Movie Review- Transformers : The Last Knight
In 2007, the science fiction/action movie genre of movie world was gifted with a franchise that was simultaneously refreshing in terms of concept and special effects and predictably bland, boring and cheesy in terms of script/storyline and acting.
Much the same way Tim Burton’s movies leave you with a feeling that his mind is a gothic cathedral of Salvatore Dali-ish absurdities; The Transformers franchise leaves you with a feeling that Michael Bay’s mind is a Cybertronic Ashram of shiny metallic behemoths and frenetic dialogue exchanges in between slow-mo explosions.
It has been a decade since the first Transformer movie was released, and in that period; Michael Bay has both bedazzled and assaulted our cinematic palates with an assortment of installments in the franchise that have progressively turned out to be huge box office successes (dare I say with the exception of the latest installment?), impressive special effects wizardry, shameless product placement indulgence, slow-mo explosion orgy fests and frenetic exchanges of contrived cheesy dialogue lines by man and robot alike.
In the Fifth iteration of the franchise, Bay continues a noticeable trend in blockbuster movies this year; the attempt to tie in unrelated events/people from different eras to events/people in their storyline chronicles as a linear continuum.
In Wonder Woman, the original comic book events set in World War II were set in World War 1. In The Mummy, there was tie-in between Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde and an Egyptian Mummy Story.
In the Last Knight, there was a tie-in between the story of Merlin/King Arthur and the knights of the round table and the Transformers on the one hand and the events of World War II/the assassination of Hitler and the Transformers on the other hand.
The first half of the Last Knight starts out well (albeit with the usual implausible liberties and cheesy campiness that has become a trademark of the franchise) setting out backstories and the movie storyline. Then it gradually transformed (pun intended) into a confusing amalgam of slow-mo explosions, Transformers disassembly and assembly, nostalgic introductions of old characters from previous installments and what’s-the point- introduction of new characters who seemed to inexplicably drop out of the scene one moment and inexplicably reappear somewhere else in another moment.
One of the enduring shtick in the Transformers franchise is the confusing and barely-thought-out nature of its storylines. In the Last Knight, the confusion ante is upped to ridiculous heights.
From the opening tie-in of the Transformers with the King Arthur/Merlin story, through Optimus Prime finally meeting his creator, Quintessa, and down to the revelation that the Witwiccan Order (and its famous members) were saddled with the responsibility of keeping secret the history of Transformers on Earth, it all felt as confusing as a mind-bending inter-galactic journey through wormholes in space at the speed of light.
The Last Knight was chuck full with the usual Transformers tropes. But there were some that were so contrived for cheap laughs they left a sour taste in the mouth.
First off is the idea of a bi-polar C-3PO-ish butler robot which we find in Cogman. Then there was the coterie of dowager-type tea-drinking elderly women trying to shame/guilt the movie’s female lead for being unmarried.
And speaking of female lead, the unfunny gag above was only an unimaginative attempt to eventually romantically pair the posh but unrealistic Oxford professor female lead with the rough neck inventor-of-nothing-worth-knowing hero-type male lead.
There were also bits in the movie that came off as merely scene-fillers. The most obvious was early on in the movie where Megatron negotiates the release of some Decepticons.
Not only did this scene resemble the old school WWF-ish vignette-style introduction of the squad in the Suicide Squad, the bad acting especially from the human actors made its scene-filler-rish pointlessness even more obvious.
Performance-wise, there was nothing outstanding to save the expensive hot mess that is The Last Knight. Mark Wahlberg delivered his Cade Yeager with all the enthusiasm of a mechanic carrying out oil change duties on a lineup of rusty and old beat-up trucks. As Sir Edmund Burton, Sir Anthony Hopkins came across more like an aged thespian fortunate enough to have been cut a hefty pay cheque to bring some acting chops to distract from the emptiness of a big-budget action movie but ends up upping the silliness ante with overcompensating fluff.
Transformers: The Last Knight is a confused and disappointing installment in a franchise that had in previous installments succeeded in transforming a combination of refreshingly impressive special effects and cheesy script/acting into a mega-successful and visually engaging (albeit critically underwhelming) cinematic experience.