PARAMOUNT PICTURES (2017)
Director: Michael Bay
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Anthony Hopkins, Josh Duhamel, Laura Haddock, Isabela Moner
My head hurts from all the banging, shouting, clanking, explosions, horrific dialogue…
The fifth installment in the current cinematic Transformers universe, The Last Knight is set three years after the events of the previous movie, not including the flashbacks to 484 AD Saxon times. Yep. Back to King Arthur’s times. Turns out that Arthur’s victory over the Saxons was due to Merlin coaxing an ancient Transformer group into becoming a dragon and killing the Saxon forces – all thanks to an alien staff that will become critical in the future.
Present day and the Transformers are ostracised by…well, Earth basically. In a scrapheap in Chicago, Izabella and her Transformer pal escape attack by the TRF (Transformer Reactor Force, sigh) and end up in the company of outlaw Cade Yeager (Wahlberg) and Bumblebee. Cade has in his possession a sacred talisman, which snares the attention of Megatron who is dead-set on retrieving it to locate the magic alien staff and return it to Cybertron – where the creator Quintessa resides and also where Optimus Prime crash lands. Quintesse brainwashes Prime, renaming him Nemesis Prime, into retrieving the staff himself as she bids to destroy Earth, aka Unicron.
Getting all this?
The last living member of the Witwiccans, a brotherhood dedicated to guarding the Transformers enduring history on Earth, Sir Edmund Burton (Hopkins) meets with Cade and Oxford professor Vivian Wembley (Haddock), who just happens to be attractive, and goes to painful lengths to inform them of the history of said staff and the necessity of finding it. As Vivian is the last living descendant of Merlin, only she can wield it.
Lots of big, loud action sequences occur, characters bump into each other in ridiculous circumstances, Cade and Vivian kiss after initial resistance. Lots of bangs. Pieces of an alien ship appear across Earth. Some explosions. More bangs. Quick cutting sequences. Fin.
I loved Transformers as a child, Optimus Prime was my hero. What a tough guy he was back in the 80’s. Now, Prime is a sniveling punch bag reduced to receiving a good beating, before eventually being rescued, delivering big speeches and having the final battle. Adaptations are all subjective and should have personal touches throughout, however, the personal touches are Michael Bay’s. The Last Knight is the next installment in the dumbed-down, misogynistic, actiongasm-fest that Bay has fantasized over and created to the tune of billions of dollars. Problem is, all the movies are crap (bar the 2007 series opener which was OK).
The Last Knight follows the trend set by the previous installments – the glut of action scenes are quick, edited to death and nearly impossible to follow. They become a sea of shiny metal and noise, which really isn’t entertaining to watch. With the bloated runtime of two hours twenty-nine minutes, I can only assume the action is edited that way to allow for even more to be crammed in later in place of…good storytelling. I get that Transformers will never be a movie people see for a deep story, but a decent story would be appreciated. Decent writing too. The writing is terrible, the jokes are terrible and the exposition (thanks, Hopkins) is terrible and tortuous. There’s a scene of gossiping middle-aged ladies creaming themselves over what they perceive to be hard sex happening upstairs. Just…why?! As Vivian enters the meeting hall with Burton, Cade and others, it serves only to allow EVERYONE in the scene to leer at her and mentally ejaculate. It’s creepy. Not just that, but Vivian later becomes a dribbling mess as the action drags on - a beautiful lady becomes a wet panted damsel around Cade’s rugged, MANLINESS. I’m pretty sure Bay was vaguely sexualising the sixteen-year-old Isabella Moner, too. Anthony Hopkins says dude and bitchin’, which is just…depressing. No more examples, it wouldn’t be fair.
Ok, a few more…
There’s plenty of cringey “the world is at stake” / “we gotta save the world” dialogue through the movie that even Will Smith would turn down. Colonel Lennox’s (Duhamel) line, “oh my god, look at that, it’s a big alien ship” might rank as the worst line of 2017. Kids will love that line, Bay.
There’s nothing to say about the performances, they are the now-standard macho men and trophy women strutting about shouting, pouting and shooting. God bless Anthony Hopkins, I could see the £ signs in his pupils.
On more positive notes, the CGI employed is as impressive as you’d expect. The Autobots and Decepticons look great and vary nicely in their appearances when they’re standing still for long enough. There are baby Dinobots in the movie which is just cool in itself, and I think I would like one. That’s about it really. The title cards to introduce Megatron’s squad are embarrassingly bad.
For what I said previously, Optimus Prime is allowed his bad-ass moments in the final battle, and the child in me cheered the whole time.
The big finale is literally a Bay-gasm. Metal and bodies crash all around, fire, explosions, women, destruction, quick cuts, a shit villain – it’s all there! Sadly, a post-credits scene sets up the next installment, though one which will apparently not feature Bay or Wahlberg.
Die-hard Transformers fans will lap all of this up and that’s great. These movies are for them, the hardcore that obsesses for Transformers in the same way that Star Wars, Marvel, DC (et al) have rabid followings. There’s nothing wrong with that at all. This just didn’t hit with me at all. The ridiculous story involving Merlin, Nazi’s, staff and C3PO butlers was a mess, the exposition dump in the movie’s middle destroyed any element of pacing and the action scenes are so overblown that they’re hard to watch.
This isn’t the Transformers of old, and never has been, which is a huge shame, as it was infinitely better in the good old days.
At least the mystery and history of Stonehenge has been revealed...
September 22nd 2017