Michael Bay has struck again like the Jerry Bruckheimer ident, and the famed director gives up his fifth and final (or so-called) offering on the vehicle transforming robots in disguise – Transformers: The Last Knight.
Now, I am sure you have made judgments of this review from the mere title. But please, do not make that stop you, for all you know it was just a flashy title to get you reading further.
But what’s great about Transformers: The Last Knight, or any series that goes beyond the trilogy construct, is you pretty much can start watching from anywhere and you don’t have to worry too much about context, or story, or any of that fluff. The director sure as hell didn’t.
So let’s roll out one last time.
Our story begins in the obvious cradle of civilisation – England? Yeah, England. “The Dark Ages”. And Merlin turns out to be a bit of a dipsomaniac who travels to a long wrecked alien ship asking for the help from Transformers of old to aid in King Athur’s current plight. A long sequence to let everyone know that the Transformers and Earth have a long history. He is then given a mighty relic that he uses to summon the some shit or the other. Sorry, the Guardian Transformers who form a three-headed dragon (so with the times they exist in, these Transformers). But the Robot also warns that the true owner of the staff relic would be back for it and that would spell troubling times for Earth. And the fact this gargantuan Robot would trust such a relic to a drunk is one of those few things that you can’t spend to much time contemplating about.
Fast-forward to the present and the world since the Transformers has gone slightly dystopian. Optimus has left Earth in search of home. And with no leader, the war between Decepticons and Autobots rage out of control. And it is us humans that have outlawed them both, hunting them and putting them out of commission for good.
All save a few. Like Cade. Perfect name. Mark Wahlberg’s character. Cade is the doctor mechanic of these foreign aliens lost and broken in the valley of deteriorating cities.
I’m sorry, as I am writing this it’s hard for me to keep track of all the relics being passed around like alien herpes from Transformer’s to Humans and back. But essentially Cade, is given a relic… from a dying ancient Transformer – that was again passed off quite randomly. But this relic, when refused, decided to grow legs and attach itself to Cade like a rash. He’s chosen… for something. But so is the historian British chick. Whose literal heritage, and nepotistic privilege allows her to wield the mighty Transfromers’ staff of Merlin.
But in any case, he is apparently chosen for some great deed, and it is up to him, a [insert typical Megan hot chick look-alike] historian and Anthony Hopkins to find out a long ancient secret of Earth, why the Transformers keep coming here. Which, like all other previous films involved some mass contraption that gets erected which the heroes have to dismantle before it reaches optimum efficiency.
Say what you want about the Transformers franchise. It has done pretty well for itself. Marketable toys and games. The much-loved Bumblebee, who in our opinion was more prolific that Optimus Prime himself. That’s all good. however, the real achievement for the Michael Bay films in the franchise
go beyond are not narrative and story. It is technology. Not just 3D and VFX. But IMAX cameras and pushing the limits of what can be captured on film.
In the same way, camera rigs used in The Dark Knight was prolific, Transformers put the flame under IMAX to push the limits of their technology. And this is often a good thing, because advanced technology usually precedes great advancements in the art of filmmaking. Keyword “usually”. So hopefully with the leaps and bounds IMAX has made partnering with Paramount on the Transformers‘ franchise, just maybe we can get a dope film from it. Transformers: The Last Knight is not it.
Mark Wahlberg. There’s something to be learnt about building one’s brand. When people think of Wahlberg, they are never entirely sure what to expect. A good action movie that is good fodder for an enjoyable friend-tastic popcorn orgy. Or a film that had potential but a few things were off. Or Transformers. The lowest end of the spectrum, which we suspect is as neon purple as Optimus Prime’s indecision.
He’s like Jason Stratham. You want to like him. You really do. But taking so many career L’s where the narrative sucks ass can’t be good. I don’t care if the action is passable or decent. Because if you only do roles that are ‘big’ banal blockbusters or secretly funded by BP, people’ll think more of you as a rent-an actor for whatever… not a mega-celeb or, preferably, a cult-film icon.
