SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Michael Bay's Transformers: The Last Knight, in theaters now.
Transformers: The Last Knight does many things -- the least of which is explain the absence of franchise veteran Shia LaBeouf who appeared in the first three installments in the series. And it does this, sneakily, with the aid of a visual cameo.
Before we get to the exact cameo and what it means, let's go over some established Transformers film history. In Revenge of the Fallen it's established that Transformers have been secretly living on Earth throughout history, influencing major events. The Last Knight furthers this notion, suggesting that ancient Autobots lived among humans as far back as the Dark Ages, becoming more secretive as time went on. This began with the magician Merlin, who harnessed the power of the Autobots using a "magic" staff. The staff, hidden for centuries, could only be wielded by descendants of Merlin, referred to as Witwiccans -- a portmanteau of, yes, the Witwicky surname, and the Wicca religion.
As the events of The Last Knight unravel and Earth is threatened once again, Sir Edmund Burton (Anthony Hopkins) recruits the help of Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) and Vivian Wembley (Laura Haddock), explaining in a convoluted, lengthy monologue that Vivian is the last surviving member of the Witwiccan Order -- therefore, suggesting Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) is no longer alive. Over the course of this monologue we briefly glimpse several old photos, one of which features LaBeouf's Witwicky. And that, ladies and gentleman, is our last glimpse of the character.
LaBeouf's lack-of-appearance in Transformers: The Last Knight shouldn't come as much of a surprise. The child actor-turned genre star spoke out loudly against director Michael Bay after the release of ht critical flop Transformers: The Dark of the Moon, criticizing the helmer for his style-over-substance and overall take on the franchise. LaBeouf's comments were echoed by Transformers and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen co-star Megan Fox, who controversially balled Bay "Hitler."
In theaters now, Transformers: The Last Knight stars franchise veterans Mark Wahlberg, Stanley Tucci, Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson and John Turturro, joined by newcomers Isabela Moner, Liam Garrigan, Jerrod Carmichael, Mitch Pileggi, Laura Haddock, Santago Cabrera and Anthony Hopkins.