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No, God, no. Are you kidding? Don't bring your children to Transformers: The Last Knight. For any reason. Well, I mean, unless you are angry with your kids. Do you hate your kids? Then by all means, grab tickets to an IMAX 3D showing of Michael Bay's latest Transformers movie -- the fifth in his ongoing saga -- and punish them by making them sit through the entire, bombastic excursion. (Our full review is here.) Because it wasn't made for kids. It was made for those stalled in a state of arrested development.
There's an unusual truth to the Transformers series that becomes crystal clear in Transformers: The Last Knight. Though the franchise claims to have been inspired by a line of toys, these movies -- as envisioned by Bad Boys and Pain & Gain visionary Michael Bay -- were never made with kids in mind. You know, kids... the people who actually play with toys. The secret to Transformers, currently, is that modern kids don't play with Autobots and Decepticons. Some might, sure. But when's the last time you saw a group of school-aged kids mimicking scenes from Michael Bay's Transformers movies with their handheld Bumblebee or Optimus Prime toys? Have you ever?
Instead, Michael Bay targets an audience (of mostly males, if we're being honest) who grew up on the Transformers toys, animated TV shows and animated movies from the 1980s, but are now in their Forties and Fifties. This franchise routinely aims over the heads of young audience members -- in plotting, in humor, in language, and in staging -- and Transformers: The Last Knight joins its predecessors in being a summer blockbuster best screened for older teenagers.
The language in Transformers still catches me off guard. There's a lot of swearing in The Last Knight. No massive F-bombs, but as many "shits" as a PG-13 will allow. And it's often language and obscenities for no reason. A kid will hop behind the wheel of a car during a chaotic action scene and yell "I'm gonna hotwire this bitch!" Um, alright? During a chase scene, both Anthony Hopkins and his robot butler, Cogman -- yes, I said his "robot butler, Cogman" -- will flip the middle finger at the Decepticons who are pursuing them. Why? Because Michael Bay thinks that's funny.
Michael Bay's sense of humor is strange. He loves sexually-tinged humor that's awkwardly ribald, and really has no place whatsoever in a robot franchise based on toys. That part of the Transformers movies -- the leering over the female characters and the blatant sexual innuendo that always creeps into the dialogue -- has always been a red flag for me and this series, and as a parent, it keeps me from bothering to show my kids any films in this franchise. Take this one scene from Transformers: The Last Knight, as an example. Mark Wahlberg and Laura Haddock -- who has been established as a brilliant academic "in a stripper's dress" -- are rummaging through her father's office looking for an artifact. As they tear the office apart, Michael Bay cuts to a gaggle of repressed old ladies who are downstairs, listening to the noise and imagining that Wahlberg and Haddock's characters are having sex. There's absolutely no need for that innuendo, but Bay thinks that's funny, so it's included.
"But it's giant robots battling each other!" It is, and there's enough of that in Transformers: The Last Knight to keep your kids distracted for two hours. But the mythology in this movie -- while FAR more streamlined than in other Transformers movies -- is so dense and derivative, I guarantee no young kid will be able to trace the lineage of the wizard Merlin to the last line of defense against the planet of Cybertron. Really, it's confusing as all get out, and exists as a think excuse for Bay to blow stuff up. Again and again.
By the time you get to the fifth installment in any franchise -- particularly the fifth film directed by the same director -- you know what to expect. And Transformers delivers more of what Bay has always delivered: Large-scale action set pieces, razor-thin characterizations and hormone-soaked adolescent sex humor. As I routinely say, every kid is different, and every parent knows what their child can handle. Your kids may love these movies. But for parents dipping their toe into the Transformers waters for the first time, know that there's more than meets the eye in The Last Knight (sorry... so lame), and I'd avoid it for any kid age 15 and younger.
If you still have any questions or concerns about your kids possibly seeing Transformers: The Last Knight, hit me up in the comments, or email me at [email protected]