For the leader of the Autobots, him turning against all he held dear, only took a BDSM session with his creator, Quintessa. Him taking on and ripping Bumblebee to shreds, or his doors… whatevs… anyway he turned his back to humanity. And it was brief. He was more in a trance than an actual decision to have Cybertron suck the life-force from planet Earth aka Omnicron. What woke him up from his techno-hypnosis? Bumblebee’s real voice. Yep, he speaks. And it’s not that monumental. Sounded pretty much like you’d expect. Actually, he was pretty much more interesting when his voice sampled popular culture.
But the greatest betrayal does not come from Optimus. No. Neither is it a car defying mechanics and logic by turning into a robot and back. Nor is it a celestial object as huge as Cybertron having no effect on our environment in the least. No tidal waves, shifts in gravity, weather or nothing. It was actually sunny as hell. In England. The greatest betrayal of all was… Anthony Hopkins.
Anthony Hopkins, the guy that made your skin crawl in Silence of the Lambs. Whose cadence in Westworld just about drew you in deeper into the constructed world. Now here he was in Transformers 5. And the trailer with his booming voice, coupled with the epic, well-timed soundtrack by Ursine Vulpine… had me pulled into a final hoorah that may give us a real smashing outro to an otherwise banal franchise.
You were the clincher, Anthony. I thought, “he’d not get involved unless he saw something really narratively-dynamic in the script”. Alas, when the famed actor stated he didn’t know what was happening in the narrative half the time, I knew Michael Bay was giving the film his much-loathed spit-shine direction which essentially would leave the VFX artists to sift through the haphazard pieces of film to piece together a feature.
Don’t misconstrue this as me saying Hopkins acted poorly in the actor / theatrical sense. His character, the last of his family of royal lineage – Sir Edmund Burton has cadence and is believable and charming at times. It’s just that no aota of good acting from a supporting role could undo Bay’s total disregard for narrative, structure and those niggly things that seem to get in the way of things exploding and pointless slow-motion sequences of Cade standing on a rubble heap looking at… well, nothing. To be fair there was a fire in the distant background in that particular scene. We definitely needed to see that in slow-motion.
Michael Bay takes drugs. Has to be. Transformers: The Last Knight is too fractured to be a film whether you consider the film by itself or part of the franchise altogether. There was a particular edit of Hopkins moving from the street to the inside of a red car… but it felt more like the first hit of an opiod – that narrative progression. A few steps away from Resident Evil: The Final Chapter. But I guess that’ the silver lining. Both film franchises are done.
Narrative – all over the place. So many relics. A staff that ultimately just shuts down alien tech. A spider-coin that brings forth a sword. All very amusing. I think someone saw a medieval movie, maybe Prometheus and said: “let’s do that”. And who could forget that obvious rip of Suicide Squad where Megatron negotiated the release of names we do not care to know or remember. Starscream was merely a head in this. The one guy who should’ve been a thorn in the side of Megatron and the Autobots to the end. Sad state of affairs, Paramount.
And what the hell was up with that post-credity scene of Quintessa in human-form talking about Omnicron. Is this film the last Transformers, or the last Bay-directed Transformersfilm? Do we need spin-offs?
I’m honestly just glad it’s over. And don’t act like we didn’t notice there was less ‘transforming’ in this film than any other film. They’re Transformers. Transform! Or how about the classic “Roll Out A, E, I, O, U”? No where! Closest we got was the Paramount ident with the stars skimming the water. Transformers was just metallic alien drudgery surrounded by even more insignificant humans.
Can’t even tell you what this film truly was about. What did we really find out? Wouldn’t a real twist be that the Autobots were on a mission to ready the earth for invasion by Cybertron. Like a sleeper agent. Decepticons being like some breakaway faction who wanted to build their own territory independent from Cybertron or something. Anything!
But, I guess you can’t expect much from a filmmaker whose claim to fame is repeatedly using the same devices as a suicide bomber.