Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Film Review: Transformers - The Last Knight

Sexuality/Nudity Acceptable 
Violence Acceptable
Vulgarity Acceptable
Anti-Catholic Philosophy Acceptable

This review may be more of a rant than a rational evaluation of Transformers: The Last Knight.  Please allow me to explain.

I have been a fairly devoted fan of this series.  I have always said that I cannot say that any of the Transformers movies are good.  But I have found most of them entertaining enough to warrant multiple viewings.  This was especially true of the last film, Transformers: Age of Extinction.  I thought the addition of Mark Wahlberg and the subtraction of Shia LeBeouf added some fresh and more mature air to the series.

That isn't to say I was blind to the series' flaws.  They all have terrible writing, flat characters, and action scenes that go on so long that they become fatiguing.  But there was enough creative spectacle to keep me entertained, especially any scene with Optimus Prime.  Those things were like the spoon full of sugar to help the putridness go down.  

But none of that helps The Last Knight.

In my review for Transformers: Age of Extinction, I wrote:

Speaking of Optimus, this is his movie.  I have never seen this character this PO'd.  And it works so well.  We feel his dilemma.  He fought and sacrificed so much for humans (or as he always says, "huuuumans.").  And in return they have killed his friends and hunted him.  He feels betrayed.  He is betrayed.  But with that rage we see a powerful, aggressive, kick-butt side to him that is so much darn fun to watch play out on the screen.

If you've given up on Transformers movies, give this one a shot.  It may seem like mindless action but, pardon the phrase, its more than meets the eye.

But Optimus Prime is hardly in The Last Knight.  And this is unforgivable (more on this below).

I will attempt glimpses of a plot summary, but that will prove to be difficult since I'm not sure that even the screen writers (which includes Akiva Goldsman who won an Acadmey Award winner for A Beautiful Mind ) could do so.  Everything is so jumbled together.  It honestly feels like the movie starts being one kind of movie and then part way through gets bored and becomes another movie until it gets bored and starts a different movie.  This happens throughout the film.  I almost imagine that each writer submitted a script and director Michael Bay grabbed pages he like from each different script and stapled them together.

Normally I am very careful of spoilers, but I do not think that this movie was ever fresh enough to be "spoiled."


The movie begins in the Dark Ages.  King Arthur (Liam Garrigan) is at war and he needs Merlin's (Stanley Tucci) help.  Tucci plays Merlin like a drunk fraud for stupid jokes.  As an aside, many people rip on the DCEU movies like Man of Steel and Batman v. Superman for not being "fun" enough.  I resist this because to many in Hollywood, fun = stupid, as evidenced by the lame attempt at humor.  Anyway, Merlin finds a Transformer ship and asks for aid.  They give him a staff that will help him control the 3-headed dragon that the twelve Transformer "knights" turn in to.

Let me pause here for the movie's first innanity.  Why would the Transformers need to give Merlin the staff?  If they are helping, why would they need to give him something to control them?  That would be like agreeing to help my buddy move and then have him put a shock collar on me to keep me working.

After an exciting battle scene, the movie shifts to the present day.  Optimus Prime (the always amazing Peter Cullen) is in space flying towards the Transformers' maker Quintessa (Gemma Chan).  She brainwashes him and turns him into Nemesis Prime.  This will be the last time we will see Prime until the last act of the movie.

I cannot stress how amazingly stupid of a move this is on the part of the film-makers.  One of the reasons I was such a fan of the last Transformers was because it felt like Prime had a real character arc.  He is the real hero of the franchise.  He is the one that figures most prominently in all of the advertising.  And every scene that doesn't use him is a waste.  

This means that most of the film is pointless.

On Earth, Transformers have been crash landing into the populated planet randomly, causing massive destruction.  Humans have formed anti-Transformer tasks forces and human no-go zones, such as the city of Chicago.  But a bunch of kids decide to enter the no-go zone and are accosted by robots.  They are rescued by Izabella (Isabela Moner), a 14-year-old orphan living in the ruins of Chicago with her little Transformer friend Sqweeks (Reno Wilson).  

I hesitate to talk about this next part because maybe I'm being overly sensitive, but I was very uncomfortable with how they were filming Moner.  In the last film Nicola Petlz played an underage girl on whom the camera creepily lingered.  In The Last Knight Moner is often filmed in a tank top and shorts that are a bit too revealing for someone her age.  Perhaps I'm being a fuddy-duddy, but I kept expecting Chris Hanson from To Catch a Predator to show up and halt filming to talk to director Michael Bay.

