'Transformers: The Last Knight' Early Buzz: More Incomprehensible Bayhem

Paramount Pictures held the embargo for Transformers: The Last Knight until 7pm EST today, which is the same time the first public screenings were scheduled in theaters across the country. That's not a tactic the studio usually takes, but considering the critical beating they received with Baywatch not too long ago, I suppose it's not too much of a surprise.

So will Michael Bay's latest Transformers film fare any better with critics? Come on, you and I both already know the answer to that question. Join me below to read a selection of some newly-published Transformers The Last Knight reviews and see just how much critics despise this film.

First up, our own Peter Sciretta saw the movie and while he acknowledges Bay's skill at composing striking visuals, he thinks the film is "an epic mess":

While it feels more comprehensively made than Revenge of the Fallen, Transformers: The Last Knight is an epic mess of a movie. I'm not a Transformers franchise hater – I really like the first and third films a lot. Knight feels like two different screenplays mashed together. On their own, the ideas are promising (I enjoyed the King Arthur mythology portion) but as a whole, it's a clusterfuck of characters, story and questionable logic. The humor in this film is somehow more jarring than past installments of the franchise, and the film itself is an experiment in excess. What is less than two and a half hours somehow feels like the longest movie ever made.

Visually, the movie is stunning, and I often felt myself taking a step back from the plot to admire some of the shots on their own merits. The IMAX 3D experience of the film is amazing. Almost the entire film was shot with IMAX cameras and presented in IMAX ratio. Where most directors seem to push back against the third dimension, Michael Bay doesn't hold back in his 3D composition, making him one of the best 3D filmmakers working.

Michael Phillips at the Chicago Tribute seemed defeated by the experience of watching this film:

"Deep down inside, you begin to wonder: Has my life been wasted?" This is Academy Award-winning Anthony Hopkins talking, as he shovels another steaming load of mythological exposition for the benefit of Mark Wahlberg, who plays the subtitle of this fifth "Transformers" movie: "The Last Knight." Or "Knight of the Living Dead." Or is it "Transformers: Revenge of the Fidget Spinners"? I can't say. The film wiped my memory, my faculties and my windshield clean sometime around minute 40 of its 146 minutes.

As did Mike Ryan at Uproxx, who warns people who identify as Transformers fans that just because the word "Transformers" is in the title doesn't mean they'll automatically like it:

After it ended, a colleague sitting to my right bluntly said, "I don't get it." These are movies with robot dinosaurs. In theory they should be fun, not headache-inducing noise machines. (And don't get started on the whole, "Well, I bet the fans will like this movie." My screening was filled with fans and they were mostly silent. Just a smattering of a few claps after the movie ended.) It's one of those movies that is silly enough at first that it can be a little fun to gawk at the ridiculousness of it all, but at just under two and a half hours, it's unsustainable. It just makes you tired. And by the time the submarine battle happens (there's a submarine battle and no Transformers are involved) I just wanted to rest my eyes.

T5 axe

Richard Brody at The New Yorker also admires Bay's talent, but doesn't seem to like the movie:

Bay has an authentic sense of the gigantic; beside the playful enormity of his Transformerized universe, the ostensibly heroic dimensions of Ridley Scott's and Christopher Nolan's massive visions seem like petulant vanities. Yet his sense of speed works against his sense of scale and of detail. 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, are developed too little. Bay's highest inspirations are those of a virtually experimental filmmaker of pure sensation; the rush of sensation is also a temptation for experimental filmmakers who often don't keep their own images onscreen very long (cf. Stan Brakhage). The absolute tastelessness of Bay's images, their stultifying service to platitudes and to merchandise, doesn't at all diminish their wildly imaginative power.

Forbes critic Scott Mendelson was surprised by the film's blandness when compared with previous Transformers sequels:

It's...ordinary. While it looks gorgeous and has a few impressive action beats, it feels oddly run-of-the-mill and lacking much of what made the franchise stand out even as big-budget would-be blockbusters became more and more par-for-the-course. Yes, there is something to be said for Bay toning down some of his eccentricities and offering a more kid-friendly Transformers movie, but the film mostly lacks the jaw-dropping absurdity, spectacle and weirdness of the sequels.

Ian Freer at Empire Online was impressed with the effects but not much else:

ILM's work remains peerless — Bumblebee re-piecing himself back together again is immaculate — but the effect of a lot of it is deadening. It is amazing how a series with so much nostalgic goodwill, technical finesse and behind the scenes talent have led so often to experiences that are so joyless. Bay has many talents; smart, sharp bouncy summer fun isn't one of them.

