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Front Page - Friday, June 23, 2017

Fifth ‘Transformers’ worthy of the scrap heap

What was I thinking? How did the thought of seeing “Transformers: The Last Knight” and coming back to you with encouraging words bubble up in my head?

Of course it’s terrible. It’s a Transformers movie directed by Michael Bay. He’s made five of these things and hasn’t gotten better at it.

His first job as director should have been to give what passed for a script back to the seven writers. Wrap your head around that. Paramount paid seven people good money to write this thing, and it makes no sense.

One critic opened his review by calling the film “an incomprehensible pile of scrap.” I would have used an “s” word, too, but with four letters instead of five.

The film’s storyline defies explanation. It seems center on the idea that Transformers have been manipulating human history for hundreds of years. That, and the world is going to end – again.

That’s the best I can offer you, despite several massive expositional dumps during which the film’s characters explain what I assume is the plot or backstory.

Despite the hand-holding, I still had a hard time figuring out why Mike Wahlberg was in the movie, what John Turturro’s character was doing in Cuba or why Anthony Hopkins agreed to be in the film.

To distract audiences from the lack of narrative glue, Bay fills the screen with explosions, people shouting, more explosions, robots yammering at each other, more people shouting and more explosions. (Bay’s only direction to Wahlberg was evidently, “Good, Mark, but do it again, only louder.”)

Bay also employed six editors. Wrap your head around THAT. His second job as director should have been to give the film back to them and say, “Try again.”

According to what I saw on the screen, the editors must have entertained themselves while working by playing musical chairs. When the music stopped, they plopped down at the nearest computer and pieced together some footage.

It’s the only explanation for the film’s lack of rhythm and the jarring tonal shifts within individual scenes.

Early in the film, the wizard Merlin (that’s not a typo) is slogging back a bottle of brew and struggling to stay on his horse when the scene abruptly switches to him racing across a medieval countryside to a swell of strings and horns. Then, just as quickly, he’s channeling John Cleese from Monty Python as he tries to convince a Transformer to give him a weapon the English will mistake for his magic staff.

The whole movie plays like this. Bay is never more irritating, though, as when he goes for the heartstrings by cueing the symphony. Before I shed a tear, I must be finessed!

Maybe you see the Transformers movies for their visuals. You could be given a pass for this. As bad as Bay is with actors and camera placement, he knows how to put together a money shot. The previous Transformers movies have at least offered some impressive eye candy.

But this time out, the special effects seem less special. Sure, there’s a three-headed Transformer dragon, a robotic god and the Transformers’ home planet comes close to colliding with Earth (oops – spoiler alert!), but it all looks rather pedestrian. Been there, done that, ready to move on.

Except for “Wonder Woman,” studios have been releasing one recycled, remade, rebooted, reconstituted hunk of junk after another in theaters this summer. And “Transformers: The Last Knight” is no different.

The film does offer one small mercy: the moment you leave the theater, it will dissolve from your memory like sugar on the tongue.

How six editors, seven writers, 14 producers, 19 directors (counting assistant directors), hundreds of other people and 260 million of Paramount’s hard-earned dollars couldn’t do better than that is a mystery.

Zero stars