With the introduction of Izabella, it feels like the movie is going to become a Stranger Things/Goonies type adventure until Cade Yaeger (Wahlberg) shows up.  He rescues the kids and all of them but Izabella disappear from the movie.  Cade tries to help a dying Transformer Knight who gives him a talisman that attaches to him.  Meanwhile, the trigger happy anti-Transformer task force, led by Col. Lennox (Josh Duhamel from the first three Transformers films), try to hunt down Cade.  By now everyone has learned about Merlin's staff and wants it.  To get it, the governments make a deal with Megatron (Frank Whelker).

This brings us to another moronic scene.  Megatron makes a deal with the government lawyers to release certain Decepticons into his care.  Instead of drawing from the rich roster of famous evil Transformers like Frenzy and the Stunticons, Bay and company invent some truly stupid bad robots to join Megatron with names like "Mohawk" and "Nitro Zeus."  The deal makes no sense, but is simply done to move us to an action sequence.

Cade goes to a junkyard in the Badlands where the other Autobots are hiding.  Awesome additions to the series like Hound (John Goodman) and Drift (Ken Watanabe) are back, but have much less to do.  Fan favorite Grimlock is also there, but never used again. 

Once again this is an idiotic decision.  I would watch a whole movie based on around Grimlock alone, but for some reasons the screenwriters don't find him very interesting.  There is a line between "fan servicing" and "fan frustrating."  I would almost rather not have them in the film than to tease them but have them do nothing.  Imagine if Rogue One only had Darth Vader in the scene on Mustufar and not his scene in the last few minutes of the movie.  That's what it felt like with Grimlock.  If he was in the last act of the film I completely missed him, which also says a lot about how badly he is used.  

Izabella sneaks into the encampment and we are forced to have some father/daughter type bonding with Cade and Izabella.  If the relationship feels rushed it's because Izabella will soon disappear from the narrative until the final act.  After the requisite action sequence, Cade is brought to England by Cogman (Jim Carter, famous for playing the head butler from Downton Abbey), a Headmaster Transformer.  

For those unfamiliar with Headmansters, these are human-sized Transformers that transform into the head of another robot.  But don't worry, they never explain this in the movie nor show him use his power.

Cogman takes Cade to Sir Edmund Burton (Sir Anthony Hopkins) who is the last member of the order of Witwicky (yes, that Witwicky), a centuries-old order that has dedicated itself to preserving the secret of the Transformers.  He also brings along Vivian Wembley (Laura Haddock), who plays a "hot librarian" type who is also the last descendant of Merlin and is the only person who can get Merlin's staff.

I could go on with the plot, but honestly I'm tired of recounting it and its inanity.  It reminds me of my friends and I back in high school when we would talk about cool story ideas for us to write.  But when we actually sat down to write it, we found that our skill for words didn't match our imaginations.  The same thing is going on here.

Michael Bay, I maintain, is an incredibly talented director.  Give him the right script and he will churn out a great movie like 13 Hours.  But give him a bad script and he will churn out a big, bold, bad movie.

I honestly couldn't follow what was happening.  Apparently the plot involved Cybertron coming to Earth to destroy it.  But I thought Cybertron was destroyed in Transformers: Dark of the Moon?

Very few of the characters actions make any sense.  Towards the end, Anthony Hopkins single-handedly confronts Megatron.  Why?  I have no idea!

They introduce fan favorite Hot Rod and give him a French accent.  Why?  Who knows!

Wouldn't a giant planet coming close to Earth's atmosphere cause havoc to our gravity?  Forget physics!

And the constant Bay-hem by the end of the movie was fatiguing.  Rather than being more amped, I kept waiting for it to end.

There were some moments that attempted to provide some real heart.  But the tonal silliness prevented this from happening.

I don't understand why we can't have a simple Prime vs. Megatron movie.   The human parts of the film are always the weakest.  Wahlberg does what he can with his lines, but they feel like they were written by a 5-year-old.  Haddock has little to do but be less vapid Megan Fox.  Hopkins looks like he's having fun, but he may be the only person who is.

The only thing that keeps this movie from being a complete disaster is the fact that Bay is able to wring out some cool action moments.  Any scene with Prime caused me to snap to attention.  And the movie returns to that classic Catholic theme "Without sacrifice, there can be no victory." But beyond that it was inexplicable dumb shows and noise.

As I said, this might be the worst of the series.  And that is saying something seeing how much I loathe Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.  But the only leeway I give that film is that it began shooting without a script.  The Last Knight has no such excuse.

Rather than return the loyalty that the fans have given the series with a more thoughtful film, Bay and company have turned in a lazy series of disconnected explosions.

The Last Knight might be the last Transformers movie I see.

2 out of 5 stars.

1 comment:

  1. *Finally reads this review in full*

    Huh. I agree that it's not a good movie, but I seem to have had more fun watching it than you did (though it helps that I knew what to expect going in).