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‘Transformers: The Last Knight’ (review)

Produced by Don Murphy, Tom DeSanto,
Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Ian Bryce
Screenplay by Art Marcum,
Matt Holloway, Ken Nolan
Story by Akiva Goldsman, Art Marcum,
Matt Holloway, Ken Nolan
Based on Transformers by Hasbro
Directed by Michael Bay
Starring Mark Wahlberg, Josh Duhamel,
Stanley Tucci, Anthony Hopkins,
Isabela Moner, Laura Haddock,
John Turturro, Santiago Cabrera, Liam Garrigan,
Jerrod Carmichael, Mitch Pileggi

 

Transformers: The Last Knight’s story centers around the question of how can Optimus Prime, missing for some time now, bring his dead planet of Cybertron, back to life and make it a place the Transformers can once again live on?

When he finally rediscovers his home world he also discovers that HE is the reason for its destruction.

The secret to its revival lies in an ancient artifact that has been lost since the times of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table. With the help of some new allies he now must enlist the assistance of old allies, along with some old adversaries as well, to complete his mission. But at what cost!?!?

That sounds like an amazing movie. And some of it was but I really shouldn’t be saying only “some of it was” when a film like this should basically write itself and be awesome.

At it’s best is a beautiful action-packed car commercial. At it’s worst is what I imagine it is like to be on LSD, ecstasy and cocaine while participating in a demolition derby.

I love the Transformers films at their core. I played with the toys as a kid. I watched the cartoon every day after school. However this entire franchise has been a study in how to take a very simple concept and make it into an impossibly convoluted explosion filled child’s nightmare filled with supermodels, academy award winning and nominated actors and actresses, and crazy former child actors and former white rappers, with a smattering of cool, if not, overly complicated giant transforming robots punching each other. And The Last Knight suffers as its four predecessors have.

The original cartoon, on which the series is based, is good robots and bad robots that turn into vehicles and other objects, fighting for control over a planet’s wealth of energy to save their race. The good robots are assisted by a boy and his dad. The bad ones DGAF.

Simple. Yet somehow the screenwriters, and there are eight total for the franchise so far, feel the need to make these overly complicated plots and weird pseudo-complex stories that end up being entirely more confusing than they need to be while making the Transformers almost an afterthought in their own film.

Even the giant plot twist reveal comes across a “OH yeah, and that thing is kind of a thing but whatever, we’ll get to that in the next movie…”. Like it was an afterthought when it should have been a “HOLY F*CK, WHAAAAT!?!?!” moment. They, and in turn I didn’t care.

Look. I didn’t come into this Transformers film, or any of the other films in the franchise, for that matter, even remotely comparing them to even the most mediocre of cinema. I AM, however coming into them thinking of other similar films in this action genre. And I find them lacking.

Michael Bay gets so caught up in wanting to show us to show that a Transformers film can be “more than meets the eye” that he loses sight of what would make a Transformers film awesome in the first place. So much time is wasted in trying to create these strange subplots and weird character moments for the humans that at best, stall the film a bit and at worst completely derail the film completely.

Awkward humor, forced character empathy and terrible, kind of offensive stereotyping is often very off putting. It comes off as a strange time capsule of late 90’s early aughts sensibilities and aesthetics that just don’t work now. Many times throughout the film I was struck at how dated this film seems and how a lot of the humor didn’t land with me.

I just wanted to get back to the actual interesting plot of Cybertron coming to Earth to suck it dry as to rebuild itself.

I get it. Bay wants to show the conflict of two species vying for existence on a planet that may or may not be able to sustain their simultaneous existence. He also wants to show how the Transformers Civil War is ruining the Earth and our lives. Not to mention he wants to show us how different people forge out an existence in this war torn land from kids who have lost everything, to heroes who have to live with the life they choose, to the military and their fight against the machines as well. I get that, but making your punching, shooting robot films a two and half hours plus mess is not the solution.

I am a self proclaimed Michael Bay whore. I have loved his movies and commercials since his music video days. I know he is not Orson Welles. What he is a fun action film director, who, as I have discussed with many friends, is a much better cinematographer or second unit director than he is a director. His ability to coordinate and shoot an action sequence is the pinnacle of his craft.

Transformers: The Last Knight is a confusing, chaotic mess of a movie. Way too long and so strangely edited as to abandon entire story arcs only to return to them haphazardly, almost as an afterthought so much later on that you almost forgot that they were even there originally. It is as good as any of the other films in the soon to be eight movie franchise.

Though that isn’t saying much.

It definitely plays like a 2+ hour prelude to the next film, Transformers: What Fans Actually Wanted ‘The Last Knight’ To Be About.

 

 

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