The Playlist's Rodrigo Perez puts it succinctly in his review:

The would-be blockbuster to end all blockbusters, Bay takes the kitchen sink, throws it like a Hail Mary at the sun and basks in the supernova shockwave that concusses the viewer. In scale and scope, 'The Last Knight' is an impressive behemoth. Unfortunately for Bay, it's also an unbearable disaster of epic proportions, an incoherent mess with a plot so convoluted its impaired story points to signs of narrative brain damage and a writer's room depleted of oxygen and snacks.

Frank Scheck at The Hollywood Reporter is perfectly aware that these movies are critic-proof, but felt the need to call out the film's lack of humor anyway:

The sprawling action includes a flashback depicting the Transformers battling Nazis and an explosive battle at Stonehenge that keeps you on the edge of your seat with concern for the ancient stones. And while there's no shortage of large-scale set pieces, the storyline provides so many opportunities for attempts at droll humor, most of it involving Hopkins' dotty character, that the proceedings start to resemble drawing-room comedy. It's all an overstuffed mess, but that was true of the previous entries as well, and audiences obviously don't seem to mind.

Megan Farokhmanesh at The Verge says the film has "no soul," and I can practically see her face-palming and shaking her head as she recalled moments like this to touch on in her review:

Even at its best, The Last Knight feels like a series of action scenes wrapped up together in a thinly stretched narrative. The characters are always in some sort of mortal peril, whether they're being shot at, nearly getting crushed by errant bots, or on a freefall collision course with solid ground. Everyone has one-liners ready to go, though a lot of them are cringeworthy. (In a triumphant moment, Bumblebee punctuates a punch by shouting, "Sting like a bee!") The introduction of the King Arthur legend and its corresponding mythos is a paper-thin tie with no satisfying revelation, an excuse to play with a few Game of Thrones-style battles and a big robot dragon.

Mark Wahlberg Leaving Transformers

There were a few critics who didn't hate the movie. Business Insider's Jason Guerrasio seems kinder than most other reviewers, calling The Last Knight "one of the better movies in the franchise" and praising one of the film's new characters:

As with most Bay movies, it's the action and silly moments that are the most enjoyable. A highlight in "The Last Knight" is a Transformer doubling as [Anthony Hopkins' character's] butler named Cogman who tries desperately to be dignified, though he can't help being overcome by violent outbursts.

Some enjoyable Cogman scenes: When he randomly attacks Yeager, when he has road rage in the middle of a car chase (while Burton gives chasing Decepticons the middle finger), and when our heroes are in a submarine (yes, there are submarines in this movie) and Cogman catches fish for Yeager and Wembley and we watch as the machine beats the hell out of the fish before serving them.

I wouldn't say that Variety's Owen Gleiberman liked the film, exactly, but his review refers to this film as "the first Transformers movie that could actually be characterized as badass," so I guess that's something:

There's still a hurtling slovenliness to it — a sense that overly quick cuts and throwaway lines are taking the place of what, in another movie, would be calmly staged dramatic scenes. (Oh, those!) I can only speculate as to why Michael Bay, at a point long past which most producers/directors would have handed off the directorial reins of this series to someone else (hasn't he — how can I put this? — said all that he has to say?), is still in there, directing this latest installment. It's almost as if the series fulfills him: Instead of knuckling under to the system the way he had to do when he made such relatively austere works of artisanal craft as "Armageddon" and "Bad Boys," here he can just let his destructo action-junkie freak flag fly.

Yet part of what's exhausting about the "Transformers" films is that hectic bland wholesomeness — the empty energy that can give you a seizure of antic tedium. "The Last Knight," by contrast, has the somewhat sexier flavor of impending dystopia, and it's actually, if this can be believed, even more over-the-top than the previous four films. For the first time, the messy hyperactive form and nihilistic crunched-metal content seem to reinforce each other.

And Vox's Todd VanDerWerff seemed to just roll with it (pun intended) and ended up enjoying it more than the other movies in the franchise:

True to the spirit of the film (I guess?), it's easier to distinguish each Transformers movie from the others by which toys are involved in the battles. The dragon's presence in The Last Knight might well be the only thing I remember about the film's final battle a month from now. It might be the primary thing I remember about it now! I could tell you other things about it, sure, but inevitably I'd keep coming back to that dragon. It's really cool! I'll bet the action figure of it is cool too!

Transformers: The Last Knight is in theaters tonight. See it if you dare.