Tuesday, June 27, 2017

About As Bad As The Rest Of The Franchise: Transformers: The Last Knight

The Good: Great cast, Most of the special effects
The Bad: Banal plot, Lack of real character development, Terrible lines delivered unconvincingly by great actors.
The Basics: Transformers: The Last Knight is not great, but it is more par for the course than being truly terrible.

Transformers: The Last Knight is out and the press for it has been pretty bad in general. I'm feeling like bucking that trend to argue that the cinematic Transformers has been pretty lousy in general and Transformers: The Last Knight is pretty much what one expects as opposed to being an all-out terrible film. Transformers: The Last Knight is bad, but lately I've seen far worse films.

Michael Bay has not been recreating Casablanca for the past ten years with the Transformers franchise. He makes films for Summer Blockbuster Season filled with explosions, computer-generated special effects, and direction that lasciviously passes the camera slowly over whatever female lead the film possesses. To be fair to Transformers: The Last Knight, there is far less of the camera exploiting women than in the four prior installments of the franchise. Unfortunately, there are more retcons that place Transformers and alien technology on Earth in the past and make the movie fit very poorly into any continuity with the others, despite the fact that more of the cast from the first three movies recurs in Transformers: The Last Knight.

Opening in Briton during Camelot, Merlin and Arthur enlist Transformers to thwart their enemies. Flashing forward to the present, some Transformers have taken refuge in other countries, while in America the teenager Izabella uncovers a downed Transformer in the ruins of a baseball stadium. Izabella is a homeless girl who is rescued by Cade Yeager. The pair are hunted back to Cade's junkyard by the American military. Colonel Lennox has become aware that the Decepticons under the newly resurfaced Megatron are hunting something that they believe Cade has.

Off Earth, Optimus Prime crashes into Cybertron, which is headed toward Earth with the planet's creator, Quintessa. Quintessa reprograms Optimus Prime to wipe out humanity and remake Earth into a new homeworld for the Transformers. The chase of Cade Yeager takes him to England where Sir Edmund Burton has been part of the line of humans working with Transformers to protect the Earth. Burton brings in Vivian Wembley, the last surviving descendant of Merlin, who has access to technology and information that sends her and Cade under the sea to recover an artifact that will allow them to thwart the Decepticons, Quintessa, and the ensorceled Optimus Prime.

Transformers: The Last Knight is exactly what one expects of a Transformers movie. The human characters are mundane, poorly characterized and deliver far more expository dialogue than anything that is clever and defines the characters in unique and interesting ways. Transformers: The Last Knight picks up after Transformers: The Age Of Extinction (reviewed here!), so it begins with the Transformers abandoned by Optimus Prime who flew off Earth at the end of that film.

Blending the main characters from the early Transformers films - Lennox, General Morshower, and Agent Simmons - with Cade Yeager and newer Transformers like Hound, Transformers: The Last Knight just continues the banal franchise with more explosions, more robot on robot fights and an absurd predicament that absolutely defies rational physics. Transformers: The Last Knight asks viewers to accept as credible that there is a scientist who denies the existence of magic and fantasy in a world with Transformers who fails to point out that a planet-sized object rushing toward Earth would completely destroy the Earth long before that object starts ripping apart the surface and extracting massive chunks of technology. Only the least-sophisticated viewer could believe that the Earth could survive in any recognizable way after the events of Transformers: The Last Knight.

Arguably the most disappointing aspect of Transformers: The Last Knight is that Jeff Bridges does not appear in the movie in any form. Astute fans will note that in Transformers: The Age Of Extinction one of the sound clips used as Bumblebee's dialogue was from The Big Lebowski. Transformers: The Last Knight is like a mini-reunion for The Big Lebowski (reviewed here!) with the return of John Turturro and John Goodman (albeit as a voice-only actor in the film) and the introduction of Steve Buscemi as the Autobot Daytrader. And that was the most exciting aspect of Transformers: The Last Knight.

Sir Anthony Hopkins is wasted as Sir Edmund Burton and it seems like the only reason he is in the film to get the venerable actor to call someone a dick and make other remarks that are well-below his usual level of diction. Stanley Tucci's cameo in the film is virtually unrecognizable and newcomers Laura Haddock and Isabela Moner add nothing significant to the mix. Marc Wahlberg is fine as Cade, but it seems like outside his physical performance, the main reason to have him in Transformers: The Last Knight is to pull off a scene where characters act amazed that Cade has been celibate for years.

The Transformers themselves are hapless robots in Transformers: The Last Knight with no clear sense of boundaries or sensibility. Optimus Prime is reprogrammed by his creator . . . but Bumblebee being willing to sacrifice himself and deliver lines in his own voice is enough to change his programming?! And Prime leaps back up to Cybertron with other Transformers not worrying that he'll simply be reprogrammed again and come back murderous again?!

So, Transformers: The Last Knight is just a pretty bad action adventure film that does the usual Summer Blockbuster Season thing that has been done by the franchise four other times and by far better movies many, many more times.

For other films currently in theaters, please check out my reviews of:
Rough Night
The Mummy
Wonder Woman
Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales
Alien: Covenant
Guardians Of The Galaxy, Volume 2


For other movie reviews, please check out my Film Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2017 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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