. Giant flying robots have been a staple of the cinema since the Lumière Brothers, but you have never seen them like this before.
Chaos and discord in the heavens rendered with such kinetic style puts Bay in a singular tier of filmmakers from whom he’s clearly drawn inspiration. Now we shall whisper Michael Bay in the same breath as Dziga Vertov, Rene Clair, Slavko Vorkapich, Norman McClaren, Arthur Lipsett, and – dare I say it? – Man Ray himself. Alongside Bay, they all drink creative nectar of the movie gods from the same horn-shaped vessel.
TL;DR – An exhilarating venture into pure cinema for the Transformers franchise leaves us breathless with the rush of seeing such vibrant whirling images only occasionally interrupted by obligatory scenes of narrative featuring Fan Bingbing, Wang Xueqi, Vincent Zhao, and Ge You.
What the rest of the critics are saying:
“Michael Bay is some kind of genius.” – Richard Brody, The New Yorker
“Transformers: The Last Knight offers more to see and more to startle than do many films by auteurs of overt artistic ambition and accomplishment.” – Richard Brody, The New Yorker
“All the best moments in the movie—pure images, devoid of symbol and, for that matter, nearly empty of sense—go by too fast, are held too briefly…” – Richard Brody, The New Yorker
“Michael Bay knocks it out of the park once again!” – Eric D. Snider, EricDSnider.com
“When this heroic duo find themselves thrust out into the void of inner space from a collapsing planet, it has a terrifyingly vast emptiness that Bay doesn’t dare hold for more than an instant lest he become the nightmare-master. “ – Richard Brody, The New Yorker
“Bay’s highest inspirations are those of a virtually experimental filmmaker of pure sensation.” – Richard Brody, The New Yorker
“[T]he enormous thing hurtling toward Earth is composed in a fanatical detail that would repay slow-motion viewing with near-geological patience.” – Richard Brody, The New Yorker
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