At this point it looks like nothing can stop the juggernaut that is Michael Bay’s Transformers franchise. Writers strikes; racist caricatures; whatever John Malcovich was doing in Dark of the Moon; Mark Wahlberg, none of these have prevented the series rampaging across global box offices. There’s no real point weighing up Transformers: The Last Knight against other Summer movies (how would you even begin to compare it to Wonder Woman or even the The Mummy?).
The Last Knight obviously isn’t a good movie, but is it a good Transformers movie ?
For the record I enjoyed the first Transformers movie and have seen each and every one. By now I’ve been beaten into submission by so many hours of visual over-stimulation and stupidity that a bad one isn’t going to make me as angry as, say, Batman V Superman, where I was overcome with anger, questions and angry questions 5 minutes after exiting the cinema.
By the admittedly low standards of the previous films, The Last Knight isn’t all that bad.
Robots in the Dark Ages
Opening with what seems to be Michael Bay’s audition reel for directing a medieval action movie, Tran5former5 updates the movies lore by adding Transformers to England in the dark ages, paired with a very odd Stanley Tucci as Merlin (yes, he’s completely unrelated to his character from the previous film). These ancient Guardian Knights fought alongside King Arthur and gifted Merlin with a staff to help him defeat their enemies, warning that evil may come for the staff in the future.
Back in the of present all Transformers (Autobots and Decepticons) are treated as enemies of mankind, but more and more of them keep arriving all the time. A new Task force, the TRF, has been set up to hunt them down. Our heroes from the previous movies, or at least some of them, hide out with (ugh) Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg), all bad haircut and leather jacket, while Optimus Prime drifts through space in search of his makers from after the events of Age of Extinction. Why Prime didn’t use a spaceship is beyond me.
After a Transformer talisman binds to Cade and a mysterious planet threatens Earth, it’s up to Marky Mark and a Funky Bunch assembled by the mysterious Sir Edmund Burton (Anthony Hopkins) to put together the pieces of an ancient puzzle and save the Earth. Complicating things are the fact that pretty much everyone is a screaming moron and some old allies have now turned against our heroes(it’s Prime, ok? Prime turns Evil).
I could write for days about all that’s wrong with The Last Knight (I’ll summarise below) and maybe it’s just the two and a half 5 hours of blunt force trauma speaking, but there are some things to enjoy about the movie, at least compared to what has come before.
Anthony Hopkins is a joy and must have had “No one tells Tony when to stop” written in his contract, as he rambles incoherently about robot dementia, spars verbally with his transformer butler Cogman, shouts down the PM of England and even gets to take a few shots at Decepticons. The disappointment at seeing him in a Transformers movie quickly dissipates as you by cling for dear life to every moment he’s on screen.
Some of the jokes, at least those that aren’t aimed directly at the sewers, actually land. There’s even a few moments where it appears Bay has developed a sense of humour, mocking some of his most overused tics like soaring music during moments of high drama. He even undercuts his dopey lead character by repeatedly drawing attention to just how dumb he is (the only thing I like to see Marky Mark do on screen is squirm).
The rest of the movie is, however, the usual beautifully lit garbage. If not for the fact that Optimus Prime and Bumblebee are chemically bonded to the childhood of multiple generations, audiences wouldn’t care one iota for these characters on screen. Even that nostalgia is wearing thin considering all the cold blooded, oddly brutal ways they come up with to MURDER Decepticons. All those Decepticons are utterly unmemorable in character and design and for some awful reason there are baby dinobots?
The rest of the cast, human and Cybertronian are utterly forgettable, their characters fitting on the back of a postage stamp. When spending all this money on these films I don’t see why the filmmakers can;t make the Transformers actual characters rather racist or period specific stereotypes? Skids and Mudflap may be a distant memory but casting Ken Watnaabe as the voice of your inexplicably samurai themed alien robot does not excuse you from accusations of racism and by the Prime matrix, why is Hot Rod French!?
Mark Wahlberg is as unlikable as he was in the previous movie, out-charmed by Bumblebee a CGI yellow robot with no voice. Laura Haddock does her best as the latest Megan Fox stand in and while she has more involvement in the plot than previous female leads, it’s still a thin role. While production photos appeared to highlight young Isabela Moner and her “cute” Transformer Squeeks, they have such a small impact on the story that their scenes could have been cut from the film entirely. This happens to other characters too. Even Bumblebee simply disappears when he’s not needed to give a ride or shoot a Decepticon in the face. How he gets to England is a mystery as there’s definitely not enough room in the plane that takes Cade. Puzzlingly John Tuturro also pops up now and then as Agent Simmons from the earlier movies apparently shooting all his scenes in a phone booth in a single afternoon.
Cut it out?
Judging by the number of abrupt cuts in the Malaysian version I can only assume the oddly salty language also makes a return. Having recently re-watched some of the previous movies on Netflix I was shocked at some of the insults thrown around in this adaptation of a kids cartoon! That said I would have preferred it if the ancient Transformer butler threatening to “F you up”, had been cut.
For anyone who still cares about Transformer lore the film does pay lip service to some elements from the old cartoon series, reinventing the Quintessons and a certain classic villain whose name begins with a “U” and ends in a “nicron”.
Transformers: The Last Knight is overlong, overwrought and overdone. Somebody please reboot this franchise now!
Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Mark Wahlberg, Laura Haddock, Isabela Moner, Stanley Tucci, John Turturro, Josh Duhamel, Tony Hale, Glenn Morshower
Directed by: Michael Bay
Official Site here.