With each and every passing Transformers movie, the filmmakers manage to somehow zap all of the enthusiasm and hope fans have mustered up in anticipation. I love Transformers, especially the classic animated film, and really enjoyed the first live-action movie. The second is a mess, the third promised a change in direction which was promptly shot down when the fourth film Age of Extinction came out. With Michael Bay at the helm for what he says is his last Transformers adventure, we now have the fifth chapter in this seemingly endless saga of incoherent writing and epilepsy-inducing spectacle.
Now, in the right circumstances, I do believe Michael Bay is a great director. Bad Boys and The Rock will always be classics in my opinion so an action-fuelled Transformers movie should be right up his street. Apart from brief moments in the first movie, this entire franchise hasn’t nearly come close to emulating the emotional or visceral highs of its source material. Transformers: The Last Knight sadly continues this trend, delivering another missed opportunity to present something of worth to a fledgling franchise that’s going the same way as the Transformers decaying home-planet Cybertron.
Optimus Prime has gone – floating amongst the stars looking for his ‘maker’. Humankind in the meantime has reclaimed Earth and the military are now on the front-foot in the hunt for Transformers who once again are forced into hiding – except in Cuba. In Cuba they can hang out and play football in the streets.
Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) has sent his daughter off to college and limits his interactions with her to keep her safe. He spends his days covertly saving Transformers from destruction, something which unwittingly pairs him up with an orphaned teen named Izabella (Isabela Moner). Coupled with Bumblebee and a few stray Transformers in tow, Cade begins a journey that places him at the heart of the battle as he holds the key to Cybertron’s resurrection at the expense of our planet.
Transformers: The Last Knight decides to shoe-horn robots into every major historical event. The film opens with King Arthur and his knights fighting a seemingly unwinnable conflict until Merlin (a deliciously drunk Stanley Tucci) manages to convince a crash-landed Transformer to lend him his magical staff (not a euphemism) that conjures up a giant 3 headed mechanical dragon who indiscriminately kills everything in his path (this is seen as a win for the good guys). Jump forward a thousand years or so and it turns out that this staff could bring about the rejuvenation of Cybertron, a fact that hasn’t gone unnoticed by Quintessa (voiced by Gemma Chan). She’s a malevolent villain who reprograms Optimus into Nemesis Prime and sends him back to earth to begin Cybertron’s resurrection.
Still with me? Right, Cade gets summoned to merry old England by the eccentric Sir Edmund Burton (Anthony Hopkins), an English gent with a robot butler C-3PO rip-off named Cogman, who knows that Cade is in possession of an amulet that can be used to save the world. He also meets the beautiful Vivian Wembley (Laura Haddock), an art professor who also holds a vital part of the puzzle – she just doesn’t know it yet. Transformers (including Megatron) come after them all in a race to save the world from being eaten up by Cybertron.
The film brings back a few old faces to keep things interesting but their inclusion just highlights more problems with the narrative. Josh Duhamel is utterly wasted and should have been in the film much more, while John Turturro spends the entire film in a phone box. Anthony Hopkins, to his credit, really does have fun in the role and delivers some genuinely funny moments. Laura Haddock looks amazing but doesn’t have much else to do. Her sparring sessions with Mark Wahlberg are good though and the two share some chemistry. Wahlberg is always watchable but his character is poorly written – no fault of the actor. An interesting subplot involving Isabela Moner’s character never really leaves the ground and in the end it just feels tacked-on.
Transformers: The Last Knight is a perfect example of just how out of touch big Hollywood studios are with modern audiences. Long gone are the days when a flashy fight sequence was enough to win you the summer box-office. Bay knows how to shoot action, but even he feels like he’s ripping himself off in scenes that seem to be directly lifted from his back catalogue. The story is a mess and for the life of me, I genuinely can’t understand why they just don’t remake the original Transformers: The Movie into a live-action film instead of persevering with this franchise. And make them look like their animated counter-parts! Then there’s Peter Cullen’s Optimus Prime. The character gets more and more diluted as this series chugs on and he sounds like a geriatric annoyance now. He proclaims ‘I am Optimus Prime’ many times during the eye-watering 2 and a half hour runtime but it’s all been seen and done before. A sad way for a once legendary character to end up.
For all of its problems, Transformers: The Last Knight has learnt some important lessons from the past and there are some positives to be found here. The human-element humour is actually funny in places but this is undone by most of the robot ‘humour’ that still scrapes the barrel. The only exception to this is Cogman when he sings rousing background music as Anthony Hopkins tries to explain what’s going on to Mark Wahlberg. It’s genuinely brilliant. The action has slowed down a tad but it’s still very hard to make out what’s actually happening mid-fight. The Dinobots continue to be wasted but Megatron (voiced by Frank Welker) still commands fear onscreen.
Bonus features include Merging Mythologies, The Royal Treatment: Transformers in the UK and Motors and Magic featurettes.
Transformers: The Last Knight is exactly what you’d expect from a fifth chapter. It’s big, bloated and over-long but there are entertaining moments to be had. No one hands in a dud-performance, the action is certainly bold, if not very original, and it fails to see the distinction between homage and rip-off to the point of comedy. Star Wars fans will laugh at some of the things they’ll see onscreen. Transformers continue to let-down and disappoint on a multi-million dollar level. It’s been 10 years since the first movie – hopefully a reboot will come along soon rather than a sixth chapter of this iteration.
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Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Peter Cullen, Anthony Hopkins, Laura Haddock, Josh Duhamel, Santiago Cabrera, Isabela Moner, Jerrod Carmichael, Stanley Tucci Director: Michael Bay Writer: Akiva Goldsman, Art Marcum, Matt Holloway, Ken Nolan Released By: Paramount Certificate: 12 Duration: 149 mins Release Date: 30th October 2017