Transformers: The Last Knight

This is the last one for Michael Bay and thank goodness for that! They have been dragging this franchise out for far too long and it really shows in this film! Michael and his writing team have forgotten that these films are based on a story for children and have lost all understanding of how to properly tell these stories. 

Sure the first few films were campy and upbeat even though they dealt with the same heavy subject matter, like the end of the world-but they worked! They were entertaining, action-packed and humorous before they were serious and heavy. This film, including the last film, The Age of Extinction, were darker and had a very doomsday-vibe. But Mike and the writing team still wanted that lighthearted comedy from the first three films and had no idea how to mix all of it together.

What we end up with in The Last Knight is a hot mess of slap-stick comedy and deep monologging that never seem to blend properly. The film felt extremely rushed and confused. And with a running time of nearly 2 and a half hours, that isn’t very good for movie goers.

I was annoyed with the film within the first five minutes. It begins explaining how the Transformers came to Earth and shows their first contact with a human. Merlin, from King Arthurs Court is played by Stanley Tucci (he was Joshua Joyce in the previous film and they liked him so much they asked him to play a completely different role in this one) and is apparently an aloof alcoholic who asks the Transformers to help Arthur and his men win a battle that could alter history if they fail. My eyes couldn’t have rolled any harder while watching his awful performance. And I don’t blame him, that dude is an Oscar winner, he gave the performance he was asked to give. And it was crap. Moving on.

Fast forward 1600 years later and we learn that Transformers are now considered Public Enemy #1. Mark Walhberg has become the Jane Goodall of the Autobots: rescuing, repairing and living with damaged bots on the run from the “law”. Because of this, Mark has found himself on the most wanted list as well and has been hiding out, unable to see or speak to his daughter who is away at college (which explains why she isn’t in this film). He meets a young girl who has been living on her own in a demilitarized zone that was once her home. Her family was killed in one of the last Transformer battles and she’s been scrapping and scavenging parts while ducking the law. Like Mark, she’s been repairing bots she finds and forms her own makeshift family of outlaws. She’s tough and foul-mouthed and determined to prove herself.

The creators of this film thought she was so important, they even gave her her own trailer. We first meet her sitting on a pile of rubble talking about what it means to “fight like a girl” while images of bots fighting and stuff exploding play over her dialog. So, audiences would assume she plays a pretty big role in the film right? Wrong people. So very wrong. I sat down expecting to see her side by side with Mark, fighting the good fight and giving attitude while deeply embroiled in a battle for Earth. Instead we’re given maybe 30 minutes of sass and minimal involvement in the film at all from her character. She was completely unnecessary and didn’t contribute to the film in anyway.

At one point, she gets one of the bots she took care of to take out a large gun that had the team pinned down. Awesome, but literally any other character could’ve given that bot the same orders. Hell, one of the bots could’ve seen what the team was up against and gone in and handled it themselves without being asked to by anyone. So believe me when I say, there was no real need her character. Some folks are in there for comic relief, someone the main character can play off of, banter with and provide a break from the serious undertones of the plot and remind audiences what they’re fighting for. But there were so many characters in this film, including the goofy bots themselves, that you can’t help but wonder why they added her storyline in at all.

The film also features a number of repeat characters that are supposed to provide audiences with a connection to the past films. Again, every single one of them was completely unnecessary and when all was said and done, contributed nothing to the story. Each were quirky and added more slap-stick comedy in between the heavy scenes but that just added to the overall confused feel of the film. The writing team gave us a story that combined the serious monologs of Saving Private Ryan with the over the top antics of the Three Stooges and nothing ever blended properly. You simply cannot have a close up shot of Mark Walhberg talking about the end of the world and how important their mission is in one scene and then immediately cut to the Autobots tripping one another and reciting exceptionally terrible one-liners. It just doesn’t work. Is this a comedy for kids and adults alike? Or is this an action film, heavy with drama and heart?

And don’t even get me started on Anthony Hopkins’ performance. I can’t believe they got him at all let alone convinced him to go with such a crap script and ridiculous performance. It’s a disgrace.

They just couldn’t get it together. Tropic Thunder worked better than this film because they were consistent in both message and delivery. If you’re going to be goofy, be goofy. If you’re going to be serious, be serious. They just couldn’t get it right. Again, the Shia films were light-hearted family fun first; shoot-em-up, end of the world heavy second.

Think about films like Independence Day and Armageddon. They had the action/comedy balance figured out and delivered a film all audiences love watching over and over again (they couldn’t get it quite right for ID II though which is a real shame). Even Suicide Squad got it right and that film wasn’t what audiences had been promised.

Consistency is the name of the game here. The film didn’t need to be 2 and a half hours long and half of the characters shouldn’t have been in it at all. Much like the most recent installment of the Fantastic Four, this film spent way too much time dragging out certain scenes for dramatic effect and not enough time on character and plot development. I understand that folks continue to see these films for the action and incredible special effects and they’re right for doing so. The thing looked spectacular. But you can’t ask people to give up 2 and a half hours of their time without delivering a film that is well rounded and entertaining in all areas.

I left thinking about the Fast & Furious. People give that franchise a lot of crap, yet they continue to deliver. They’re almost like the Nickleback of movies: No one gives them a lot of credibility, yet they keep selling tickets.

None of the storylines are realistic and we all know none of the action sequences could ever happen in real life. But still, we buy the tickets because we know we’ll be given something we’ve never seen before and will leave feeling entertained. The plot is always the same: someone in the “family” is in trouble and they need to drive fast and blow up a lot of stuff to rescue them. It’s got the corney one-liners and the heavy monologs, but it all works. It’s all delivered with a consistency that makes sense.  

And we’re not getting that anymore with these Transformer films. They need a break and a nice long one at that. Hollywood needs to go back to the drawing board and come back with a different creative team, all new actors and a director who puts storylines before explosions. That’s all Michael Bay wants to do, the guy loves blowing stuff up. And that’s okay, but it’s not working anymore for these movies. The first Michael Bay film I’ve seen that I actually enjoyed in years, was13 Hours. Sure the explosions and action scenes were over the top and probably not in line with what really happened, but the story was put first and that’s what should have happened here.

Joe Quesada from Marvel comics came and spoke at my college one year and I like repeating his message because it’s so important when talking about film, tv and novels. He said the number one thing; before visual effects, before the cool costumes and crazy action sequences, is story telling. When you lose that, you lose your audience. People like having something they can relate to, something they can root for. Sure we want to be entertained, but if we can’t envision it actually happening, if we can’t follow along with the story, we’re going to look elsewhere for our entertainment.

And that’s what I think y’all should do. Don’t spend your money on this. If you’ve liked the previous films and want to see this one, wait for it to come to DVD or cable. At least then you can pause it and go about your business when it gets too goofy for you. 

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